Aged just 21, Sonam Sharma was faced with raising her younger brothers on her own, studying and working five jobs to get them through school.

Her parents had divorced. Her mother was deported back to Fiji and her father left the country with his new partner.

Things started looking up in 2014 when she met her future husband. They married and had a child.

But he died while riding the motorcycle she bought him for his 31st birthday. Their son was only seven months old.

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Now aged 27, she is on a benefit as she's unable to afford childcare for her 1-year-old son.

Sonam Sharma worked five jobs to put her brothers through school when both their parents left the country. Photo / Nick Reed
Sonam Sharma worked five jobs to put her brothers through school when both their parents left the country. Photo / Nick Reed

She's pleading with Immigration NZ to let her mum back into the country, which she says is the solution to her problems. Her mum, Shakuntla Sharma, will be able to look after her son while she works.

And her mother will be back with her daughter and two sons, aged 18 and 24.

But Shakuntla's visa application to visit New Zealand has been denied nine times.

And she doesn't qualify for the parent category visa because Sharma's income doesn't meet the threshold.

Shakuntla hasn't applied for a work visa as she needs a letter of offer from an employer and there's no point applying for a student visa as they can't pay for international fees.

Sharma wrote to the Immigration Minister six years ago when their troubles first started but had no response. She intends to approach the Minister again after the election.

"What is the reason why I can't have my mum here?" Sharma said.

"For me that would be such a big support and for her and my brothers.

"There's no relief. If I go back to work I don't get financial benefit but if I had mum here I could go back to work and she would look after my son."

Sharma, 27, moved to New Zealand with her family in 1994 and has permanent residency. Her brothers were born here and are citizens. But her mother's visa was dependent on her father's so she had to reapply after their divorce.

Sonam Sharma, a young solo mother who is fighting with immigration for her mother to visit from Fiji and meet her grandson, Aryon. Photo / Nick Reed
Sonam Sharma, a young solo mother who is fighting with immigration for her mother to visit from Fiji and meet her grandson, Aryon. Photo / Nick Reed

Sharma said the family enlisted the advice of immigration lawyers to the tune of $22,000 who advised her mother to stay in the country until the application had processed. But this led to her overstaying for eight months in 2012 before being deported.

Sharma worked tirelessly to fund her brothers through school while she studied towards a diploma. At one stage she was working back-to-back shifts at a bakery and call centre as well as babysitting, ironing clothes and cleaning to support her siblings. She slept for just four hours a night.

"That time was horrible. I was trying to find myself and I was so confused I didn't know what to do.

"I was just put on the spot. I felt really lonely, I didn't have anyone to guide me through these things."

Sharma, her youngest brother and her son live in a rented home in Botany, east Auckland. She said she gets $625 a week on the Sole Parent Support benefit plus $140 from ACC due to her husband's death. Her rent is $550 and the remaining $215 is used on bills and groceries.

Sharma has a diploma in travel and tourism and used to work with Air New Zealand as a sales and customer service consultant.

If Sharma worked she estimated she'd earn around $800 after tax. But then she would have to pay $326 for full-time daycare. This would leave $64 to pay all bills and groceries.

Immigration NZ operations manager Tim Shepherd confirmed Shakuntla Sharma had made nine unsuccessful applications to visit New Zealand since March 2010.

Her prior history of overstaying, seeking to remain in New Zealand and an assessment that showed she does not have strong commitments to return to her own country were reasons her applications were denied.

"Immigration New Zealand is unable to be satisfied that Ms Sharma is a bona fide visitor who intends only a temporary stay in New Zealand; who would comply with the conditions of a temporary visa; or would likely depart New Zealand at the expiry of the temporary visa."

A spokesperson for Associate Immigration Minister Scott Simpson said they had not received a request for ministerial intervention in this case.

"It is the Minister's policy not to comment on specific or individual immigration cases."