Thursday, 6 February 2014

The VISA fiasco - Our experience with Immigration New Zealand.

"The grass is greener on the other side."
"You are so lucky."
"You are living the life!"

I've heard it all. Though I would not deny there's some extent of truth in those statements made, there are also a lot of problems that we faced and are still facing at the moment. Definitely not a bed of roses (never actually understood why that is used to describe an easy life... The person who came out with it must not have seen the thorns that come with roses.. )

This post is written, not only for me to reflect on what we went through with this whole VISA fiasco, but also to shed some light for those who might be looking to apply for working VISA to come to New Zealand... Please bear in mind though that everything written here is purely based on our circumstances and what we experienced, and should be read merely as reference :)

Stage One - Understanding the various VISAs.

I am someone who HATES to read legal stuff and my mum could testify to that. Yes, I have been paying for an insurance policy that I have no idea of its coverage and contents and only did so because my parents told me I should lol. And as the saying goes, "One would do all things for love", I found myself spending HOURS going through the immigration website, downloading and reading the guides for different forms, reading forums just to find out my options.

What I found out were - teaching is no longer categorised in the priority list for 'Skilled Migrants', and my best bet was getting a Temporary Working Visa (under partnership basis) to be with Alex for a year before applying for residency.

Stage Two - Medical Check Up

There are different forms of medical check-up for different types of application. Please read carefully. You would not want to end up going through all that and paying for it to find out you been using the wrong medical certificates.

This was quite tricky for me as I was still teaching in Gua Musang at that time, inaccessible to approved panel physicians. So when I had the chance to go back to Taiping during short breaks, my parents helped me from one stop to another to get all that done. I stupidly left my passport in Gua Musang which caused a lot of inconvenience including doing a written statement, had my reports held till I managed to produce a certified copy of my passport, my parents had to pick up my reports since I went back to Gua Musang to teach, and had them posted to me so I could proceed with the application @_@

At least, having a medical report done in Malaysia is a whole lot cheaper than doing it in New Zealand. I can't remember the actual price I paid but it was less than RM300 for the medical check up, chest X-Ray and blood test.

Stage Three - Police certificate

You will need to provide a police certificate to prove that you have good conduct and won't be of risk to the country. In Malaysia, we would have to log on to and complete the form of the Certificate of Good Conduct, get a postal order of RM20 (which I waited in the post office for 2 hours for), and send the forms with a self addresed prepaid envelope, and wait for the cert to be delivered to you.

It took me 2 weeks of processing, and one week waiting period, just to receive this super thin and flimsy paper @_@

Stage Four - Evidence of Partnership

We were confident that this would be the least of our issue since we have been together for 5 years (at the time of application) and I am someone who is quite open about our relationship on social media. So I compiled our partnership timeline from our first date to our in-between trips from Malaysia - New Zealand, to his proposal to our wedding planning with dates, pictures, and even specific links to my blog entries. I also prepared evidences in forms of our e-tickets, corresponding mails, cards he sent me etc...

Turned out I received a phone call from the Immigration officer in Singapore (Malaysia does not have a NZ Immigration consulate and our nearest office is in Singapore) stating that 'though we recognised that you and your partner are in a stable and genuine relationship, but because you have not lived together for sufficient time, we could not grant you a working VISA.'

I was crushed at that time.

So even though we survived five years of long-distance relationship and are in the process of getting married with me relocating to NZ - that was not as good as 'LIVING TOGETHER'...

This officer offered me a 9-month Holiday Visa instead (which meant that I could go over, live there but NOT ELIGIBLE TO WORK), for me to work out the requirement on 'living together.' Beggars can't be choosers and we believe that everything happened for a reason, so I took up that VISA (plus, we paid for it. Cost us NZD360 = RM985.73).

Stage Five - Submission

Unfortunately for me, there was no way I could submit the original documents including my passport personally in Singapore - I have to teach, and the office will not be open during weekends, and the thought of a 12 hour train ride killed me lol. Plus, it will be impossible for me to enter Singapore with a passport, surrender my passport to the immigration officer, and return to Malaysia without one..

The only method I was left with was - to courier my application to Singapore.
This led to another heart-wrecking experience. NO COURIER SERVICE IN GUA MUSANG WAS WILLING TO HELP ME COURIER TO SINGAPORE. NOT EVEN THE ONES WITH INTERNATIONAL BRANDS!!!! Reason being, they think its too much trouble and they are happy with only domestic orders!!! WTH!

Eventually (thanks to Nadia for her driving me everywhere and such a good confidante), I managed to persuade this chinese uncle who ran a courier service to process mine. He was very reluctant as he said its 'ma fan' and he had never done it before. Anyway, he couldn't read English so I had to read the manual for him @_@, got my things weighed, paid, and later was informed that my documents were held up in the Kota Bahru office because he 'UNDERCHARGED' me!!!

I had to go back to the shop to pay him the remainder money, made him promise me that it will be a smooth delivery this time, only to find out later I couldn't track my package!!!!!!!

They too couldn't track it and after many calls, found out they were stuck at the customs because the value of the package was not declared!!! I had to make the calls to them, get it cleared before they could send the package to the immigration office!!!!!!

I tell you, I lost soooooooooo much hair during that period of time.. Was worried dead that if my original stuff went missing, the pain of compiling everything over again. Not only that, the Ah Pek had the guts to tell me if my stuff went missing they can only pay me a maximum of 100 bucks! No thank you, you can take your 100 bucks and clean your butt if you want! Just get my documents safely delivered!

A simple courier delivery that I paid for which should take 1 day, ended up taking 4 days.. At least the documents were safe and intact.

Stage Six - The wait.

Probably the scariest part - because you have no control of the outcome. We prayed, we did what we could, and all we could do was.. wait.

And of course, as explained in Stage Four, our application failed. Not entirely. But it helped us to realise that we were doing too many things on our own, planning our own ways, and not really seeking God for directions. So as we came to acceptance of the failed application, we learned to submit entirely to God and just take a step at a time.

Stage Seven - New Beginnings in New Zealand

After taking a few days to settle down back in Auckland, we made a trip to the Internal Affairs Department to book our slot for our marriage registration. The earliest we could get was 7th January 2014. Paid for the marriage fees (NZD 173.70), Alex signed the Statutory Declaration that both him and I were never married before (the process is so much simpler here in NZ than in Malaysia, I don't even have to produce evidence of my 'single status'), and we were set to be married on the appointed date. Came that date, with two witnesses, we exchanged our vows, signed the papers, and went home with the Copy of Particulars of our Marriage.

10 working days later, went back to the office, paid NZD26.50 for our Marriage Certificate printout.

Stage Eight - Calling up Immigration

Here in NZ, one is not advised to go to the office to wait for your turn to speak to an immigration officer. In fact, only those with appointments for VISA processing are given priority. So we either check for the needed answers on their website, or call up the lines. I did the latter, and after waiting for my turn, got to speak to a rather friendly officer. However, this officer did not think it would be wise for me to apply for the working VISA when I have only lived with Alex for less than a month, explaining that working VISAs are hard to come by nowadays and my chances are higher if I apply in March or April, which would give me 'more sufficient' period of living together... A lil saddened by the news, Alex and I continued to pray everyday about what we should do. My unpaid leave ends late march so do I stay? do I leave? do I get an extension? do I just try applying?

So many questions. And we were not getting the answers we badly needed. There were also a lot of frustration because as I see my husband hard at work, I could not even work legally to contribute in this family. Cost of living is really high in New Zealand, we were digging into our savings, my mum had to help me transfer some of my savings over so we could pay some big bills... Our faith was never that tested before.. We came into the point of total surrender, having no control of our circumstances, praying for breakthroughs, deliverance and declaring His promises and provision...

And when we reached a month of being together, i just felt this burden in my heart - to apply. I decided to talk to Alex about it, we prayed over it, and he told me to go ahead.

Thankfully, for this second application, I need not redo my medical certificates or police check because they last for 36 months in the system!!! Praise God! I started to see why it was necessary for me to go through the first application because that actually helped us to save a whole lot of money. I can't even imagine what I would have to pay if I got them done here in NZ. For one I knew I be paying more than NZD 300 (RM821.45) just for the medical certificate application - without X-RAY and blood test!

And I would not want to think of the trouble of obtaining the certificate of good conduct from here...

So this second application was a lot easier for me. Complete the forms, provide the timeline of our relationship, produce evidence stating my financial contribution, our joint back accounts and corresponding addresses, our marriage certs, my original passport, my husband's form of supporting my application... and off i went to the immigration office on Queen St...

and enjoyed a cup of flat white after that..

Stage Nine - The Second Wait

After 3 days of submission, I suddenly received a call from a Documentation Officer telling me that I had to submit a certified copy of my husband's passport, or better still, go to their office in Manukau Rd on that day with my husband and his passport. Alex was really sick that day but he accommodated me and we drove to that office. She took his passport, went in to certify it, not so sure what else she did and came back with his passport. She told me now my application is complete and that it would be processed within 25 working days, and I would just wait till I get contacted.

25 days????

(Looks at the calendar). Ain't look good.. Then again, let God arise..

Stage Ten - The Surprise.

I was suffering from severe menstrual cramp, and later an ear ache! It got to a point when I couldn't sleep, was having headache and the sharp pain from my swollen ear canal was too difficult for me...Of course I would love to see the doctor and get it checked, but without a residency status, I am not registered and it will cost a bomb...

I remembered I was showering, and thinking inside "I really need to see the doctor.. But I don't even have my passport with me! And if I have to return to Malaysia in March, how can I do so when I don't have my passport?".... Suddenly, Alex came asking me whether I missed out the postman the day before as a courier guy came with a package for me...

I was like.. "What is it?"

He checked and said, "Oh.. its your passport"

and I was already speechless. They returned me my passport after 7 days? And just when I was thinking about it????

I got dried up and quickly tore open the package... found our marriage cert FOLDED :'( , a receipt of the payment, and my passport.

When I opened up my passport....
I saw...

I. Was. In. Disbelief.

I was jumping around. Squealing.

My heart was resounding with joy and praise. God is good! He is so so good!

It was impossible in our mind to even receive news about our application before March.

I was waiting to be contacted by an officer like my first attempt.

And if I listened to the first officer instead of the prompting in my heart, I would not even apply before March!

And instead of 25 days.. It took only SEVEN days... and this came right to our doorstep!

And they gave us a 90 dollar discount from our 360 dollars payment because this is a second application (the first officer i talked to in NZ told me I wasn't eligible because the first VISA was a holiday VISA)!

Isaiah 55:8-9

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Truly, His ways are better than ours, and beyond our understanding and expectations. And when we let God be God, we see real wonders.

Now that I am finally eligible to even apply for jobs here in New Zealand, I plan to do just so... and keeping God first in every single application.

I have seen so much of His provision, in His own time (which is always the best time) and in His remarkable ways.

Still, we have no idea what comes our way - whether I will even get a job in this competitive job market, but we will continue to TRUST in Him, PRAISE Him always, and DECLARE that God is GOOD.

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