A Kiwi couple who want to return to New Zealand say they finally managed to secure MIQ vouchers - only for MBIE to wrongly cancel them in its crackdown against logon-sharing.
The couple - who identified themselves to the Herald but do not want to be named for fear of social media backlash - said they offered an explanation to MBIE within the agency's required 48-hour timeframe.
But the ministry has been unable to tell them when they will find out if their appeal has been successful.
The couple has now waited a week for a response.
"John" is a physio. His partner is a vet. Both are New Zealand citizens in Britain who want to move home permanently. Like the overwhelming majority of people living in the UK, they've both been vaccinated.
"We are extremely distressed as have given in our jobs and rent notice and booked flights for November," John told the Herald.
"We have phoned them [MBIE's MIQ team] several times and they have told us that there is no exact time frame for them to respond.
"This, in my opinion shows no common courtesy, empathy or professionalism."
John added, "With both mine and my partner's accounts disabled we are too nervous to create another one if it upsets our chances of the voucher debacle being overturned.
"So if further dates are released in the coming days we will miss out."
MBIE's crackdown on rule-breakers began in late July. Earlier this week, the ministry told the Herald it had suspended the accounts of 119 people who had used third-party booking services, in violation of its terms.
So how did this couple get caught up?
John and his partner were no slouches in terms of attempting to secure an MIQ slot.
They spent around five hours per evening - on top of their nine-to-five day jobs - over a two-week period in an attempt to refresh at the right time, then type fast enough to secure a date before it disappeared from the MIQ booking site.
But in the end, it was a friend in New Zealand, who was making attempts on their behalf, who secured them vouchers.
Booking on someone's behalf is within MBIE's rules.
In an email to another voucher applicant - the stranded-in-Singapore Jonathan Brewer - an MIQ staffer wrote, "MIQ are unable to search or book vouchers on your behalf. Possibly you could ask for assistance from a friend or family member?"
That plain English advice implied it is okay to rope in a friend or family member to help - and it is, or even a commercial third party. But exactly *how* you are allowed to get help from a friend or family member or other third party is a bit of a brain-bender, and where things get fraught and people can easily, and inadvertently, break the rules.
While logon sharing is much more convenient than a friend or family member registering their own account, it also now has limits. The spokeswoman said a security update meant there can no longer be multiple logons from the same account.
Those who violate the terms can, after an MBIE investigation, have their MIQ booking accounts suspended, and any dates reserved or vouchers secured are cancelled.
"We made the mistake of sharing our logon," John said
"At the time we thought we were complying with complex Ts&C's when we thought would be able to get friends to help us out in New Zealand due to time zone and work difficulties. Hearing Hipkins advise everyone to get others to help you book your spot added to the confusion."
He added, "We wanted to save our friend time from having to create another account when they have access to exactly the same amount of information as setting one up from scratch. Now we're victims of them finally cracking down on this when before this was done successfully."
But what about the right of appeal?
But although MBIE could clarify on the above, it could not provide an immediate response on when our couple could expect a response to their appeal, or if there was any set timeframe.
"We have suspended 119 accounts over the last few weeks.
A person who has had their voucher cancelled for rule-breaking can still potentially secure an MIQ slot if they meet a "high threshold" for an emergency allocation, Main said.