Kaitaia is home – forever

Kaitaia is home - forever


Juliet and Eric Garcia will never forget Tuesday December 10, 2019. That’s the day they learned, after 12 years, that they had finally been granted resident visas.

“It’s over!” Mrs Garcia said after her immigration consultant phoned her with the news.

“No more stress, no more anxiety or sleepless nights. Now we can plan for the future.

“I love Kaitaia. I will live here forever.”

Mrs Garcia arrived in Auckland from the Philippines in 2007, her husband joining her a year later. She moved to Kaitaia on January 8, 2008, working at Switzer Residential Care (now as a qualified diversional therapist) and battling Immigration ever since.

Their work visas expired in 2010, since when they had been granted a series of temporary visas. In April 2017 they were given two days to leave the country, failing which they would be in jeopardy of arrest and deportation. Their two sons, one of whom has since died, had already had to return to the Philippines upon reaching the age of 20.

Kris Faafoi’s final action as Associate Minister of Immigration was to grant the right to apply for resident visas in July, albeit with conditions, including that Mr Garcia sit and pass an English exam. Resident visas were finally granted on November 6, although it took more than a month for the couple to be advised of that.

Prior to that Mr Faafoi had steadfastly refused to intervene on the couple’s behalf, finally doing so at the incessant urging of Northland MP Matt King, who said much of the credit went to his electorate agent in Kerikeri, Deirdre Healy.

“Without her it wouldn’t have happened,” he said.

Mrs Garcia said on Tuesday that it had been a very long journey, and that she had almost given up many times.

“But Jackie [Simkins, then general manager at Switzer Residential Care] kept pushing,” she said.

“She kept telling me, ‘You’re not going home. You’re not going anywhere,’ but it’s been hard. There have been so many tears, but not any more. I’ve run out of tears.’

Mrs Garcia, who was very grateful for all the support received in Kaitaia over many years, had been a midwife before immigrating to New Zealand, and her husband an electrical engineer, but neither’s qualifications were recognised in this country. Re-training would have been a years-long, very expensive process for both of them, so was not an option.

She had become highly qualified at Switzer as a health care assistant, sufficient to apply for residence until the criteria were changed in 2016, and according to Mrs Simkins was all but irreplaceable, while her husband, initially employed (for nine years) at Pak’nSave, is now close to completing a painting and decorating apprenticeship.

And both are happy in their work.

“My job is so rewarding,” Mrs Garcia said.

“I love seeing the residents happy and smiling.”

The journey isn’t quite over though. The couple will be able to apply for permanent visas in two years, and for citizenship three years after that, “but five years is better than 12 years,” she said.

“Now we know what is before us, and we can plan the rest of our lives.”

With a sister (in Auckland) who was granted citizenship 30 years ago, and a daughter who already has a resident visa, she was hoping her 26-year-old son might also be able to join them. With a degree in hotel and restaurant management he would qualify under the government’s skills list, she said, but she wasn’t making any assumptions.

“Hopefully he can come next year as a visitor, and we’ll see where we go from there,” she said.

“Hopefully it won’t take 12 years.”


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