Juliet Garcia was in tears — not for the first time — on Friday afternoon, when she met Northland MP Matt King. But this time the tears were accompanied by fits of giggles, smiles and lots of hugs for anyone within reach.
Mrs Garcia, who has been fighting for a resident visa for almost a decade, and her husband Eric, whose temporary work visas will expire on July 25, thought Mr King wanted to ask yet more questions to support her application, and his opening comment did not give any cause for hope.
"I don't have good news," he said — "I have great news."
He then handed Mrs Garcia a letter from Associate Minister of Immigration Kris Faafoi, signed literally minutes before he handed the portfolio over to his successor as a result of last week's Cabinet reshuffle, telling her that he was granting her a resident visa "as an exception to instructions".
She still had a couple of hurdles to clear — she had to meet health and character requirements, and evidence of fulltime employment as the diversional therapy co-ordinator at Switzer Residential Care, while her husband had to meet the applicable requirements for a secondary application. Mr King said those conditions were no more than formalities.
The occasion, he added, had warranted much more than a phone call.
"I wanted to come to Kaitaia to tell her the good news," he said.
"How could anyone not want to help this wonderful lady? I am absolutely delighted to be able to tell her that she is finally welcome to make New Zealand her home."
Switzer general manager Jackie Simkins was equally thrilled. Mr King, she said, had been the only politician who had shown any interest in the Garcias' plight, while mayor John Carter, who also fought hard on their behalf, said he was "absolutely stoked" and that it was a wonderful outcome. Mr King's electorate agent in Kerikeri, Deirdre Healy, said Mrs Garcia was an amazing woman, and Friday's long-awaited outcome was "outstanding".
Mr Garcia, who has begun a trades apprenticeship, had to go back to work at about that stage in proceedings, his wife saying she wasn't sure how they would celebrate. She was anxious to thank everyone who had supported them, however, including immigration consultant Maricel Weischede and her New Zealand Immigration Help Services "family", who had helped with her legal documents and paperwork pro bono.
Meanwhile Mr King, who is becoming well-versed in assisting would-be immigrants, said he had used the dripping water technique on Mr Faafoi, finally imploring him to grant Mrs Garcia a resident visa as his final act as Associate Minister of Immigration.