2 Aug 2018

Migrant worker fears visa rule changes could mean departure after 11 years

6:44 pm on 2 August 2018

Support is growing in the Far North for a popular aged care worker from the Philippines who fears she'll have to leave the country she thinks of as home.

Juliet Garcia doing the job she loves, with Switzer resident Kathleen Bowater.

Juliet Garcia doing the job she loves, with Switzer resident Kathleen Bowater. Photo: Northland Age

Juliet Garcia has been working at Kaitaia's Switzer Home for 11 years, renewing her work visa every year.

Mrs Garcia qualified in dementia care and diversional therapy in 2017 to gain enough points to apply for a residence visa as a skilled migrant.

However, she said changes to the immigration rules that took effect last August meant she no longer had the points needed to apply for residence when her work visa runs out in mid-2019.

Under the new system, which limits some migrant workers to three years in New Zealand, she was uncertain that even her work visa would be renewed.

"I used to have points [towards residence] for ten years for work experience here and having a sister in Auckland. But I've lost those points under the new rules, and I don't know if I can keep facing the stress of not knowing every year if I can stay, and the expense of applying," she said.

Mrs Garcia is on a salary of $41,000.

She said she believed she would have to leave New Zealand next year along with her husband who works in a Kaitaia supermarket.

Mrs Garcia's employer, Switzer Trust, said she was a highly-valued employee, much-loved by staff and the home's elderly residents.

The Trust has been required by Immigration NZ to advertise Mrs Garcia's job every year, but has never found a New Zealander to replace her.

"We have advertised locally and nationally at considerable expense. We've had it on Facebook, on TradeMe we had about 360 hits and that came down to three applications," Mrs Simkins said.

"Two pulled out and the last person standing from that very expensive advertising session was not qualified."

The Trust had appealed to the Immigration and Health Ministers to review Mrs Garcia's case and let her stay but to no avail, she said.

Far North mayor John Carter said Mrs Garcia was the sort of immigrant the district needed and Immigration's stance was inexplicable.

"She's done a tremendous amount to get qualified; she's done all the things that this nation has asked of her, that the Switzer Home has asked of her, that the community has asked of her and now when it comes to the last hurdle we're getting this negativity.

"We need people like Juliet and her husband who [are] contributing to the economy and the community up here as well. They are good people," Mr Carter said.

Northland District Health Board chair Sally Macauley also believed Mrs Garcia should stay.

"It is hard in the north to obtain such professionalism as I know Juliet has," Mrs Macauley said.

"She is one of a class of caregivers that we find difficult to retain. She has been with us since 2007; she's loved by everyone at the Switzer and works extremely hard."

Both the DHB chair and Far North mayor have asked the Ministers of Health and Immigration to look into Mrs Garcia's case for residence.

Immigration NZ said it had not told Mrs Garcia she would have to leave the country next year when her work visa expires.

"Mrs Garcia has a work visa that is current until mid-2019. Before this expires she is able to apply for another work visa as she has successfully done in the past," spokesperson Michael Carley said.

Immigration NZ recognised that the changes to the Skilled Migrant Category would affect individual circumstances differently, Mr Carley said.

"Overall, the changes are designed to improve the skill composition of the Skilled Migrant Category, and ensure that it prioritises higher-paid and higher-skilled migrants making their lives here in New Zealand."

Without a full application, including supporting evidence, Immigration NZ could not speculate on what might be the result if Mrs Garcia were to apply for a residence visa, Mr Carley said.

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