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Open Letter to L. Dalziel: A Question of Fairness

An Open Letter To Hon. Lianne Dalziel

#70 - 12th Avenue, Cubao
Quezon City, Philippines 1109
November 15, 2003

HON. LIANNE DALZIEL
Minister of Immigration
New Zealand

Subject: A Question of Fairness
(The Immigration Amendment Act 2003)

Madame:

We were genuinely shocked to receive the letter from your embassy in Bangkok, telling us that our application for immigration under the General Skills Category had lapsed.

Much as we realize that we cannot question your Government’s decisions regarding residence policy in New Zealand, still, we wish to voice out our dismay and utter disappointment over certain points in the new policy that are unfair to those who have poured much time and honest effort into applying for permanent residence in your country.

1) Page 1, Paragraph 3 : “... The legislation which came into effect on
2 July 2003 is the Immigration Amendment Act 2003. Under this legislation, General Skills category applications lodged with the New Zealand Immigration Service before 20 November 2002 are lapsed if they do not meet specific statutory criteria. This means that these applications are no longer eligible for any further processing.”

Your new legislation took effect one year after the New Zealand embassy in Bangkok received our application (29 July 2002). By creating policies that take effect retroactively, you offer no sense of security to applicants whose basis for deciding whether or not to apply are policies existing at the time of their application. These are the policies written and explained in the Self-Assessment Guide for Residence in New Zealand that the Embassy sends them when they opt to inquire.

At the time we started working on our documents, the current passmark was 26. My husband scored 25—one point below the existing passmark—but we still opted to apply because your Job Search Policy was in force at that time. Based on that policy, an applicant could be issued a temporary working visa if he scored within 5 points of the existing passmark. He could go to New Zealand and try to get a job within 6 months. If he failed, then his visa would be revoked and he goes home. It sounded like a very sensible policy, and the prospects for us were bright. So we decided to invest money in gathering all the required documents, paying for a host of processing fees for birth certificates, passports, police certificates, etc. Here in the Philippines, a person has to go to the Department of Foreign Affairs as early as 5:00 A.M. to apply for a passport. He has to put up with the heat, the long lines of people, the congested waiting areas, and the red tape. It took us months to complete all our paperwork. We also spent a considerable amount of money for medical requirements, including having all members of our family undergo the required examinations and vaccinations. All because we thought we could bank on your word—as printed in the information packets you sent us.

The officials at the New Zealand Embassy in Bangkok wrote us as soon as our application was received by their office. We were told not to contact them within 9 months, and that they would contact us as soon as our application had been assigned to a visa officer. It was a promise that we held on to, believing that we were communicating with a government that would take care to deliver its promises.

One year later, we were ‘informed’ that the rules had changed and our application had ‘lapsed’. Our documents were returned to us—the documents we fought hard to obtain and complete—virtually untouched after one long year. There was no sign that the folders we sent were even examined by the Bangkok office. That hardly seems just and reasonable.

2) Page 1, Paragraph 4, Item 3: “Under this new legislation...an application will continue to be processed if...the principal applicant had already: ...3. been issued a ‘job search’ work visa or permit, or been invited to apply for one, so that he or she can look for a relevant job offer in New Zealand.”

My husband has sent out several applications to various job openings related to his training and experience. All of those who responded posed this one question: “Are you currently in New Zealand?”

One prospective employer even went to the extent of asking my husband to keep re-sending his CV details because the previous files he sent couldn’t be opened by the HRD officer. He was apparently interested in knowing more about my husband because of the work samples that he had already sent (my husband is an art director in an advertising agency.) When he was finally able to examine Santiago’s CV, he discovered that Santiago was not applying from within New Zealand. And so he sends us another e-mail with regrets :”Thank you for all of the extra effort in re-sending your CV details. Unfortunately, had I known that you were applying from overseas, I would not put you through these extra steps.”

The issue that we want to raise with you is this: You want us to show you a job offer first before you allow us to enter your country. But prospective employers in your country, on the other hand, want us to be in New Zealand first before they even attempt to examine our credentials more carefully. How can honest people--those with good credentials but without good connections--manage to overcome a no-win situation such as that?

For Filipinos belonging to the above-described category, people who sincerely desire to work in your land for the good of their families, your country, and theirs, the doors to New Zealand have been double-locked—bolted from the inside.

3) Page 2, Paragraph 2: “Refund of Application Fees – Where an application is lapsed, the Immigration Amendment Act 2003 requires that we refund the application fee paid to the person who paid it, or a person authorised by that person to receive it.”

Much as we appreciate your magnanimity in telling us that our application fees will be refunded, we cannot say we are totally comforted by your gracious offer because the amount that we will be receiving from you is only roughly 50% of what we actually spent. Had you offered to cover even the expenses for medical examinations, all laboratory fees, passport processing fees, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and police clearance fees, birth certificate processing fees, marriage certificate processing fees, fees for securing copies of school transcript of records, certifications of English being the medium of instruction in the universities we graduated from, transportation, photocopying, and a host of other miscellaneous expenses, we would be comforted indeed. But still not justified.

For other similarly affected applicants, all of this is already water under the bridge. But for Santiago and I, we cannot let it pass without expressing our sadness at realizing that not everything that glitters is indeed gold. Even sadder is this:

THAT SUCH A POLICY WITH QUESTIONABLE FEATURES HAS BEEN FORMULATED AND ENFORCED BY THE GOVERNMENT OF WHAT IS KNOWN AS ONE OF THE BEST AND “CLEANEST” COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD. IT IS THIS VERY REPUTATION OF INTEGRITY AND CLEANNESS THAT MADE US DESIRE THE EXPERIENCE OF LIVING IN YOUR COUNTRY IN THE FIRST PLACE.

If there is any real comfort that we can get out of writing you this letter, it will come from the hope that one day, the concerned lawmakers in your government will again sit down and draft a better permanent residence policy than the one in question. And we hope that such a future policy will, at last, be in keeping with your sterling reputation worldwide.

Yours truly,

Carolyn G. Caaway

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