Families fighting to have overseas grandparents visit their newborn grandchildren say unfair health restrictions are keeping them apart.
It has led one couple to take their baby to India to be looked after by her grandmother.
And another woman says Immigration New Zealand’s decision to reject her mother’s visitor visa left her with no support at a traumatic time.
Rotorua dentist Rupinder Kaur and her husband Preetinder Singh, who manages the St John Ambulance service in Lakes District, are in India with their one-month-old daughter Rabaab.
They are leaving her with Singh’s mother, Manjeet Kaur Gill.
He works 12 hour shifts at St John, so the couple had not been able to get a nanny to cover times they were both at work.
They made the difficult decision that their baby would have to go to India so his wife could return to her dental practice next month.
They had planned for his mother to act as nanny for a few months.
But her parent category resident visa was rejected on medical grounds – and then her temporary visitor application was also turned down.
Singh said they provided previous medication receipts to prove she would not be using the New Zealand health system as someone in remission from multiple myeloma.
“She has had a bone marrow transplant from PGI Chandigarh, which is one of the best medical facilities in India,” he said. “She is in remission and is living a healthy life in India.
“The immigration keeps saying her health is not up to the standards. Don’t people in New Zealand live with multiple myeloma? Its not a communicable disease, she cannot give it to anyone.
“I have a medical degree, my father is a surgeon, my wife is a dentist and my mother herself is a retired nurse and we know what the condition is and how to manage if anything happens.
“Also my question is that now that she has had multiple myeloma once in her life and is in remission, will she never be allowed to come and visit her kids in New Zealand? This is just cruel.”
As his mother worked for the government, he said, she has all her health care costs reimbursed – so she would not try to get medication paid for here instead.
They hope Rabaab and her grandmother will now come to New Zealand in the winter – but know there is no certainty about that.
Immigration New Zealand said the ability of a person to pay for health services or pharmaceuticals had no bearing on whether an applicant was likely to impose significant costs on health services or not.
A final medical assessment, including a letter from Gill’s doctor stating that she was undergoing regular and ongoing treatment, concluded there was a high probability she would impose significant costs and demands on New Zealand’s health system during the intended length of stay, said its acting general manager of border and visa operations, Jock Gilray.
“While INZ is understanding of Ms Gill’s situation, immigration instructions determine that applicants must be of an acceptable level of health in order to visit New Zealand,” he said. “This is to ensure that people entering New Zealand do no impose excessive costs and demands on New Zealand public health services.”
Tanya Sabhnani encountered the same problem.
Tourists applying for visitor visas do not routinely have medical tests because they are only in the country for a short time – but their medical results remain on immigration files after they apply for other types of visa.
Her mother Pooja Sabhnani planned to get a grandparent visa, but an abnormal ECG result during the application process prompted her to have an angioplasty procedure.
She was given the all-clear to travel and applied for a visitor visa, but that was rejected on medical grounds.
Sabhnani has been told her mother just needs to keep on applying as they cannot say what would constitute a “significant time” that needs to pass after surgery.
She went into deep depression after the birth of her son Yuvaan in November, she said.
“After his first Christmas he had to go back to hospital, he had Kawasaki disease and we were in hospital for 10 days,” she said. “We didn’t have any family. It has scarred us for life, it was so difficult for us to get through this period.
“Not having any whānau here just broke us. It was supposed to be the most exciting time of our life but it’s just been so stressful.”
They have provided financial sponsorship undertakings and her parents have medical insurance, said Sabhnani, who works at a fertility clinic as a geneticist.
She is now considering taking Yuvaan on a long holiday to India.
“I don’t really want to go because that means that my baby is away from the daddy for a little bit and he can’t take a lot of leave,” she said.
“When you consider New Zealand as home, you just feel ‘is it really my home, where my parents can’t come and visit me?'”