Lived as a Kiwi since she was 1; now she might be kicked out
"I'm supposed to have started the job. Now I'm being told I need this piece of paper. I just thought I had permanent residency, surely it would have been flagged when I got a tax number or a driving licence?" Teresa Danson
A routine breast screening has highlighted an immigration pitfall for a North Canterbury woman who says she is now fearing for her future.
It was when Teresa Danson, 46, went for a mammogram a year ago that her immigration status was flagged as not being legal. She has lived in New Zealand since 1972, having emigrated from Birmingham in the UK with her parents and two brothers when she was 12 months old.
She went to school in Rangiora until the family moved to Auckland where she attended high school, returning to Rangiora as an adult. Up until last year she had worked, paid taxes, registered with doctors, bought a house and raised three children, all of whom were born in New Zealand.
But the predicament is now preventing her from starting a new job because she needs to provide a proof of work entitlement, something she has been told she will need to apply to Immigration New Zealand (INZ) for, at her own cost.
She feels she should not have to incur immigration costs of $110 after so long living in New Zealand, and is now very concerned about being told she is not eligible to stay.
‘‘I’m supposed to have started the job. Now I’m being told I need this piece of paper.
‘‘I just thought I had permanent residency. Surely it would have been flagged when I got a tax number or a driving licence?’’
She said her new employer was kindly holding the job for her, but she only had a few days to sort things out otherwise she would face having to lose the job. She has been told the immigration process could take up to six months.
Danson has worked in New Zealand since she was 15, had her tonsils out, gained qualifications, received a benefit, secured a mortgage, undergone police checks and been sent to the debt collectors.
‘‘I’ve been involved in the community, with the school,’’ she said.
‘‘There was no issue until I turned 45 and went for that breast screening. How is it possible that I’ve done all of this and no-one has said anything?’’
Danson’s mother, Eileen Joyce, said she was ropeable her daughter had been labelled an illegal immigrant when the family had lived in New Zealand for such a long time. She and her husband also hold UK passports, as does her oldest son, who has served in the New Zealand Army. Her middle son is the only family member to have become a citizen.
‘‘It’s absolutely ridiculous, crazy. I’ve worked here all my life, so has my husband. We’ve paid tax, been in and out of hospitals – no-one’s ever brought this up.
‘‘Teresa is the only one who has been questioned.’’
INZ area manager Marcelle Foley said under the Immigration Act 1987, citizens from the UK were exempt from the need to hold a visa to travel to, or hold a permit to be in, New Zealand.
This was the case up until April 1974. If a person did not hold a visa or a permit, they would not appear in the INZ system and would need to apply for residence confirmation.
It was difficult to be specific without knowing all the facts, however Foley said if a person had never amassed a debt in relation to medical assistance, or applied for NZ superannuation, then proof of residency may not have been asked of them yet.
Danson has approached her medical centre to try get her New Zealand Health number in a bid to clear things up, but said a receptionist told her they were now looking into her eligibility too.
She has turned to her local MP to help facilitate a potential interim solution so she can start her job. Failing that, she said she had nowhere left to turn.
‘‘I just can’t believe it, I don’t know what to do. I’m being made to feel like I suddenly don’t belong.’’
Teresa Danson has lived in New Zealand all her life but has just been told she is an illegal immigrant.