U-turn on visas for caregivers

REBECCA TODD
Last updated 05:00 10/06/2011

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Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has resumed approving visas for overseas caregivers in Christchurch.

The Press reported last month that several Filipino caregivers were having their work visa applications denied.

INZ said at the time that Kiwis made redundant because of the earthquake could do the work. Employers and the nurses' union said rest homes were still struggling to find trained staff.

National MP Nicky Wagner organised a meeting between Immigration New Zealand staff, rest-home providers and caregivers in Christchurch last week.

INZ head Nigel Bickle said Christchurch staff used the meeting to ensure employers understood immigration requirements and made genuine attempts to find New Zealand citizens or residents to fill vacancies.

He said labour market advice after the quake showed there were about 600 vacancies at rest-homes. About half of them were caregivers, which meant new work visas could not be issued because there were New Zealanders available to do the jobs.

"The labour market situation has since changed, and from early May, Work and Income has advised that there are no longer New Zealanders available," Bickle said.

"This has resulted in us once again issuing work visas for foreign caregivers provided, of course, that all other visa requirements are met."

Wagner said the meeting allowed all parties to have a "good conversation".

The daughter of a rest-home resident spoke about how caring and hardworking the Filipino staff were, and caregivers spoke about their desire to stay in New Zealand.

Wagner hoped INZ could take another look at the cases of people who were denied visas.

"It's really important to have a look at it holistically because a lot of these people were the ones who kept the fires burning at night after the earthquake and did extra hours," she said.

"They did go the extra mile and it would be nice to see that recognised."

Christchurch caregiver Gilbert Romero was denied a work visa in early May despite his employers saying they had advertised his position and could not find a New Zealander to do the job.

The father-of-four said he hoped his wife, who was also a caregiver, would get a work visa so the family could stay.

He had appealed on humanitarian grounds against the decision to deny him a visa.

Friends were helping the family get groceries, but money was tight.

"We are really praying so hard," he said. "Our life is really here in New Zealand."

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