Declined Visa for Au Pair – When Visas aren’t Easy

There was an immigration article in the NZ Herald on Monday which identified the risk of assuming the visa process is simple

In the first report, ‘Immigration New Zealand has apologised to the French au pair put in a Queenstown police cell for the night and then deported because of concerns she might babysit while on holiday with her Australian employers’.

As a French citizen, Manon Pache was entitled to travel to NZ visa free – for tourist purposes. The problem was that ‘On her arrival at Queenstown Airport in December, Ms Pache told an immigration official she might babysit during the week-long holiday in Wanaka’.

As any parent knows, if you need a baby sitter, you need to pay, [unless of course the child has convenient grandparents]. If any form of ‘payment’ is made by one person to another it is, for immigration purposes, considered to be employment. ‘Payment’ can include any form of ‘benefit’ to the ‘employee’ and in Ms. Pache’s case; her employers were providing everything for her time in NZ including travel, food and accommodation.

Not paying wages does not avoid the need for a work visa.

Therefore, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) were correct in refusing her tourist visa, but their reaction in jailing and deporting here were, as the Prime Minister stated, ‘heavy handed’ in the extreme.

Immigration officers have considerable discretion and too frequently, people who have acted in good faith but in ignorance of the technicalities of immigration law, are ‘turned around’ at the airport. Such a technicality would be that INZ’s interpretation of ‘employment’ is different from how it is described in employment law.  Should a tourist really be expected to know that?

From the article, it could be inferred that the matter went as high as the Prime Minister. Ms Pache is fortunate that INZ reconsidered in her case. Few others in her situation would have the contacts or perceived value to NZ, to warrant INZ even looking at a border decision.

For any person who has had a visa denied, or been turned around [= deported] an even deeper penalty is incurred. They will, in any future visa application to any country, have to admit that they had a NZ application declined.

This is particularly so for people who come from ‘visa free’ countries, as deportation is considered a serious character issue and if they travel without applying for a visa, they risk being rejected at the border.

If you know of anyone coming to NZ as a visitor, make sure they understand that being a visitor means being a visitor; and to be careful how they complete the arrivals card.  That card is their contract with the NZ government and anything deemed by INZ to be misleading can present serious issues either on arrival, or if a further visa is applied for.

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