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Thousands Of Parents Still Waiting 2 Years After Resident Visas Reopen

Derek Telles reunited with his grandchildren at Auckland Airport. Photo: Supplied / Natasha Telles

Families are fed up with delays and a lottery to allow their overseas parents to join them permanently in New Zealand.

About 12,000 parents of residents and citizens are waiting, but only 500 people have been picked to apply in the past year.

A different contingent, who applied while the parent resident visa was suspended from 2016, are edging their way to approval.


When the former immigration minister Michael Wood announced the new parent visa in October 2022, it was estimated it would take three to four years to clear the backlog of more than 8500 parents who were already waiting.

But changed circumstances over up to a decade and withdrawn applications, among them parents or children who have died, or no longer meet criteria - meant that by November 2023, all expressions of interest (EOIs) in the queue had been selected and invited to apply.

Natasha Telles' father, Derek, got his parent resident visa in March as she applied eight years ago - before she had children - and he arrived last month.

"We're all kind of still pinching ourselves. My children are now eight and six, and my six-year-old walks around school, saying 'my Papa's here for ever and ever'," she said.

But her mother, Anne, died during the long wait for the visa, which was closed in 2016. She had to watch her funeral on a screen because the borders had closed for Covid.

"There's another family we know who has been on a similar journey, also ended up losing a parent in the process, because that's just how long it took."

She said people viewed parents as helpless and dependent, but her 70-year-old father was already contributing to the community, teaching hockey.

'Not a priority'

Raina Vermani’s children and parents-in-law on earlier visits to New Zealand.

Raina Vermani’s children and parents-in-law on earlier visits to New Zealand. Photo: Supplied / Raina Vermani

Raina Vermani's 10-year-old daughter was a toddler when the parent category closed, stopping her Indian parents-in-law joining them as residents.

By the time a ballot opened to new applications last year, there was an annual cap of 2500 and most of those places went to existing applicants.

Thousands of others joined a quarterly ballot, where only 100 or 200 people were chosen at a time to go to the next stage

She will have to pay another fee - varying between $430 and $550 - if they are not successful in the next ballot in August.

Vermani said it was time for the coalition government to deliver on its promise of a renewable five-year visa for those who were waiting.

"We helped them, right, they wanted our vote and we gave it to them, we listened to the promises they made and we believed in them. And now we feel like 'oh well, so now we're not a priority'. And they don't even talk about it. So it is quite frustrating."

The ballot was a lottery and for pending applicants felt like a money-making exercise, with an estimated revenue so far of $6 million.

Syed Khurram Iqbal, an Environment Hearing Commissioner and Justice of the Peace, has been able to get to the next stage - a visa application in December. But he said he and his parents in Pakistan were in the dark about how long it would take for a decision.

"They should update the latest information I have no idea how much the total [visa] count is for this financial year, which is going to be close to 30th of June. And in the current scenario, what is the average processing time?"

Immigration New Zealand visa director Jock Gilray said the annual 2500 figure was an upper limit, not a quota. This financial year, it has approved almost 2500 people in principle, and of those had issued 2100 visas.

As the older applications are finalised, participants will have a greater chance in upcoming ballots. Until then, parents can stay for up to six months at a time - 18 months over three years - or there is a parent retirement visa for wealthier people who can invest assets.

Malcolm Pacific Immigration chief executive David Cooper said for those waiting in the ballot - and thousands more who did not meet the salary requirement to apply - the coalition government's proposed five-year, renewable visa would be an "elegant solution".

"There's been tinkering around the edges, the salary for the child sponsor has gone through the roof," Cooper said.

"I think there's a whole lot of factors that are at play and I think that temporary visa would take a whole lot of pressure away and that would then give the government time to sit back and say well, is the current parent category actually fit for purpose? Should we be even playing in the sandpit in the first place, should we even have a parent category? And if we should have what should it look like?"

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