A father of two New Zealand children, including a daughter who was born prematurely and needs medical care, is facing deportation after overstaying his visa.
But his immigration lawyer blames Immigration New Zealand’s (INZ) visa processing delays for him becoming an unlawful resident, and is calling the deportation move “inhumane and heartless”.
Aaron Miao, 25, was served with a deportation order on June 30 - and given two weeks by INZ to say goodbye to his family and leave the country.
Following a query by the Herald, INZ has told Miao’s lawyer it will not execute the order until Miao gets a chance to appeal his case with the Minister of Immigration.
INZ said it was sympathetic to the “difficult situation” and was working to resolve it.
Miao’s partner Nico Guo, 40, is a New Zealand citizen and the mother of their two children Xavier, 10 months, and Evelyn, 2, who was born 24 weeks premature and is still in need of regular medical care.
Guo said it was “not humanly possible” for her to raise their children on her own, and the family needed Miao to be with them.
The uncertainty over whether they could remain as a family unit because of Miao’s immigration matter has caused them immense stress and also spiralled her into depression, Guo said.
Their elder child Evelyn was born at Starship Hospital in April 2021 with an extremely low birth weight of just 660g. She was diagnosed with chronic lung disease, respiratory distress syndrome and anaemia, among other health issues.
She was placed in the hospital’s Newborn Intensive Care Unit for 16 weeks.
Even after she was discharged, Guo said the child required three months of round-the-clock monitoring and regular oxygen supplements to help with her breathing.
“I used to do 12 hours of overnight care and Aaron looked after Evelyn all day. If it wasn’t for that, I’m not sure our daughter will even be around today,” said Guo, a former news presenter at a local Chinese TV station.
“Because of Evelyn’s premature birth, she is very fragile. She is very close to Aaron and finds comfort in him. I don’t even dare imagine what could happen if INZ breaks up our family and takes her dad away.”
Miao first came to New Zealand in 2015 on a student visa and was later granted a post-study work visa.
In 2018, he met his former girlfriend, but they broke up a year later. They fought and Miao was charged with offences including male assaults female.
However, some of the charges were later dropped and Miao was discharged without conviction.
Miao met Guo in 2020 while mountain biking - a hobby they both share - and the couple have remained together since.
They had Evelyn in 2021 and their second child Xavier in October last year.
Before the expiry of his post-study work visa in June 2021, Miao applied for a partnership work visa, and he was granted an interim visa valid for up to six months.
However, INZ was still processing the application six months later and Miao became an overstayer as a result of INZ’s delay.
Immigration lawyer Harris Gu, who is acting for Miao, said: “The interim visa policy was designed so that INZ would have been able to decide on the application within six months. Apparently, INZ did not and Aaron has had to face the consequences.”
Miao’s application to legalise his stay in the country under section 61 was declined.
“If Aaron gets deported he will be banned from entering New Zealand for at least five years, and that will effectively remove him from his two children in their vital growing-up years,” Gu said.
“Simply put, a deportation order is like a death sentence to Aaron. The compliance officer gave him two weeks to leave New Zealand on his own accord, and threatened to detain him if he did not leave within this grace period,” Gu said.
Gu argued that it was in the best interests of the children for him to remain.
“It is inhumane and heartless for INZ to be breaking up this family, and deport this father of two Kiwi children,” he said.
Miao was a former construction manager and he said the children and family meant everything to him.
“They are what I live my life for and it is impossible for me to even imagine living without them,” he said.
Since he became an overstayer, he had not been earning an income and the family was being financially supported by the China-based parents of both Miao and Guo.
“As a man and father, it doesn’t feel good. I want to be able to work and provide for my family again,” he said.
Steve Watson, INZ’s general manager immigration compliance and investigations, said Miao’s interim visa expired on December 25, 2021 and he had been unlawfully in New Zealand since.
“He was served with a deportation order on 30 June 2023 but INZ does not intend to execute the order at this time,” Watson said.
“We are sympathetic to the difficult situation that Mr Miao is currently in, and we are keen to resolve it.”
Watson said INZ has contacted Miao’s representative.
“As Mr Miao is a parent to two young children, we have allowed time for his representative to approach the Minister.”
Miao will appeal his case, and the decision to cancel the deportation order will be at the Associate Immigration Minister’s absolute discretion.
Lincoln Tan specialises in covering stories around diversity and immigration. He’s been a journalist at the Herald since 2006.