We are now officially permanent residents of New Zealand + some thoughts on global mobility

On the 20th of February, I got an email from Immigration New Zealand (INZ) informing me that they’d approved our application to become permanent residents. I’m super relieved as this was kind of hanging over us for a while, even though there was very little chance that it would not work out in our favor.

Here’s what permanent residency means for us [I’m not an immigration consultant blah blah legal disclaimer check INZ’s website for the latest and greatest info]:

  • We can now vote;
  • Our continued existence here is no longer tied to my current job (not that I’m interested in quitting, it’s just nice to know I’m not stuck if it ever ceases to be a good fit);
  • I can now do jobs on the side (this wasn’t permitted on my specific work visa)
  • We can get credit cards (not to carry a balance, but to get cash back on all our purchases!);
  • We can buy a house (not that we can currently afford any houses we’d want to live in, it’s just that the new government here recently passed a law that foreigners cannot buy existing houses, only build new ones… and even before that law changed, banks wouldn’t give us a mortgage unless we were residents anyway);
  • We can go to school (we weren’t allowed to study for more than 3 months on our work visas before)…
  • …at local tuition rates (which are ~1/3 of the rates for foreigners, this number varies a lot depending on which program and which university);
  • We qualify for KiwiSaver, NZ’s retirement plan (employers are required by law to match employee contributions up to 3% for employees who opt into the KiwiSaver plan, so I’m signing up right away. And yes, if you leave the country you get to take your KiwiSaver funds with you); and
  • We’re pretty sure Scott’s existence here is no longer tied to our relationship… though we have no plans to test that out 🙂

The “permanent” part of our residency means that we can leave the country for as long as we want, whenever we want, and move back as residents (including all the benefits listed above) any time we choose. Maybe that’s normal for permanent residency? I’ve never immigrated anywhere before.

We went out to a fancy dinner to celebrate! We even shared a glass of bubbly between us, wow don’t we go big 🙂 Without exception, friends and colleagues in New Zealand — locals and expats, people I know well and people I hardly know at all — react with enormous excitement when we share this news. I’ve gotten so many high fives and whoops and hugs, which feels great. They’re stoked we made the cut, and we’re thrilled we get to stay.

A few notable aspects of the whole process:

NZ doesn’t let foreign racists in… but NZ citizens can still be assholes

I appreciated two of the application’s questions sussing out whether or not you’re a good character:

At the same time, there’s still a lot racism (and behavior that I’d generally consider “bad character”) getting dished out between the varied groups of people here, a lot of which I reckon is the inevitable result of combining colonial heritage with a lot of new immigration. At least they’re doing their best to keep the more racist people from coming in?

The permanent residency “bump”

We were able to apply for permanent residency after only two years here (normally you’ll apply for residency after two years, and only after two years as a resident can you apply for permanent residency) based on my salary. I guess they figure I’ve already paid enough taxes to justify whatever money they’ll spend on us services-wise moving forward, even if I didn’t continue to make that much somehow? Seems a little odd that you can “pay to stay” in that sense, but then again, I guess immigration decisions are always a numbers game, assuming you meet the character requirements?

Either way, I’m hugely relieved about this, as it means we won’t have to fill out any immigration paperwork again unless we get in trouble or decide to emigrate somewhere else.

I am definitely Canadian – for better and for worse

Did you know that Canada Post was on strike for weeks right before the holidays? We did, because Immigration New Zealand wanted a report from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police proving I’m not a criminal there (even though I haven’t set foot in Canada since the last time I sent them the same report). I put my fingerprints in the mail to Canada the very week the strike began, and they ended up stuck in the 600+ trailers full of holiday mail that remained unprocessed for over a month. Canada’s request that the rest of the world to stop sending them mail came too late for me, and I learned my lesson: always use a courier for important documents, if only for the peace of mind of being able to know where they’re stuck.

I got a lot of help from my Uncle John in Calgary to get that RCMP report into familiar hands, and a Kiwi work colleague who now works in the Toronto office and who was coming back to NZ for the holidays hand carried it into the country for me. I honestly have no idea how anyone who did not have Canadian contacts could have managed to get a hold of their report, even without a strike on. THANK YOU Uncle John and Allanah!

We learned a thing about birth certificates

Turns out the birth certificate Scott believed, for his whole life, was a “full” one… is not! A “full” birth certificate includes the full names of both parents (or at least, your mother). We only learned this when Immigration New Zealand rejected our first application because Scott’s card-sized birth certificate didn’t have those details. Thankfully his mom still lives in the country where he was born and so could walk in there and pick up a “full” one and send it to us.

Turnaround was REALLY fast once we got our application in

The officials at INZ hinted that it would probably take less than the officially-listed “5-7 month” processing time, but that’s the only official timeframe they’d give us. Which was stressful, because if did actually take more than 7 months, for instance, our existing work visas would have expired! But once we finally got our application in with all the requisite documents, it took them less than a week (!!!) to make a decision and email our visas to us. In the form of a Word document that I couldn’t even open on my computer. So anticlimactic. Fortunately Scott still has a machine with Word on it.


Global mobility is a great privilege if you’ve chosen it

Mobility is a lovely thing to choose if you want it, but a great burden when you don’t. I could now show up in the US, Canada, or New Zealand at any time, for the rest of my life, and they couldn’t turn me away, thanks to dual citizenship and this new permanent residency. I feel awfully privileged to be in that situation.

As much as I may complain about some of the aspects I found challenging about the immigration process, it’s still ridiculously easy when you’re gainfully employed and immensely wealthy compared to, say, the many many people who are right now facing not only intense racism but also physical danger, structural, political, and financial barriers to getting their basic human needs met (much less immigration advice), and perhaps also displacement from the land and homes they knew and loved.

On that note, it also feels like a huge privilege to be able to choose which government receives my tax dollars. I don’t think Jacinda Ardern or the Labour Party are perfect, but they’re pretty damn awesome all things considered.

2 Replies to “We are now officially permanent residents of New Zealand + some thoughts on global mobility”

  1. Hello Elizabeth,

    First to say, that you gave me a breath of hope tonight.

    I and my wife have been looking for an opportunity to migrate to New Zealand. And, it was looking like an impossibility, we had a discussion to stop trying just earlier today! But, watching your video on Youtube and reading through this article has revived our spirits.

    She is a software Engineer (fullstack), and I am a Frontend developer/product manager.

    We hope to share a story like yours (and your partner) one day.

    Also, we are now checking Xero for opportunities 😉

    1. Oh that’s so great to hear, Tobi! Do let me know if you discover any roles at Xero in Auckland or Wellington that you’d like to apply for, and I can send you the referral link(s) 🙂

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