Chinese immigrant and only-child Chen Wang's biggest wish is to see his 60-year-old mother, Jie Qu, come through the Auckland Airport arrival hall.

But Qu has not been able to get a visa to visit her 33-year-old son, who moved to Auckland nearly five years ago, because she has Hepatitis B and C.

Changes to immigration policy have made it impossible for sick parents to be reunited with their migrant children in New Zealand, Wang said.

The parent category, a pathway for migrants to be reunited with their parents was closed last year, and parents with health issues are not able to get a visitor visa.


Immigration area manager Darren Calder said Qu did not meet immigration requirements.

"The applicant has some health issues and would be likely to impose significant health costs or demands on the New Zealand health system," Calder said.

Wang said the agency's argument was "heartless and absurd" and the agency had made it "impossible" for him to look after his sick mother.

"I have limited annual leave so I am not able to go back to China to look after her for long periods," he said.

"I am the only child and my father has passed away, I really feel like I am failing in my duty if I cannot care and spend time with her."

Wang, a mobile mortgage manager with Westpac, said his mother had comprehensive health and travel insurance which would cover medical expenses if required.

He said a medical report by a chief specialist physician at the Second Hospital of Dalian Medical University also indicated she didn't require any future treatment for Hepatitis B and C.

"The parent category allows for a medical waiver, but there is no such thing for the visitor visa," Wang said.


Over the Chinese New Year holidays last month, Wang and his mother travelled to Thailand so they could be together.

While there, they also went to seek a second opinion on Qu's medical condition from doctors at a private hospital in Bangkok.

"We are still hoping, and looking for any possibility at all to bring my mother to New Zealand during the summer months."

She had previously been granted a visitor's visa, but her application for a subsequent visa was declined after she was found to carry the virus last year.

Information about the disease on the New Zealand Ministry of Health website showed a person with Hepatitis B generally remained in "good health" though they were at risk of liver scarring or liver cancer.

The Ministry of Health site also indicated those with Hepatitis C could remain asymptomatic for decades. Once diagnosed those with the disease could make lifestyle changes that help delay onset of serious complications or receive treatment to cure the disease.

However, if unchecked it could also lead to liver scarring and in rare cases liver cancer.

Qu's medical report indicated her liver function was close to normal range.

Massey University research found immigration policy changes are creating pressures for only-child Chinese migrants who want to be reunited with their ageing parents.

China implemented the one-child policy in 1979 to limit population growth.

However, this has also resulted in Chinese migrants to New Zealand becoming the biggest group of parent sponsors before the category was closed last year.

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said at the time that migrants' parents cost New Zealand "tens of millions" and that too many migrants were not honouring their sponsorship commitments.

More than half of about 5500 who obtained permanent residence each year under the category were China nationals.

Dr Liangni Sally Liu, Massey University lecturer in Chinese, is researching how immigration policies here are impacting migrant families from China.

Liu, who is also originally from China, said the policy changes were akin to "rewriting traditional Chinese cultural practice and the family norm of unification".

"Looking after our parents is a moral responsibility, and filial piety is part and parcel of being part of a Chinese family," she said.

"It is traditional practice for care of parents to be carried out in the family, and not at an aged home."

Under Chinese legislation, children are required to visit their parents more regularly or risk being sued.

Liu's three-year Marsden-funded study titled Floating families? New Chinese migrants in New Zealand and their multi-generational families, will be looking at policy changes, culture and expectations.

Hardest hit by New Zealand's policy, she said, are Chinese migrants who are the only child and were expected to care for their ageing or sick parents.

Many of them had to also fit in responsibilities of caring for their own family unit and career here.

Liu herself is facing difficulties in arranging care for her ageing parents in China.

She said the new immigration policy blocked them from moving here.
"The feeling is like a betrayal," she said.

"The new policy creates two classes of citizens - one class are those who can enjoy a family life, while the other is not able to.

"As the only child in my family, taking care of my parents is a serious issue."

The Weekend Herald revealed that Chinese parents who lost their only child in the February 2011 earthquake had their request for easy entry to visit their children's graves declined by Immigration.

They had requested the right to enter New Zealand every year to tidy the graves, but Immigration said policy did not allow for long-lasting visitor visas.