25 June 2009

UK man overstayed New Zealand visa by decades

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A UK man who emigrated to New Zealand three decades ago has made a chance discovery that he has overstayed his visa.

David Bull, a former Royal Navy sailor, lost his hotel maintenance job at the start of the recession last year and may also lose his right to live in New Zealand, where he has called home for 30 years.

Mr Bull told the New Zealand Herald he found out he had overstayed almost half his life only when he applied for unemployment benefit and he was asked to produce his passport and proof of residency.

"I couldn't find them and had to write to Immigration New Zealand for copies, and was totally shocked when I was told that I am an overstayer - and have been one for most of the three decades that I have lived in New Zealand," said Mr Bull, originally from Bedford, England.

The 64-year-old believed he had the legal right to live in New Zealand because he had married a New Zealand woman, Grace Teata Hirata, and together they have a 25-year-old son.

He said he had wanted to emigrate to New Zealand "to be with the woman I love" since their marriage in Timaru a year before he moved here.

"I was told in London by a New Zealand High Commission staffer in 1979 that he had deleted the return passage clause from my visa, which meant I could live here as long as I wanted to with my wife. Now I know that's just bullshit.

"But I have always considered New Zealand to be my home, and having been married to a New Zealander and having a New Zealand-born son, never in my wildest dream did I think I am an overstayer."

Mr Bull returned to Britain briefly in 2004, and was given a New Zealand Visitor Visa and advised to apply for permanent residency within six months. He did not do so because he thought Immigration New Zealand had "been mistaken" about his residency status.

An Immigration New Zealand spokesperson have provided assurances that full consideration will be given to Mr Bull's case, taking into account all the circumstances and information provided.

The New Zealand Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people with emigrating to New Zealand.

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