Monday, 21 October 2013

NZ immigration, or the absolute inanity of trying to get Kiwis back home with the current procedures

Well, I finally got to relocate back to NZ in September. And I am determined this time is for good. No more airline "dinners" for me, early morning transfers and cruddy hotels. I'm home, and so glad to be here.

Except for one thing. NZ Immigration (NZIS) are, to not put too fine a point on it, a bunch of bean counting, pen pushing, box ticking, life sucking, international phone bill vacuuming bureaucratic morons. Indeed, the "I" in NZIS could stand for anything from "inane" to "idiotic" through to "imbecilic", and still be way far off the reality.

If I can take you back to the beginning. I had been living in Thailand for a few years, while running my business from NZ. Yep, all invoices went through NZ, paid both company and personal taxes in NZ, primarily because we have one of the simplest systems there is out there. Yes, IRD can be a pain to get hold of from time to time, but really our tax related compliance costs (and time costs) are dead minimal compared to most other countries. Did basically everything online.

So, decided to relocate to NZ in early 2013, with the wife and the new baby (born November 2012). Got the process started by getting NZ Citizenship for the baby (duly granted by DIA, no problems there), and then started on the paperwork for the wife.

First problem. Downloaded paperwork in March 2013. Went and did all the police checks, medical checks etc., and submitted in July 2013. Get a message back that the paperwork we had downloaded has expired, have to re-submit.

No expiry date on the originals. How the hell are we to know that the forms have expired?

Then we go through various minor trials and tribulations, a right royal pain in the arse, but we get ourselves back to NZ in September 2013, the wife on a tourist visa, awaiting approval of residence.

And now the fun really starts.

According to the New Zealand Imbecilic Service, we have to prove we have been in a relationship for at least 12 months. They ask for all sorts of stuff (photos, shared accounts such as power, property leases, bank accounts etc.). And here we hit the most idiotic of walls.

You can't open any account in Thailand in a joint name. It has to be in one name only, and that person must be a Thai Resident or Citizen. As I was neither, everything went under the wife's name.

Scroll on a few months, we are here in NZ, but now NZIS decides they want more proof that we are in a relationship. Here is the proof we have provided so far (that they have decided is not enough):

- NZIS approved my partner for a tourist visa in 2010 and 2011 to NZ on the basis that she was my partner. We had a couple of great holidays here that convinced her to relocate.

- Provide a letter dated 2011 from my partner's parents stating we have been in relationship for at least 12 months prior.

- We had a child together born November 2012 that was awarded NZ Citizenship by Descent. Do the math, we must have been having sex in February 2012 to make this baby (i.e. been in a relationship), so that is well over 12 months by now.

But NZIS decides we have not provided enough proof that we were in a relationship for 12 months. And to cap it all off:

In the letter requesting further details, NZIS provides a Thailand phone number as a supposed direct line to the Immigration Official responsible (Literally: "If you have any questions you can call me on (phone number)").

Call the number, find out that since February 2013 this number is invalid, and we have to call TTS in Bangkok (the processing company contracted by NZIS to manage all visa applications).

Call TTS in Bangkok, get told that the person we want to talk to works for NZIS and not for TTS and there is no way I can talk to this person!!!!

I'm sorry, but WTF?? They can't even give the right phone number after it changed 9 months ago? NZIS says that having a child is not proof of having a relationship? NZIS says that we acknowledge your relationship from 2010 and 2011, but it is now no longer valid??

Like I said before, if KEA is really serious about supporting Kiwis coming home, then the first thing they need to do is give NZIS a seriously big kick in the arse and tell them to GET REAL. In the real world, people are focussed on building businesses, creating wealth, and developing relationships, not on ensuring they check every last bean counting little check box of a bureaucracy that is becoming less and less relevant by the day.

Seriously, we were recognised by NZIS as partners on her visa in 2010 and 2011, and then we had a baby in 2012, but now in 2013 we are not in a relationship???

Now I have probably shot myself well and truly in the foot with this one. But hopefully I can get enough likes and comments so that the powers that be actually take notice and the next poor sod returning expat Kiwi doesn't have to go through the time and expense that we went though.