Overstaying your visa in New Zealand

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Sep 23, 2020
She came from India as an international student at the age of 19 eight years ago with dreams of becoming a Kiwi and starting a new life here.

However, Sia (not her real name), says failed attempts to get her residency by her immigration advisers and lawyers has turned her into an overstayer - living here secretly since 2018.

Speaking to the Herald on the condition that she is not identified, Sia says she - like many Indian nationals living here unlawfully - came over on borrowed money, and had little choice but do everything they could to remain.

A former immigration minister is calling for an overhaul of the immigration system, saying the current student visa residency pathway has put many into vulnerable positions.

It is estimated there are over 10,000 overstayers living under the radar in New Zealand. Although most of them are from the Pacific Islands, a significant number are believed to be Indian nationals who came here first as international students.

"My family sent me over with the hope that I can get a better life, and I have spent over $100,000 including more than $30,000 on fees to immigration agents and lawyers, how can I just go back?" Sia said,

"I hope INZ will me another chance to live here lawfully."

After the election, Sia is planning to fly to Parliament to plead with the new Government to give her and other overstayers pathways to residency.

Sia said it has been a harrowing experience living the life of an overstayer.

"You just don't know who you can trust. People know you're vulnerable, so everyone just tries to take advantage of you," Sia said.

After running out of money, Sia was referred by an acquaintance to a cleaning company who offered under-the-table cash-paying jobs.

"The manager said I had to go with him one evening to see the sites to clean, but while in the car he tried to hold my hands and made sexual propositions," she said.

overstay - to stay in a country longer than your visa allows.

- a person that you have met but do not know well.

Question for discussion:

What do you think Sia should do?

What would you do if you were in a similar situation?