The unintended consequence of COVID-19 border restrictions on children of skilled migrants

The Government is leaving a generation of once-highly motivated young people in limbo after stalling residency applications last year.

An unintended consequence of the COVID-19 border restrictions means the children of skilled migrants who turn 18 aren't able to work or study. Some are now dealing with anxiety and depression.

"You lose a lot of motivation, you don't feel like doing anything, because you just sit around not being able to do anything," says Twane Morgan, who dreams of becoming a marine biologist.

Tayla Young, who's wanted to study physiotherapy since she was 12, says it's "difficult, disappointing and really frustrating". 

Matthew Snyman, who wants to study to be a chiropractor, is struggling too. 

"It's very draining and it breaks me down quite a lot, quite often, to be honest."

The Government has effectively suspended the residency process for skilled migrant families who have already moved their entire lives to New Zealand. That's tough enough, but it's the unintended consequence that's now hitting their kids.

"You go to sleep and you go, 'Thank you that he made it through the day', but what's coming tomorrow?" says Matthew's mum Lesley Snyman. 

"And that's the biggest thing, that these kids are being hit every day by another wall and how much longer until they can't get up again? That's petrifying."

The families' residency applications are bundled as one. But when their children leave school they're unable to study - they can't get student visas - and international student fees are prohibitive for a lot of families.

If they set out to get their own work visa they'd be cut from their families' application and left to fend for themselves.

"They are literally sitting at home rotting," says National's immigration spokesperson Erica Stanford.

"There is absolutely no kindness from the Government or minister on this and they can't yell COVID as an excuse because this has been building up for two years because of their own poor policy and poor planning."

The residency queue is a total blow-out: 29,429 people are stuck with another 22,273 in the waiting room just to get in the queue. Immigration is so backlogged it's only processing applications received way back in October 2019.

That's a long wait - a long time to watch your kids withdraw, losing days just watching TV. 

"We feel frustrated as well, our hands are tied and the worst is we don't know when that could end. Ultimately, it's really tough," says Tayla's dad Grant Young. 

"I don't really want next year to come at this point," Tayla adds. 

One of the few things they can do is repeat their final year at school, but it's a spacesaver and a time-waster. 

"It's put me on quite a big down-fall, like I have had quite a few days where I've sort of wanted to try and ask for help, but I also get scared that it might affect our application process for residency," says Matthew.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern could fix things for these scared kids if she wanted to. 

"All the way through we've tried to mitigate impacts at borders," she told Newshub, when asked to respond. 

Newshub can reveal 50,000 people overseas with pending applications - mostly visitor, student and work visas - have been canned. 

These people have been strung along for a year, sometimes longer, waiting for their applications to be looked at - but the Government has called time.

Not only that, they're refunding everyone, and it's going to cost the taxpayer $14 million.  

If you thought the COVID-19 immigration stories of heartbreak, split families, and lost kids have been bad - the floodgates may have just opened up to 50,000 more.