23 Apr 2020

NZ-US couple stuck in visa limbo in Aotearoa

10:40 am on 23 April 2020

Lamia Imam is a Kiwi married to a Texan and works in the United States, but right now, they're stranded in New Zealand by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Lamia Imam

Lamia Imam. Photo: Supplied

She and her husband came to Aotearoa for their honeymoon in late February, and were caught here by the lockdown.

Their situation was complicated further this week when US President Donald Trump announced - via tweet - that he was suspending all immigration into his country.

Trump said it was necessary to protect the country from what he called the ''invisible enemy'' - Covid-19 - and also to protect American jobs.

Imam told Morning Report when she arrived in New Zealand, the coronavirus wasn't a concern, but the situation escalated, and she and her husband are now spending the lockdown with friends in Auckland.

"I'm not entirely sure what is going to happen... it's a wait and see."

She's still doing her US job, but from NZ.

Imam needs to renew her work visa to get back into the country, but the consulate had already shut down before that process was completed.

"I have status to work in the US but I cannot enter the US to do the work."

However, the tax situation could soon become an issue, she said.

Her husband on the other hand, is on a tourist visa here and cannot work - so is doing his US job.

They're living in a US time zone, getting up at "all hours of the day trying to keep our jobs".

The situation with US Immigration was "very complicated", she said.

"There's really nothing I can do... we're essentially stuck in both immigration systems at the moment and there's nothing I can do."

They had to decide if they would try to return to the US eventually or return permanently to New Zealand, Imam said.

"I don't know what the right decision is. It's extremely stressful."

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