Further to our post earlier this year about Immigration medical waivers, another recent news story has surfaced about a retired Indian couple who face being split up because the wife would cost the New Zealand health system a lot of money.  She has osteoarthritis in both knees, and would need knee replacements in the next few years.  She is in her mid-70s and, not surprisingly, has other problems with her hearing and her sight.

The family is of course upset that Mrs Shah has to return to India alone.  The story demonstrates the frequent tension between the desire of families to stay together and the financial impact on our medical services.  In the end the Government is answerable to its citizens for how it spends their money.  Immigration New Zealand works under rules which make it clear that we can’t afford to treat and heal everyone who comes in.

A key feature of the story is that the husband originally got his Residence only by pulling his wife out of his application (if he had kept her in, both would have been declined).  This meant that before he got Residence he was well aware that his wife’s health wasn’t good enough for her to get the visa without a struggle.  For the family to argue now that it is unjust to separate Mr Shah in New Zealand, and Mrs Shah back in India, is a bit difficult to swallow.  They were not ambushed by a system that they did not understand.

The argument in favour of the couple staying in New Zealand is that they will have a “better life” here.  That is probably true, as New Zealand has a high standard of living.  Auckland was voted the world’s third best city to live in a recent Mercer survey.  However, as Mick Jagger famously sang “You can’t always get what you want.”  If it was a choice of living together in India, or spending their final years in separate countries, people in the situation of the Shahs must do some hard thinking about what a “better life” really means before spending time and a lot of money on a dead-end exercise.

Now, the opinion in this post relies solely upon the content of the news report.  There may be other factors which would dramatically shift the balance in the couple’s favour.  Finding those special features in a person’s story is where experienced immigration lawyers and advisers can add real value.

A case that I successfully appealed a couple of years ago also involved a form of arthritis.  We were able to show that Immigration’s decision contained a “combination of factual and procedural errors” so that it had to be redone.  By making Immigration accountable to its own policies is another way to turn things around.  The different parts of those policies tie together in many ways which are not always obvious unless you know where to look.  The “medical waiver” area is no exception.  Maybe there is light at the end of the tunnel for the Shahs after all.