Two weeks till deportation for S African family

ANNA TURNER
Last updated 11:56 15/06/2012
Cherie Vermaak
IAIN MCGREGOR/Fairfax NZ

OPPORTUNITY: Cherie Vermaak has been given one last chance to stay in New Zealand.

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With only two weeks left to find a job or face deportation, South African Cherie Vermaak says she feels like there is a "ticking time bomb" hanging over her family.

Vermaak, 42, worked for Christchurch City Council for four years but lost her job in March when her application for a work visa extension was declined by Immigration New Zealand (INZ).

On May 23,  Vermaak was told that if she can obtain an offer of employment within the next six weeks, INZ would consider any subsequent request for a work visa she wished  to make. If she didn't find a job, she and her two children would have to leave New Zealand.

Four weeks into the time frame, no job had eventuated for Vermaak and she said the impending deadline felt like a "ticking time bomb".

"The wheels are starting to fall off and it is very stressful. Six weeks is not a lot of time. It takes a while to find a job and the whole employment process itself takes time. I've just got to hold it together though for my family's sake."

She had applied for several jobs and had received numerous employment offers since The Press ran her story, but none had fitted with INZ's criteria.

"The person offering employment has to be able to prove that there isn't a Kiwi available to do the same job. It's pretty difficult and frustrating. I've applied for a lot of positions but nothing has fitted. "

Vermaak currently had two applications in for jobs and was hoping to hear back early next week.

"I'm really hopeful and trying to stay as positive as I can."

The city council had also promised to let her know if any suitable positions came up but could not re-instate her to her previous position.

Since losing her job, the solo mother has had to sell her possessions to pay the rent, her daughter has had to leave Burnside High School, her son hasn't been able to get a job, and some nights the family have gone hungry.

However, she had received numerous offers of help since her story ran in The Press, including food and money.

"The community and my ex-colleagues have been amazing in helping me."

The family's ordeal started after they received a request from INZ for a renewal of police clearances and medical checks two days before their visas expired.

Vermaak begged for an extension but was told by INZ ''it wasn't their policy to renew a visa without updated documents.''

She had originally provided INZ with police clearances in 2009, two years after the family moved to New Zealand.

''The police clearances will be exactly the same; nothing would have changed. We haven't been back to South Africa since we arrived,'' she said.

To obtain new police clearances from South Africa would have cost her about $450.

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- The Press

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