Residency mix-up leaves little option for mourning pair.

A last-minute reprieve for Leslie Smith and his teenage daughter Courtney has won them an extra 12 months in New Zealand, but they say the outcome is unfair and still leaves them in limbo.

Smith, whose wife Shelly died of lung cancer last February, has been battling the system for months to stay in the country the family have called home since 2009.

But an application for residency which Smith thought had been made on his behalf last year, was not lodged and instead Immigration New Zealand [INZ] is considering a Work to Residence visa.

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Smith said the situation had caused him severe emotional and financial stress.

"I've wasted two-and-a-half years of my life. I've been out of work eight weeks and I've been spending our savings. The savings was for a new life, not to pay to get a new life."

This week INZ offered Smith a 12-month open work visa to stay in the country, and an open visa to Courtney, 17, allowing her to complete her final year of school.

Smith said he would accept the 12-month visa but feared he would still have to return to the UK when it ended.

"I'm 50 in January and if I have to go through another two years of accreditation I'm gonna be 52. Where am I going to get a mortgage from at 52?

"Where am I going to lay my roots? I'm just going to be a floating gypsy going from rented place to rented place. I want something I can pass on to my daughter, not debt."

Smith was originally granted a Work to Residence visa by INZ in May 2014 and had completed its requirements by last November, when he wanted to apply for residency.

But his employer Mainfreight inadvertently breached visa conditions, making Smith ineligible.

Courtney Smith with a photo of her mother. Photo / Dean Purcell
Courtney Smith with a photo of her mother. Photo / Dean Purcell

INZ said this week it was still considering Smith's new Work to Residence visa application.

However, in a letter to Smith INZ operations manager Corisha Hitchcock said that application was likely to be declined.

INZ did not answer questions about the oversight in the original visa, but said the two years Smith had already worked on that visa did count.

Associate Minister for Immigration Scott Simpson said he would not comment on individual cases.

A spokesman said Simpson had not received a request for ministerial intervention on the case.

Mainfreight group managing director Don Braid said he wasn't familiar with Smith's case but called INZ's sanction which cost the company its accreditation absurd, bureaucratic nonsense.

"It was a clerical error."