Special Visas for Victims of Domestic Violence – The Challenges

According to the Family Violence Death Review Committee, between 2009 and 2015, 194 people died as a result of family violence. That is an average of 28 deaths per year, almost half of which were the result of intimate partner violence.[1] It is disturbing to read these statistics in 2017, not least because it is about New Zealand. Clearly, domestic violence remains an ugly undercurrent of New Zealand society.

Recognising the need to protect victims of domestic violence in migrant communities, a few years ago Immigration New Zealand established two special visa categories:

  • Special Work Visas for Victims of Domestic Violence; and
  • Residence Category for Victims of Domestic Violence.

However, the protection afforded to these victims is undermined somewhat by the restrictions built into the application process. This includes the limitations around eligibility, the need to provide documentary evidence of domestic violence, and the very short duration of the temporary work visa.

On the issue of eligibility, only temporary visa holders who are the partners (or ex-partners) of New Zealand citizens or residents can qualify for these visas. And so if the abusive partner also happens to be a temporary visa holder, then the victim cannot apply for these visas.

The victim must also be able to prove that domestic violence occurred. This can be almost impossible given the very limited types of evidence accepted by Immigration New Zealand, including:[2]

  • a Final Protection Order;
  • a relevant conviction;
  • a complaint of domestic violence investigated and accepted by the New Zealand Police; or
  • a statutory declaration from the victim and two other professionals confirming that domestic violence occurred.

Getting this evidence is arguably the most challenging part of the visa application process. This is because the list above assumes that, a) the victim is able to easily document the abuse they have suffered, and / or b) that they have access to resources – whether it is their own personal finances or from not-for-profit organisations – to secure that evidence. Even something as seemingly simple as securing statutory declarations from two professionals can be a very demoralising exercise for victims, given the policy restrictions in place. Not only is there a prescribed list of ‘competent persons’ who can give this evidence, the two people assisting with the statutory declarations “must [also] be unrelated professionally”[3]. And so by Immigration New Zealand’s own example, “they cannot be a doctor and nurse from the same practice”[4]. The visa application process therefore risks re-traumatising already traumatised victims through this overly prescriptive list of acceptable evidence.

Compounding all of this is the limited duration of the special work visa. If granted, the work visa is only valid for 6 months. It can only be extended (for a further limited period of up to 9 months) if the victim goes on to apply for the special residence visa. And that application is not without its challenges either.

To be approved under the Residence Category for Victims of Domestic Violence, the victim must be able to prove that, owing to financial incapacity or social stigma, they are unable to return to their home country. Therefore, not everyone who secures a special work visa will be eligible for a special residence visa.

And so whilst there is value in the current special visa categories for victims of domestic violence, more can be done to make the application process less traumatic and more accessible.

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[1]           Family Violence Death Review Committee Fifth Report Data: January 2009 to December 2015 (2017) at 18 and 19.

[2]           Immigration New Zealand Operational Manual, at Instructions WI7.5 for work visas and S4.5.5 for residence visas.

[3]           Immigration New Zealand Operational Manual, at Instructions WI7.10(b) for work visas and S4.5.6(b) for residence visas.

[4]           As above.

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Posted in Immigration Appeals, Immigration Problems, Immigration Visas, Practice of Law, Refugees | 2 Comments

Success Story: Dutch Dredging

As a maritime nation, New Zealand is reliant on the free and efficient movement of vessels to, within and from our harbours. Without regular and ongoing maintenance, silting decreases the draught available to ships, while the development of larger vessels requires greater depth for ships to operate. Maintaining the capacity of our harbours is critical to the promotion of trade and our export industries.

Late last year, five of New Zealand’s major port companies, PrimePort Timaru, Napier, Taranaki, Lyttleton and Tauranga signed a 10 year deal with a long standing and reputable overseas based dredging company called Dutch Dredging B.V. (Dutch Dredging), to share the dredging services around the country. The contract for this deal was signed in the presence of King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands and the Dutch and New Zealand Ministers of Economic Affairs, Henk Kamp and Steven Joyce, as reported by Stuff in its article published on 8 November 2016.

The contract meant Dutch Dredging was to deploy one of its trailing suction hopper dredgers called ‘Albatros’ to New Zealand for the work required. This was to be permanently stationed in New Zealand over the term of the contract.

As dredgers need to be manned by local seamen, that meant suitably qualified New Zealand citizens and resident seamen will be required to operate them. More jobs for New Zealanders!

However, dredges come in different types for different purposes and can have harmful effects on the marine and aquatic environment.  It was therefore critical for Dutch Dredging to ensure that Albatros is operated by qualified engineers with specialised knowledge and experience.

Dutch Dredging believed it would be appropriate to send their Dutch employees, a Master and a Chief Engineer, to New Zealand for a short stint and for a specific purpose, i.e. to handover the initial work required, provide training by transferring their skills and knowledge to local seamen, and travel to New Zealand to provide other special assistance on an as-needed basis. Dutch Dredging was to continue to employ them directly. No New Zealand based employer was involved.

Dutch Dredging knocked on our doors and sought our professional assistance. They needed work visas for the two men so they could readily land in New Zealand on a set date before the arrival of Albatros.  We arranged for multiple entry, Specific Purpose Work Visas to allow them to come and go on an as-needed basis and perform the work required.

The preparation for their visa applications was a challenging exercise. But the application process via the online portal was rather well done, without seeking the assistance of visa application centres and having to send in their original passports. Within a matter of three working days, we managed to get their visas through. It was a swift process handled amicably by immigration officers based in London.

These men are due to arrive in New Zealand mid-September 2017 for the specific work they have been assigned to do.  They bring a wealth of specialised skills and knowledge to New Zealand.

Dutch Dredging have expressed their delight at the speed with which the visas were issued, and for the explanation of the visa conditions and what their employees can expect of the arrivals process.

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Introduction to Roxanne Whyte

We love it when a plan comes together. The final piece of the puzzle is now in place. Laurent Law went through a number of changes in the last few months. It all started with a new office and a different way of operating which is more client and result focused. In the process we appointed new staff to ensure that we could deliver for our clients and now the welcoming team is in place as well.

Roxanne Whyte joined the team as Office Administrator on 8 August. Roxanne grew up in Malawi, Africa. Her exposure to a multi-cultural environment prepared her well for her adventures all over the world. She soon discovered her love for people, culture and travel and moved to Cape Town, South Africa. She completed a BA degree in Fashion Design and then moved on to London and finally found her zone in Auckland, New Zealand. Roxanne always wanted to settle in New Zealand and we are delighted that she chose Laurent Law to advance her career in customer service.

Roxanne worked as a Front of House for the prestigious law firm Mishcon de Reya in London before moving to New Zealand. This was a great opportunity for her to advance her administration skills and people knowledge and to understand how to serve customers better. Her love for people has always been the driving force behind her decision to cultivate a people approach in everything she does.

Roxanne is enthusiastic and hardworking with a flair for customer service and you will meet her in the front office or as the voice on the other side of the line when you require our help. Roxanne would love to meet you and guide you to one of our very knowledgeable Solicitors or Senior Immigration Consultant. Don’t hesitate. Make contact now. Your immigration dreams are important to us.

Posted in Business, Citizenship, Immigration Appeals, Immigration Industry, Immigration Problems, Immigration Visas, Office Update, Practice of Law | Leave a comment

Introduction to Jacqui Lee

How fortunate are we at Laurent Law to have the honour of introducing two experienced Staff Solicitors in one month? The business is rapidly expanding, and to be able to satisfy all our client needs we had to expand our staff complement.

Jacqui Lee joined us on 17 July and we are over the moon to have her on board. Jacqui and her family migrated to New Zealand from South Korea in 1996. We do not believe that it is coincidental that this was the same year that Laurent Law was established. We like to plan things well in advance. The family settled in West Auckland where she completed her primary, intermediate and high school education.

She graduated from the University of Auckland in 2009 with a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) and completed her Professional Legal Studies in 2010, shortly after which she was admitted to the bar. During the course of her Professional Studies she joined a city based law firm as a law clerk, working side by side with an immigration lawyer. This is where she realised her calling.

Jacqui moved on to a leading immigration consultancy as a Legal Analyst and gained comprehensive knowledge and skills in the immigration field. During this period she also gained a Level 7 qualification in immigration advice which allowed her to practice as a licensed immigration adviser.

From here Jacqui moved on to a law firm where she continued her immigration work as a solicitor. She joined a well established firm on the North Shore as an Immigration Solicitor and worked alongside an experienced immigration specialist where she acquired detailed knowledge of immigration legislation and processes, and refined her skills with a wide variety of client work in this field.

Jacqui has seven years of experience having dealt with all areas of immigration law including but not limited to partnership based applications, skilled migrant applications, section 61 requests, seeking special directions and representing clients in humanitarian and residence appeals. She has a wealth of knowledge in this ever-changing field, which has become her passion.

Jacqui is a valued member of our immigration team and we look forward to a long and prosperous working relationship with her. We are confident that our clients will enjoy her approach to life and work and that they will depend on her for valued advise and guidance.

Make an appointment to meet Jacqui and entrust your immigration related matters to her.

Posted in Business, Citizenship, Immigration Appeals, Immigration Industry, Immigration Problems, Immigration Visas, Office Update, Practice of Law | Leave a comment

Introduction to Dew James

Dew James joined the Laurent Law family on 3 July 2017 and we are ecstatic to have her on board.

Dew migrated to New Zealand from Malaysia in 2002 and she called the Far North home for the first few years. She graduated from the University of Waikato with a Bachelor of Laws with First Class Honours. Along the way she received several scholarships and even became a Law Tutor.

She has experience in all areas of Immigration and Refugee Law and specialised in  family-based applications and appeals up until now. Her extensive experience with special visas for victims of domestic violence demonstrates the value that she will add to the firm repertoire. Her exposure has also enabled her to gain valuable experience with residence and humanitarian appeals as well as section 61 and Ministerial requests involving rights of the child.

Dew is very keen to continue to practice in this very demanding yet rewarding area of law. We welcome her to the firm and already know that she will make a valuable contribution to our lives and to the lives of our clients.

Dew has the following to say as an introduction: “A client’s best interest is second only to a lawyer’s duty as an Officer of the Court. Therefore, my role as your legal representative is to provide objective advice and pragmatic options that will best serve your immigration pathway in New Zealand.”

We invite you to make an appointment to meet Dew so she can be your guide on your way to realising your dream of living and working in this beautiful country full of promise and hope.

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Another Used And Abused Partner

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11866718

There are beautiful, loving and genuine relationships where a NZer has sponsored a migrant partner, but there are also horrendous stories of Kiwis being used, abused and dumped by migrants.
Sadly, love comes in many packages and it is not until the relationship has been tested that the problems arise.
In this case, the woman felt pressured by her dead mother’s wishes, to marry someone from her own cultural background. We are not advised if her family arranged the marriage, but she went to Syria and married him. The marriage quickly deteriorated into abuse and she left him and returned to NZ.
But the heart is a fickle instrument and his pleas and promises worked and she sponsored him to come to NZ. He lived with her for two weeks when his true nature reasserted itself and after more abuse, she sought a protection order.
Then he was granted refugee status!
As a refugee, he would have been granted a work visa and presumably residence. He is allowed to live near her and has claimed ½ of her assets under matrimonial property legislation.

This abuse of the trust of people and the systems means that too often we learn of similar stories of heart-broken NZers who believed their partner truly loved them, only to find that shortly after being granted a resident visa their lover leaves for someone else.
They learn that they have been callously used as a tool to obtain residence. The unlucky ones lose their homes as well as their hearts.
Another aspect which is often too sensitive to discuss in a public forum, is that if the NZer is a young woman from a non-western culture and loses her virginity to the person she has believed in and sponsored, she will at best find it extremely difficult to find another husband.

What Did Our Subject Do Wrong?

  1. She did what she thought her dead mother wanted.
    We all do things, or don’t do them, because of what we think someone else will think. Reality is most people are so busily thinking about themselves, they don’t really think about us at all.
  2. She stayed within her culture, contributing to cultural separatism rather than seeking to integrate into her host community.
  3. After experiencing the abuse in Syria, she allowed herself to believe that her husband had dramatically changed his attitude in the period they were apart and took her husband’s promises as truth, not realising that he had a different agenda.
  4. And more pragmatically, she apparently did not seek advice about a pre-nuptial agreement which could at least have protected her home.
    My heart goes out to this young woman, and the other NZers who have experienced being used and abused for immigration purposes.
    Immigration officers are all too aware of these situations and do their best to protect the NZ party, but they can only make their decisions on the information they receive, and when the full story is not there, hearts can be broken and lives destroyed.
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Nelson Or Auckland – Which Would You Prefer?

While Auckland is usually seen as the economic powerhouse of New Zealand, some recent reports indicate that the real economic growth is happening in other parts of the country.
An interesting article appeared in the New Zealand Herald recently. The article reported that the fastest growing region in the country at the moment is Nelson. This is followed in second place by Northland and the Waikato. Northland in particular is interesting, because it is a region that has suffered relatively high unemployment for years. The Waikato does not surprise me, having visited and seen Hamilton within the last year. But in terms of Nelson, its strong performance is reportedly fuelled by growth in tourism, horticulture, viticulture and construction. Auckland meanwhile, sits in 13th place, perhaps limited in its ability to achieve growth as a result of problems like housing and traffic.
So if you are an Aucklander tired of the Monday to Friday pace, or perhaps a migrant looking for an alternative destination to settle, Nelson might be your place. The website http://www.nelsonnz.com describes the following features about Nelson, which makes it an attractive place to be.
1. Great Climate – The Nelson Tasman region has an enviable Mediterranean and sunny   climate that allows visitors to explore and enjoy all year.
2. Three National Parks – Nelson Tasman is blessed with three national parks within its boundaries. The popular Abel Tasman National Park entices visitors.
3. Cycling Mecca – Welcome to the Heart of Biking in New Zealand. The Nelson Tasman region is a cycling mecca.
4. Food Wine & Beer – Wine and craft beer enthusiasts will find the cellar doors of passionate winemakers and brewers open.
5. Arts & Culture – The Nelson Tasman region is steeped in Maori history and a pivotal place for European occupation in New Zealand.
6. Hobbit Film Locations – The Nelson Tasman region is home to seven film locations covering the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) and The Hobbit.
7. Suggested Itineraries – We recommend a range of one, three and five day itineraries to see the best of Nelson Tasman region.
Despite these attractive features of Nelson, personally, I’ve never been there! It is an old joke that when thinking of New Zealand, there is Auckland on the one hand and then “the rest of the country”. Perhaps Nelson is something Aucklanders like myself need to open our minds to!

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