A Wanaka woman facing deportation from New Zealand
without her three children, despite still being legally married
to a New Zealander, says she has exhausted every avenue in her
bid to stay in the country.
Next week, Nicaraguan Sisi Cifuentes (43) will fly to the
United States - where she has residency - to avoid being
deported and possibly prohibited from re-entering New
Her visitor's visa expires on Thursday, and after battling
for months to retain her immigration status and stay with her
children, aged 13, 12 and 6, she is now faced with leaving
them behind, with their New Zealand father, with whom she has
Ms Cifuentes separated from her husband - former
international model Peter Nolet - about 18 months ago. The
couple met overseas, married, and travelled together for
several years before settling near Lake Hawea, in 2006, she
They had two children together while living in the United
States, and their third was born after they moved to New
Zealand. The paperwork necessary for Ms Cifuentes to become a
New Zealand resident was not completed during the couple's
She was on a partnership work visa, which was renewed every
two years. Since the separation, she was not permitted to
work because she no longer had partnership status and for the
past eight months, had been here on a visitor's visa only,
After having an application for another work visa turned
down, she enlisted the help of Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean.
Mrs Dean said she had been working directly with the
Associate Minister of Immigration's office to seek an
exemption for Ms Cifuentes. Associate Immigration Minister
Nikki Kaye has the responsibility of reviewing individual
cases and overruling earlier decisions. She was still
considering Ms Cifuentes' case, and had requested further
information, a spokeswoman from her office said.
But Ms Cifuentes said she was tired of fighting with only
limited resources to stay in New Zealand.
''I've been doing this for two years ... I'm done.
''There comes a time when you have to stop the battle.''
She was now resigned to leaving and focused on finding a way
to take her children with her, as she said she did not have
Mr Nolet's consent to do so.
She planned to make a court application for the removal of
the children from New Zealand.
Blenheim lawyer Graham Hill, who has been working pro bono on
Ms Cifuentes case, described it as a ''tragic situation''.
''I'm appalled that a family could be busted up like this
because of immigration,'' he said.
''In terms of the immigration policy, there is a gap, a hole
in the policy. It doesn't recognise the interests of New
Zealand children to have their mother with them, which is a
fundamental human right ... therefore, the minister should
exercise her discretion to give Sisi status.''
Despite Ms Cifuentes' prolonged efforts to stay in New
Zealand, her lack of income made leaving inevitable, Mr Hill
''As soon as she left the matrimonial home, her status
changed. She wasn't eligible to work and she's on a visitor's
permit, so she wasn't entitled to a benefit.''
Ms Cifuentes had depleted her resources to the point where
leaving was the preferable option, Mr Hill said.
An Immigration New Zealand spokesman said it was not possible
for foreign nationals to apply for residence in cases where a
partnership had broken down and the couple were no longer
The Otago Daily Times has been unable to contact Mr
Nolet, despite repeated attempts over several days.