'Emotionally drained' highly skilled worker quits New Zealand after family denied entry

By Nick Truebridge of RNZ

It should have been the Kiwi dream, instead a high-achieving immigrant says he will leave the country because his wife and daughter are not allowed in.

Chandra Raju last saw his wife and little girl two years ago and had plans to re-unite in regional New Zealand.

But now an immigration lawyer says New Zealand's reputation will suffer major damage.

Chandra Raju is a University of Waikato success story, his background and achievements are splashed on the institution's website as a way of attracting prospective students.

He has 16 years' experience in capital markets and banking, is the recipient of Education New Zealand scholarships, gained a Masters in Accounting here, and stayed in the regions to work as a finance manager for an animal genetics company.

Raju also volunteers for community patrols in his community.

"Wherever possible ... I'm trying to contribute, to connect with the community, you know, knowing the culture, building that relationship," he said.

Meanwhile, Raju's 10-year-old daughter and wife remain in India. He last saw them in mid-2019.

"It is emotionally draining... it's tough because India also have COVID-19 challenges and [there's] this feeling of guilt," Raju said.

"I came here for settlement and to have some good work-life balance plus having decent living for children in terms of their studies and things like that."

Raju came here pre-COVID-19, the plan was for his family to follow.

But their Kiwi dream is over before it really started. The former University of Waikato scholar has told his boss he will likely pack his bags and go home before the year is out.

"It has been a rewarding experience in terms of work experience, but personally it is very mentally straining with family not being around," he said.

His family's path to reunification and residency faces two roadblocks.

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) says Chandra's wife and daughter do not qualify for a border exemption, despite the government earlier this year creating border exceptions for partners and dependent children of temporary visa holders.

As for Chandra's own residency bid, that has been scuppered as his expressions of interest for the skilled migrant programme remain suspended.

In a statement, INZ told Checkpoint it empathises with the difficult position separated migrant families find themselves in.

But that's no consolation to Chandra Raju.

"There are certain goals in life, right? And when you put it in a checklist environment, I'm not able to tick any of the boxes," he said.

"Sorry to say that, but ... no residency is moving, I mean, when will my family come?

"I don't want to live with so many question marks in life."

Immigration lawyer Alastair McClymont believes New Zealand's reputation as a destination for highly skilled migrants is going to suffer generational damage.

"The reputation that this country now has about the way that we treat our migrants is so poor in comparison to the almost open invitation that countries like Canada are offering skilled migrants around the world," he said.

"It really is going to take a generation for New Zealand to recover its reputation as being a destination for the highly-skilled migrants around the world to come."

Exemptions for relatives to enter the country should be widened, he said.

"When they see a whole lot of other people getting exemptions from the government to come in ... it speaks volumes about the prioritisation this government has over skilled migrants, the graduates here, the people applying for residency, compared to, for example, America's Cup, Wiggles, Lion King, rich investors," McClymont said.

McClymont told Checkpoint he has had no news on the resumption of expressions of interest for the skilled migrant category, adding the constant message from Minister Kris Faafoi's office is the government is looking at options.

And it appears nothing has changed. Immigration NZ told Checkpoint Faafoi is working through advice on re-opening expressions of interest for skilled migrants.

Any decision will be communicated publicly, but there is no indication of when that will happen.


Sign up to receive news updates

By entering your email address, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Newshub and its affiliates may use your email address to provide updates/news, ads, and offers. To withdraw your consent or learn more about your rights, see the Privacy Policy.