Mexican man claims he was rejected for New Zealand residency because he's too fat

A Mexican man says he's been rejected for residency in New Zealand because he's too fat.

At 160kg, Eder Rivera is bigger than an All Blacks prop. His doctors agree he's in good health - but Immigration New Zealand has determined his body mass index (BMI) puts him in a severe risk category.

Eder Rivera is a larger-than-life Fletchers construction worker from Mexico - with a built-in hobby of stand-up comedy.

"When people see me here they go 'chahooo'. I have to explain to them - soccer brown, not rugby brown," he jokes.

He loves to entertain, to make people laugh and smile - especially Kiwi audiences. But this is no joke.

He says Immigration New Zealand effectively told him he's too fat for residency. He has to lose weight or go home. How much? They won't say.

"My fear now with Immigration is that I don't get to the number - I don't know which number it is - I don't get to the number they want and then they say bye. And that's it," he says.

A visa medical assessment determined his BMI put him in a "severe risk" category. But Rivera says he's perfectly healthy, has no medical requirements, and has a doctor's report to prove it.

"I want them to see me for who I am. My family - not just myself, my wife and kids - can do something for the country, you know," he argues.

A father of two and former university professor, a slim-line Rivera arrived here six years ago on a working holiday visa. He wanted a safer life for his family.

"I fell in love with the pies when I came to New Zealand. I think it was a very bad combination changing tacos for pies. You are only supposed to eat one pie and you can eat three tacos but I decided to eat three pies," he says.

Eder Rivera.
Eder Rivera. Photo credit: Newshub

The weight piled on, which wasn't a problem until he applied for a working visa for his full-time job in construction.

And that was the first time Rivera was told to lose weight by Immigration New Zealand. To secure that working visa, he lost 30kg in three months. To do this he lived at the gym and survived on a can of tuna a day. But he says he didn't feel good.

He got the visa but soon after, his pregnant wife lost their baby girl in a car crash. Then they lost family members back home to COVID-19.

It was a stressful time and Rivera began comfort eating, and his weight ballooned.

"It shouldn't be an issue... but I'm fat, that's the only way to say it, you know?"

He weighs 160kg and recently lost about 10kg - but if he doesn't lose a whole lot more, and soon, he'll be gone.

Green Party immigration spokesperson Ricardo Menéndez March says the situation is a disgrace.

"Edd is an amazing contributor to our community... for Immigration New Zealand to effectively try to deport him because he's fat is discriminatory and an awful thing to do," he says.

He's now launching a member's Bill to guarantee migrants adequate access to their human rights.

"Doing this would effectively remove the Government's ability to impose things like the acceptable standard of health. And it will guarantee that migrants will be looked after, just as anyone else, by the human rights that we should be protected under," Menendez March says.

The immigration minister declined Newshub's request for an interview but in a statement said the visa threshold test is being reviewed.

Rivera hopes to stay here forever.