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Chang Sheng Zhao, 58, has been in New Zealand on a visitor visa since December 2019. She has been living with her daughter Yuxi Ward, a clinical team leader with the Department of Corrections, and her family in Christchurch.
Zhao was initially granted a visitor visa for six months, which was extended a few times because of the pandemic. But her latest visitor visa application was declined on November 11 as INZ ruled she did not meet the relevant immigration requirements to be granted a visa.
But following a Herald query into the matter, the agency reviewed its decision and granted Zhao a three-month extension, allowing her to remain with her daughter and grandchildren through Christmas, New Zealand and Chinese New Year.
Nicola Hogg, general manager border and visa operations, said INZ empathised with the difficult situation Zhao and her family were in.
"INZ has now reviewed our decision, taking into account the individual circumstances and all information available and has decided to grant Ms Zhao a further visitor visa as an exception to instructions for a period of three months to allow Ms Zhao to make arrangements to return home," Hogg said.
This decision gives Zhao the ability to stay until February 2022, as requested and discussed with her daughter Yuxi Ward.
Ward said Zhao had no family left in China, where she lived alone on the fifth floor of an old building with no elevator and struggled to get in and out of her house.
"To send her back to China would result in her facing an increased risk to her health from Covid-19, from travel, the requirement to quarantine, and the risk of exposure when back in China," she said.
"Combined with her not being able to return to New Zealand until the borders re-open, this will have a significant negative impact on her wellbeing."
Ward said INZ had earlier sought to deport her mother on December 2.
Ward said they had been trying to apply a visa under the parent category since 2015 but the category closed even before her expression of interest could be selected.
Like Ward, her husband also works at the Department Corrections as a senior officer at the Christchurch Men's Prison.
"We have both worked throughout the lockdowns as frontline essential workers, which we could not have done without my mom's support in looking after our two young children at home," she said.
"We work rostered shifts, nights and weekends and we rely on her to provide family support looking after our children as childcare facilities do not support weekend or night-time workers."
In October 2016 the Government suspended the Parent Category to new applications because of the very high demand for the limited number of places and while a review of the category was undertaken.
In October 2019 the Government closed the Parent Category to new applications and announced it would re-open in February 2020 with new criteria.
The first expressions of interest selection for the category were scheduled to take place in May last year, but this was deferred as a result of the pandemic.
"The Government continues to assess when EOI selections can take place, however no decisions on this have been made," Hogg said.
Meanwhile, the spokesman for migrant group NZ United Voice, Jeet Suchdev, is calling on the Government to reopen borders for migrants stuck offshore.
"We have been approached formally and informally by hundreds of families who are urging for a fairer decision from the Government," he said.
Suchdev said thousands of migrant families were facing break-ups because of the Government's decision not to let those stranded overseas back in.