A Dutch family say their Southland dream has been shattered.
They call Southland home and say they wanted to make it permanent by investing $2 million into a tulip farm business.
Instead they are preparing to return to Holland on Thursday after Stef Groen lost a bid to extend his working visa in New Zealand.
It is another chapter to what has been an emotional three years for Groen and partner Babs Steinvoort.
Groen shifted to New Zealand in 2005 and moved south in 2013 where he was employed as a manager at the Edendale tulip farm.
In 2015, Steinvoort joined Groen in New Zealand.
While visiting family in Holland in July 2016, Groen was diagnosed with stage four lymphoma cancer while Steinvoort was four months pregnant.
The outlook was bleak.
"After a week I was busy organising songs for my funeral and my belongings," he said.
He undertook various treatments in Holland, both traditional chemotherapy and his own natural approach, which included the Wim Hof Method, a cold body therapy.
Groen made it to his son's birth in December 2016, which was not initially expected.
Then came the unexpected news in May 2017 - Groen was cancer free.
The family's dream had been reignited and in August last year they returned to New Zealand hoping to kick-start the plan to develop a tulip farm business in central Southland.
However, Groen's application for a work visa has been declined on the basis of his health.
Immigration New Zealand wrote to Groen saying: "The medical assessor has advised that you do not have an acceptable standard of health for entry to New Zealand on the basis that you are likely to impose significant costs or demands on New Zealand's health system."
A Southland District Health Board haematologist wrote to Immigration New Zealand in relation to Groen's case and stated on average people who have undergone the same treatment have a "10 year overall survival of 58 percent".
Groen sought advice from the haematologist in Holland who had treated him, he estimated the chance of recurrence at 10 percent during the next five years.
He told Stuff it was not his intention to burden the New Zealand taxpayer with any health related costs
"I could have had my treatment in New Zealand [in 2016] because I had a work visa then, but I did it in Holland. It didn't cost New Zealand any taxpayer dollars."
He wanted to show authorities he had money set aside to pay for any required health costs in the future, but Immigration New Zealand visa services manager Michael Carley said private medical care was not taken into consideration.
Groen believed the family would have had a positive impact on Southland through growing the tulip farm business and helping create jobs.
Carley acknowledged Immigration New Zealand did factor in investment and creation of jobs for New Zealanders when considering visa applications.
Groen had previously held a "work to residence" visa under the entrepreneurship category and applied to extend the entrepreneurship visa after 12 months.
However, it was declined because Groen had not set up his business as per his business plan, Carley said.
The reality had now kicked in for the family that they would have to leave Southland on Thursday.
"[Southland] is our home, our life is here. It's devastating, we have so many friends here now," an emotional Steinvoort said.
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In the wake of the deeply sad events in Christchurch, the Ministry of Health and 1737 have created resources to give advice for those who are affected by the events. Please check below.
They are sold a dream, but instead some migrants to New Zealand are being exploited by scammers who sell them fake jobs and demand under-the-table payments for visas. In the first of a four-part investigation, 'The Big Scam', Dileepa Fonseka and Steve Kilgallon reveal the kingpin accused of orchestrating a sophisticated rort.
More than 80,000 people arrive in New Zealand on student visas every year. In 2014, Karamjeet Singh, from a family of Haryana Sikh farmers, was one of them. His Kiwi dream was to secure residency and own his own bistro.
Instead, he forked out $35,000 for a job that didn't exist – part of a scheme to dupe Immigration New Zealand into securing visas for migrants who wouldn't qualify for one legitimately.
Karamjeet paid his money to Gurpreet Singh: a Punjabi Indian who owned a string of Auckland restaurants, several liquidated companies, and had a reputation as a man who could get things done.
Multiple former clients say Singh runs a variation on a visa fraud scheme that appears rife among migrants; Stuff has uncovered several other examples and industry figures say there are many more.
Stuff's investigation has found three options taken by desperate migrants – all illegal:
* They can pay a flat upfront fee – paying up to $35,000 – to "buy" a job and so get a work visa attached to an employer.
* They can buy a fake job, paying purely for the paperwork, but receiving no income from their 'employer'.
* Or, they can secure a real job at the minimum salary required by Immigration NZ for a work visa – about $48,000 pa – but repay some or all of it back to their employer in cash, often leaving them with less than the minimum wage.
Recent law changes, giving students open visas at the end of their study, rather than only ones tied to employers, may have made the first scam much trickier – but migrant advocates say other scams will replace it.
A former immigration minister, Tuariki Delamere, says the schemes are "endemic" and Immigration New Zealand is doing little to stop them. An immigration lawyer of two decades' experience, Alistair McClymont, guesses "about a third" of his clients are paying their employers in some form for jobs. A workers' advocate, Sunny Seghal, likewise says the cases Stuff has uncovered are merely the "tip of the iceberg".
Immigration New Zealand don't argue with that analysis and say they are receiving an "ever-increasing" number of tip-offs about scams.
For those like Gurpreet, with a reputation in migrant communities as a fixer who can help when all legal avenues have failed, it certainly appears to be a lucrative business.
But those who turned to him in desperation lose out. Another former client, Harpreet Singh, who paid him $25,000, believes Gurpreet and his associates should be prosecuted: "They need to get punished, whatever they have done," he says. "They have ruined many people's lives."
Karamjeet Singh's path to becoming a new New Zealander is a familiar one: a one-year study course, hoping it would turn into a job and residency. Like many others, he instead found himself with a visa about to expire and no employment prospects.
So he called Gurpreet Singh (no relation). 'GP' is described as a laidback, warm character with an easy smile. He drives a black Chrysler and tells you he can make you a permanent resident of New Zealand for $35,000. One former employee – who, like Karamjeet, paid Gurpreet some $35,000 to secure visas – says: "We don't like him, but when he is in front of us, he is so nice and friendly, we don't say anything to him."
Karamjeet claims Gurpreet said he'd found him a full-time job in Wellington paying a salary of $42,000 a year – at that time, above the pay threshold to secure permanent residency.
The catch was the job would cost Karamjeet $35,000 – but he could pay in instalments. A work visa would cost $10,000, the rest would get him permanent residency, the right to stay here. If his application failed, he'd get a refund.
In Wellington, Karamjeet met a man called Peter Ryan. Ryan ran immigration consultancy Capital Immigration. He was also director and majority shareholder of a second company, BC International, which traded as Bite Consulting Group. According to several people Stuff spoke to, Ryan was also the immigration advisor who handled most of the visa applications.
In June 2015, Karamjeet duly secured a visa to work for BC International as a customer service manager. But Karamjeet says he was told Bite wouldn't pay him, because the company itself didn't do anything.
Instead, each time he got paid, Karamjeet had to return the money. And because it had already been taxed on the way through, he also had to repay that as well.
His visa said his job was in Wellington. But as his job wasn't real, Karamjeet was living in Gurpreet's house in Auckland, and surviving off his savings, money from his parents, and a cash-in-hand job at a west Auckland factory.
Karamjeet claims bank statements showing transfers, cash withdrawals and money transfers at foreign currency exchanges are him returning his monthly Bite salary back to Ryan through third parties, including via his Dad back in India.
The flaw was all those transfers happened in Auckland. He was meant to be in Wellington. Karamjeet says the plan was for Gurpreet to take his bank cards, and arrange for a friend in the capital to make transactions on his behalf, but he forgot.
So in April 2016, came an email from a seemingly-flustered Ryan to Karamjeet and Gurpreet, exclaiming: "What's going on all the bank statements have Auckland on them along with all activities in Auckland !!!!!!!"
When Karamjeet called Ryan to check on his application for permanent residency he claims Ryan told him Immigration New Zealand had asked for 10 years worth of salary and financial records from Bite Consulting and asked Karamjeet to withdraw his application.
Karamjeet says Ryan told him "many people would be affected" if questions were raised about Bite. He says Ryan told him Gurpreet would find a different way of securing his residency.
The letter offering Karamjeet his Bite 'job' includes the web address www.biteconsulting.co.uk in the letterhead, but a source who knows Ryan says Bite Consulting and the UK one are actually two separate companies. But he defends Ryan, saying: "I find it hard to believe Peter would do anything like that, he's an immigration advisor."
When Ryan is called and told we want to ask about Singh, he says he doesn't want to comment, asks if the call is being recorded, and says: "I don't know all the facts, I've heard all sorts of rumours, and I understand someone is making quite serious and arguably false allegations; I can't comment any further than that."
When it's pointed out that no allegations have yet been put to him, he says: "I'd prefer not to comment as well." Asked specifically about his panicked email about Karamjeet's money transfers in Auckland, he says he "wasn't involved in that". Asked directly if he was involved in an immigration fraud scheme with Singh, he says: "That is a serious allegation and one I thoroughly refute."
Gurpreet's main business was restaurants. He owned two in South Auckland – Pepperboard in Papakura (since sold), and Hungry Hopes in Buckland's Beach (since liquidated, a fate common with several companies linked to Gurpreet).
His wife, Meha Singh, bought another in Whangarei, Killer Prawn, using a company called Workforce NZ.
So the solution was to get Karamjeet a new visa as the restaurant's manager.
In his new job, he was paid $3750 a month – again, above the threshold to secure residency.
But a string of WhatsApp messages he gave us show multiple requests from Gurpreet and Meha for him to make large cash payments into accounts they controlled, or back into the business as 'cash sale'. He was allowed to keep just $400 a week as his salary – well below the threshold, and if he'd worked the 50 hours a week he claims, well below minimum wage.
Karamjeet says he was left to mostly run Killer Prawn on his own, where he says fellow employees would complain to him about Kiwisaver payments not being made.
It gave him the opportunity to take pictures of documents which appear to be a record of employees' payments and visa statuses – they show a series of names, with dollar amounts beside them along with references to specific immigration procedures and visas, such as 'IPT $1600' - a likely reference to the Immigration Protection Tribunal, 'Work Visa $1700' and 'Deportation Liability Notice $2800'.
Another former employee, Sonal (not her real name) worked in two of Gurpreet's restaurants and says he was rarely there and didn't seem concerned about their financial performance: "Sometimes it seems like they didn't worry about anything to do with the restaurant."
Immigration New Zealand seemed to be aware of all this. They sent Karamjeet a 10-page letter on May 25 last year explaining why they were declining his application for permanent residency (though he still had a valid work visa) – they were concerned about the restaurant's wage bill and records, and that if it was liquidated, it couldn't cover half of its debts. A lot of its cash flow also seemed to come from deposits from Meha Singh's company Mehar Hospitality, and it wasn't convinced these would continue.
Sure enough, Workforce NZ was liquidated in June this year, owing the IRD nearly $350,000. But it remains open – under new ownership.
It took the liquidators "several phone conversations" before Meha explained she had sold the business. It took them even longer to discover it had been sold to her husband, Gurpreet, and there had been no actual exchange of money. When they visited the restaurant, he demanded they leave.
Karamjeet, meanwhile, fears he'll have to leave New Zealand, and soon.
On August 14, he received an email from his lawyer, Ammar Ayoub of Legal Associates, a south Auckland law practice recommended to him by Gurpreet.
Ayoub wrote that a final attempt to renew Karamjeet's work visa (after his residency was rejected) had been declined last year. It meant Karamjeet had unwittingly been in the country illegally for months.
Ayoub said he'd not been able to contact Karamjeet at the time, and assumed he'd left the country because his bill was unpaid. Karamjeet says he owed only $200 of a $1750 bill and hadn't realised, because Ayoub hadn't invoiced him.
Now he lives with the constant threat of deportation and knows his family in India is deep in debt.
He's tried to get a refund from Gurpreet and Meha without success. In one conversation which he covertly taped, Meha promises to pay him back at $500 a week, saying: "I tried my best to help you, but it's just not your destiny, so I can't help you." She says his visa must have been rejected because they were tipped off but says "no one here would have because we have the best set-up".
Karamjeet likes New Zealand, loves the people and wouldn't turn down an opportunity to come back one day. But he no longer wants permanent residency. Instead, he'd like MBIE to use his evidence and that of the others Stuff spoke with to get people their money back and stop these scams: "It's in Immigration New Zealand's hands now."
Karamjeet is far from alone in having a story to tell about Gurpreet Singh.
For example, restaurant manager Sonal claims she paid Gurpreet $35,000 for visas for herself and her husband (as a dependent partner). Twice she was successful in securing work visas at Gurpreet's restaurants, Pepperboard and Hungry Hopes.
The third time, she was rejected because Immigration NZ felt the restaurants couldn't financially sustain all the visas lodged against it. She says Gurpreet apologised and promised her a partial refund – but didn't pay up.
During her three years working for Gurpreet, she says she repaid about $200 a week from her declared wages.
Sometimes, Gurpreet would apologise to staff for their visa issues – she thinks most were involved in the scheme in some way. "He would say 'Because you guys are suffering, I know that you don't like me' … We don't like him, but when he is in front of us, he is so nice and friendly, we don't say anything to him." And so despite everything, she admits a grudging affection for Gurpreet. "He's very friendly, very polite, always smiling, always talking to you as a friend. You never feel like he's [taking advantage of you]."
Harpreet Singh is less forgiving. He's since left New Zealand, disillusioned, and says he paid Gurpreet $25,000 for his job at Pepperboard to secure residency. Officially, he was employed as a duty manager there for two years - but he says he only worked there for about two months, and as a kitchen hand.
He's got 30 messages from Meha Singh requesting his wages be deposited back into Meha's companies, or that they be recorded as "cash sales" on the company books. He says she told him to get a job driving an Uber because Pepperboard couldn't pay him. Plagued by the fear of being caught by Immigration NZ, he became depressed. On the phone, he struggles to suppress tears. "They need to get punished, whatever they have done," he says. "They have ruined many people's lives."
What does Gurpreet Singh say to all this? Not much. When we visited him at his rented home in the Whangarei suburb of Kensington, he refused to address any of the allegations against him, except to say they were "unsubstantiated".
Speaking through a locked flyscreen, he repeatedly said he was "not keen to speak" to us, and demanded that we left the property or he would call police.
We told Immigration New Zealand about Gurpreet's schemes.
INZ's assistant general manager Peter Devoy said: "These are corrupt practices and New Zealand prides itself on not being a corrupt society and I don't want my New Zealand to be corrupt."
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On 1 May 2019 Service Fees payable to VACs in the following locations will increase:
India, Papua New Guinea, Australia, United Kingdom, New Caledonia, Nauru, United States of America, Kiribati, Sri Lanka, Fiji, Vanuatu, China, Hong Kong, Philippines, Indonesia, Russia,
Vietnam, South Africa, United Arab Emirates.
Please find below the fee table which is effective from 1 May 2019.
As you may be aware Immigration New Zealand has been prioritising the processing of visa applications for families of those affected by the Christchurch terrorist attack to come to New Zealand at this challenging time.
As a result, there has been some impact on the processing of other visa applications and applicants may find that work visa applications, in particular, are taking longer than usual to be processed.
Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has priority processing for the families of the people killed or injured in the mass shooting at the Masjid Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch. INZ recognises this is a difficult time, and will process visa applications with urgency.
How to apply for a visa
If a visa is required, please follow these steps to apply for a visitor visa:
1. Apply for a visitor visa online.
2. Submit the application and make a note of the reference number.
3. Send INZ an email (NZEmergencyVisa@mbie.govt.nz) so that we can prioritise the application.
a. the reference number in the subject line
b. the name, date of birth and passport number of the person who has applied for a visa
c. the date the online application was made, and
d. name and date of birth of the family member in New Zealand.
Affected people may also wish to contact INZ’s contact centre on a dedicated number:
Phone: 0508 22 52 88 - Within New Zealand
Phone: +64 9 952 1679 - Outside New Zealand
Note: These phone numbers are intended solely for the use of victims, their family members and those
supporting them at this distressing time.
Getting help in person
Information about getting help in person is also available online. INZ staff in Christchurch are working closely with New Zealand Police Victim Support who are leading support to victims and their families.
Staff are available to meet with victims and their family members to provide guidance on the visa application process and answer questions about immigration status.
To arrange a time to meet an immigration officer victims or family members should email firstname.lastname@example.org. This email address is intended solely for the use of victims, their family members and those supporting them at this distressing time.
Some people do not need a visitor visa
Individuals who are citizens of visa-waiver countries do not need a visa to come to New Zealand to visit their family.
Consular related matters
If family members require any consular-related information, such as they do not have a passport to travel or they do not have funds to purchase tickets, please advise them to contact the Embassy/High
Commission/Consulate with responsibility for New Zealand. If they do not know how to contact their diplomatic representative for New Zealand, they should contact their local Foreign Ministry who can assist with this information.
1. Apply for a Specific Purpose Work Visa online.
2. Submit the application and make a note of the reference number.
3. Send us an email so that we can prioritise the application. Include:
a. the reference number in the subject line
b. the name and date of birth of the person who has applied for a visa, and
c. the date the online application was made.
Diplomats and government officials
Diplomats and government officials should contact the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), who will facilitate the priority processing of these visas.
Visa applications for victims of the mass shootings and their families who are based
INZ understands that some migrants who hold temporary work visas to work in Christchurch may wish to relocate elsewhere in New Zealand. Here are the options currently available:
Varying the conditions of a work visa
Some work visas restrict work to a particular occupation, employer or location. If a work visa has one of these restrictions an individual can sometimes change the conditions of their existing visa instead of applying for a new visa.
If a work visa allows someone to work in any job, for any employer and in any location, they don’t need to apply for a variation of conditions.
Essential Skills Work Visa holders
If an individual holds an Essential Skills work visa and their job is not on the skills shortage lists, the only
condition they can vary is their employer. However, they can apply for a new work visa to change their
job or location or to change employment to a lower skill-band. Before a new application is made, they
must ensure they have been offered a full-time job and have the necessary qualifications and experience
to work in that job.
Talent (Accredited Employers) Work Visa holders
If an individual holds a Talent (Accredited Employer) work visa they can apply to vary the conditions if
the base salary offered is not less than the base salary that was required at the time their initial work
visa application was made. Their new employer must meet the requirements for compliant employers.
If an individual wants to vary the conditions on their work visa and they are eligible to do so, they must
provide the following:
Offer of employment or employment agreement
'Application for a Variation of Conditions or a Variation of Travel Conditions' (INZ 1020)
Employer Supplementary form (INZ 1113), if the client is applying to work for a different employer – the new employer must complete the form. This is not required if the employer is an accredited employer who is supporting the application to vary conditions of a Talent (Accredited Employers) work visa.
Post Study (Employer-Assisted) Work Visa holder
If an individual holds a Post Study (Employer-Assisted) Work Visa, they can apply to have their job,
location and employer removed from their label conditions. They may then work for any employer. To
do this, they must provide the following:
Completed form INZ 1243
Application for a Variation of Conditions for holders of an employer-assisted post-study work visa (INZ 1243)
Post Study (Open) Work Visa holder
If an individual holds a Post Study (Open) Work Visa they can work for any employer. No Variation of
Conditions is required to change their job, location and employer.
Further visa arrangements
We know members of the Muslim community have been asking about residence options for those affected by the shootings. The New Zealand Government is currently considering options and will make any announcements in due course. In the meantime Immigration New Zealand will work with people to help them understand their visa options.
Non-visa related advice and support available in New Zealand
The MFAT website outlines the advice and support services available in New Zealand following the events in Christchurch. https://www.mfat.govt.nz/en/about-us/christchurch-terror-attacks-help-and-support/
Immigration New Zealand confirms receipt of Czech drug smuggler Karel Sroubek’s application for residency.
Karel Sroubek, a convicted drug smuggler, has filed an application for residency as confirmed by Immigration New Zealand (INZ).
In 2008, Sroubek, who was then the world kickboxing champion, was given residency using a false passport under the name of Jan Antolik. Now, he seeks to gain residency using his true identity.
Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway granted Sroubek residency last September, however, Sroubek had to conform to the strict requirements, among of which were valid travel documents in his legitimate name.
According to Paul Wicks, Sroubek’s lawyer, his client is merely fulfilling the requirements imposed by the Immigration Minister and is challenging the decision that revoked his initial residency. Should the appeal be approved, Sroubek would then be a legitimate resident of New Zealand, since he has already submitted the legal documents expected of him.
Lees-Galloway previously stated that Sroubek was liable for deportation because of the invalid visa given to him because of the documents he submitted which concealed the fact that he was an excluded person for his importation of ecstasy.
In the document, Sroubek, who was then convicted and given the penalty of four years and six months incarceration in Czech Republic, indicated that he had no convictions. According to Wicks, Sroubek claims that his life is in danger should he be deported, as he is no longer supported by the Czech Republic.
In the Official Information Act documents, Minister Lees-Galloway was given six options on what possible judgments could be made against Sroubek.
The six options given are as follows:
1. Advise that no determination could be made;
2. Decide that deportation should proceed;
3. Decide that deportation liability should be cancelled;
4. Decide that deportation liability should be suspended for five years (subject to conditions in the suspension letter);
5. Decide that deportation liability should be suspended by a length of time along with conditions provided by the minister; or
6. Regularize Sroubek’s immigration status under Section 68 of the Immigration Act of 2009.
A married Auckland couple of Bangladeshi descent will appear on court to face charges of human trafficking.