Child with Williams Syndrome could be denied NZ residence

After this NZ Herald article this morning, we decided to make a comment regarding INZ’s decision.

Mr. & Mrs. Mahon are NZ citizen and resident respectively and they have two children, Liam [3] and Nolan [1].  Both children were born overseas and are applying for residence in NZ. Liam has ‘Williams syndrome’, a non-hereditary genetic condition, and INZ considers he may become a burden on the health system.

The syndrome was first identified in 1961 by New Zealander J.C.P. Williams and considerable information about WS is available online, in particular at https://williams-syndrome.org/

Mrs Mahon had been living in NZ and if the child had been born here, the child would have been born as a NZ citizen and any health issues would have been covered under our health system.  However, Mrs Mahon chose to have the child in her home country where she had family support.

We feel for the family and the stress they are under, but are concerned that they may not have received good immigration advice on Liam’s situation. We are also uncomfortable that they have elected to involve the media at this early stage in the process.

Where a NZer is pregnant and considering having the child born off-shore, good immigration advice should always include discussing the ‘what-ifs’ of pending child birth and being aware that just because the parents are NZers is no guarantee the immigration process will be all OK.

Careful consideration also needs to be given to the risks of involving the media in any area where there is interaction with a government agency.  Although it may generate sympathy and some public support, and can in a few rare situations, generate sufficient public reaction that an obvious wrong has to be addressed by the officials; in most cases, having the issue under public scrutiny is more likely to persuade the agency to ‘follow’ the book’ and avoid exercising any discretion which could have been to the applicant’s advantage.

This is especially so at this reasonably early stage in the process as there are a number of options which are available to INZ and the family.

Liam’s case is not closed and the Mahons would be wise to seek advice and ensure they fully understand the processes involved, the options available to them and how they can best proceed through this challenging and frustrating time.

Pregnant?

We strongly recommend that any NZer considering having a child born outside NZ, seek advice and consider all the potential issues carefully. As the Mahons have learned, unforeseen issues can arise which could deny a child NZ residence or citizenship.  From an immigration perspective, expectant mums would be wise to consider have their baby in NZ and for their mothers to visit NZ to support her daughter through the birth.

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