Sick foreign nationals may be granted a medical waiver to enter New Zealand if they can make exceptional contributions, Immigration New Zealand says.

But migrants say they are finding it impossible to get a visa for sick family members to come for a visit.

An Auckland man, Agha Muhammad Shoeb, 41, is fighting to get a visitor's visa for his 78-year-old mother Rifat Jahan from India.

Shoeb's mother was hospitalised for a surgery during a previous visit and INZ now say she is likely to impose significant costs or demands on NZ's health services.

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This follows the case involving 80-year-old South Korean great-grandmother Suk Jang Chang who was sent home after the agency deemed she was too sick to be allowed to remain with her daughter in Wellington.

INZ visa services manager Michael Carley said any non-New Zealander who was not of an acceptable standard of health would not be allowed entry into the country.

Medical waivers would be granted only in exceptional cases, he said.

"When considering granting medical waiver, immigration officers consider a range of factors, including whether the applicant has close family living in New Zealand, and whether they would make an exceptional contribution to New Zealand," Carley said.

Carley did not give examples of what would constitute an exceptional contribution.

Grandmother Rifat Jahan's application for a visa to visit family in NZ is declined because INZ says she is not of an acceptable standard of health. Photo / supplied.
Grandmother Rifat Jahan's application for a visa to visit family in NZ is declined because INZ says she is not of an acceptable standard of health. Photo / supplied.

According to Shoeb, his mother required surgery in New Zealand during her last visit in 2016 to remove stones from her gallbladder.

Shoeb, a project specialist at NZ Steel, told INZ he would be purchasing a comprehensive travel insurance and undertake "full responsibility" to cover all her medical expenses for the upcoming trip.

However, Carley said Shoeb's promises and the further information he provided "did not alleviate INZ's concerns".

"While Ms Jahan's sponsor has indicated she has medical insurance and the means to cover any treatment costs... it is important to note that these factors have no bearing on the assessment of whether an applicant is likely to impose demand on health services," Carley said.

He said Jahan had a "significant outstanding debt" with Counties Manukau DHB incurred on her last visit - although this was not a factor in the decision to decline Jahan's application.

"INZ has received no evidence to suggest the debt has been repaid, or that efforts have been made to clear this debt," Carley said.

But Shoeb told the Herald the $20,000 hospitalisation debt has been repaid by insurance, and he was now planning to hire a lawyer to fight his mother's case.

"They are making it impossible for my mother to come," Shoeb said.

"It is going to cost a lot of money to hire a lawyer, but I have no choice."

Carley added that hospitalisation on a trip did not mean future visa applications by the visitor would not be approved.

"Each application is assessed on its merits taking into consideration all information provided with the application," Carley added.

Rachel Yim-Pritchard with her 80-year-old mother, Suk Jang Chang, at her Lower Hutt home. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Rachel Yim-Pritchard with her 80-year-old mother, Suk Jang Chang, at her Lower Hutt home. Photo / Mark Mitchell

South Korean great-grandmother Suk Jang Chang was put on a 7.45pm flight out of Auckland on Saturday night, the Herald understands.

Chang was denied a visa because INZ said she has pre-existing health conditions which was likely to require medical attention, but was allowed to remain in NZ for a week to wait for her outbound flight.

Chang was released into the care of her daughter Rachel Yim-Pritchard under INZ's Residence and Reporting Agreement 15 hours after she arrived in Auckland on September 30.

National border manager Stephanie Greathead clarified that Chang was not arrested and detained, but kept in a female day room where she received medical assistance and food.