Immigration New Zealand has done a U-turn and will allow a Portuguese man into the country after initially denying him on the grounds "his intentions were not genuine''.

In January, Mario Quintela was set for a three-month "holiday of a lifetime'', staying in Alexandra with close friends Pam Jones and her husband, Nuno Vilela, but was sent home from Auckland International Airport by immigration officials after a 10-hour grilling.

On the back of a "groundswell of support'' after an article written by Ms Jones in the Otago Daily Times, Immigration NZ had now issued Mr Quintela a visa.

Mario Quintela was initially denied entry into the country. Photo / Otago Daily Times
Mario Quintela was initially denied entry into the country. Photo / Otago Daily Times

It had also arranged, through a tourism operator, flights scheduled for February 19, Ms Jones said.


"I'm relieved and happy,'' she said.

"I still have mixed emotions [about the incident]. I'm still angry that it happened at all [but] we are going to make it a holiday of a lifetime.''

She was grateful to the Central Otago community for 40 letters of support for Mr Quintela sent to Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse's office.

"We had really strong community backing that vouched for us,'' Ms Jones said.

Mr Quintela (45), who had been a close friend of the couple for more than 20 years, held a return ticket within the three-month timeframe allowed for a visa waiver visitor, but he was denied entry as officials did not think his intentions were genuine.

He was single, had limited funds, had no set tourist itinerary, worked in hospitality, like Mr Vilela, and had had a previous health issue.

"I'm really grateful to them [Immigration NZ] for giving him a visitor's visa. They could have dug their toes in and said 'we were right the first time'.''

Mr Quintela, who had never flown before coming to New Zealand, was looking forward to the second trip to do some fishing and see snow, but was understandably nervous, Ms Jones said.

"He is excited. He probably still has nerves about getting through immigration. It was awful. He didn't understand it. He told us how embarrassing and humiliating it was.''

Immigration NZ national manager border Senta Jehle said Immigration NZ stood by its original decision to deny Mario Quintela entry to New Zealand and that was based on information made available to border officials at the time.

Subsequently, Mr Quintela had provided further information that satisfied requirements and resulted in a visitor visa, Ms Jehle said.

Immigration NZ was not providing funding for his trip, she said.

"As a gesture of goodwill a tourism operator has offered to pay for Mr Quintela's flight costs.''

A Givealittle page set up to help buy Mr Quintela a new air ticket had raised about $1500.

The money raised would be returned to donors or used for Mr Quintela's travel insurance and expenses.