Kayleigh and Chevaunne Roffe are in uncertainty and unable to find work, volunteer or study without paying international fees due to long application records at Immigration NZ. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Their friends started their adult lives – enrolling in tertiary studies, getting jobs, volunteering in their communities.
But Chevaunne and Kayleigh Roffe say they can’t do any of that.
The lives of the Teluk Mairangi sisters are in uncertainty due to 19 months of delay in processing their residence visa applications.
“It’s quite sad,” said Chevaunne Roffe, 18 years old Herald on Sundays.
“We’ve been here six years. I’ve graduated high school here, I should be allowed into university. I have to join my friends starting their lives, but I can’t.”
Chevaunne and Kayleigh, 21, also face an even more daunting prospect – leaving New Zealand without their parents Leilah and Glenn Roffe if their visitor visas expire before residence permits are granted.
Kayleigh’s expires in August, while efforts are being made to extend Chevaunne’s.
And the family says they are not alone – a post about their plight on the Migrants NZ Facebook page drew dozens of similar responses.
As of March 9, Immigration New Zealand had 1,595 skilled land and residence migrants from work applications pending allocation to immigration officers, general manager of border and visa operations Nicola Hogg said, blaming the increased demand and disruption of Covid-19 for delays.
“Non-priority land applications are currently allocated from August 2019, while priority applications are allocated within two weeks.”
Chevaunne and Kayleigh use visitor visas after the student visa attached to their father’s original skilled migrant visa expires when they finish high school.
Her family moved to New Zealand after Glenn Roffe was granted a skilled migrant work visa in 2014.
But the Government’s changes to 2016 criteria meant he could not apply for residency, then permanent residence and finally citizenship, Roffe said.
“I will have the black book [New Zealand passport] at the end of this year if [the criteria] do not change. “
She was able to remain as a partner when Leilah Roffe accepted the road to a residence visa.
In November last year, entire families were eligible to apply for residency visas via the Leilah route to residence visas.
Hogg said he couldn’t talk about the Roffe family’s situation, as they didn’t grant privacy waivers.
But currently 90 percent of skilled migrant category visas are completed within 23 months, while residence applications take longer to process – which can be tricky because it allows people to live in New Zealand permanently, Hogg said.
Requests for visas in the skilled migrant category and the sub-category of residence from work have increased significantly in recent years, delaying the decision.
Last month, Immigration NZ formalized the priority allocation of several categories of skilled migrants and places of residence from job applications to high-paying applicants where their jobs must be registered under the immigration allocation, he said.
This allows government departments to start allocating older non-priority applications more consistently.
The NZ Immigration Office was also closed during last year’s commemorative level 4 lockdown and, due to paper-based skilled housing applications, staff were unable to process it.
At level 2, less staff could be on site, while changes to August and February alert levels also impact processing times, Hogg said.
But Glenn Roffe said blaming Covid-19 was a smokescreen.
“August 2019 applications are only now allocated to caseworkers … that’s seven months before Covid hits.”
Her children, and others in the same position, suffered.
Apart from being unable to work, her daughter is not eligible for state-subsidized medical care and education – unless they pay international student fees in excess of $ 30,000.
“My oldest son has a new bed, and has been sitting on it for three years.”
He keeps his spirits up by going to the gym and meeting friends – “when they’re not working or studying,” says Kayleigh Roffe.
He also studied to become a hired accountant through college abroad, but prefers to study in person.
And until this year he volunteered at his old school, Rangitoto College, and for Auckland Unlimited and America’s Cup Events, but quit after the family immigration agency said volunteering could jeopardize his residence application because any indication of receiving financial benefits could be seen as a visitor visa violation.
The financial benefits could include study skills that might help land a job later, the family said.
However, Hogg said those on visitor visas can volunteer without affecting their application of residence, as long as they don’t do it for a gain or a reward – which is a payment or any benefit that can be valued in monetary terms, such as board, food. or transportation.
Volunteering gave her “a reason to get out of bed,” and she missed it, says Kayleigh Roffe.
“I have my days where I honestly cry because there’s nothing I can do about it [about our situation]. “
It’s the terrifying prospect of potentially having to leave New Zealand when its visitor visa expires.
She will probably go to England, where she has no family but has a British passport through her mother. He has family in South Africa, where he was born, but “England is safer”.
“[But] I will be alone in a place that I have never lived. “
For Chevaunne, still depending on his parents made him feel like a kid again.
“All your friends say ‘let’s go out for dinner’ and I have to say ‘I have to ask my mom’. I feel like I’m back in the 5th year… I feel like ‘wow, everyone moves on with life and I’m stuck.”