A Whangārei woman and her two children have been reunited with their husband and their father for the first time in 10 months after a U-turn by Immigration New Zealand.
Kamo High School teacher Juanita Craig's Canadian husband Jimmy Lambert was initially refused a partner of a New Zealander work visa due to having multiple sclerosis. This was despite Lambert visiting the country three times previously.
In February, after media inquiries, Immigration New Zealand reversed its decision, and granted a medical waiver and apologised to Craig.
The department also offered to facilitate Lambert's flights to New Zealand to see his family.
After close to two days of travelling which included three flights and a more than two-hour taxi ride, Lambert finally made it to the doorstep of his family's Whangārei home just after 12pm yesterday.
After a karanga by his wife, he was swamped by his children, Etienne, 5 and Phoebe, 3. Lambert said there were "tears, tears tears".
His family had earlier gone to Whangārei Airport where he was expected to land at 9.30am.
A missing bag meant he missed his final connecting flight from Auckland and he was put in a taxi instead.
Lambert said he was so happy he was here.
"I'm able to be with my family, my kids, my wife. It's been really long since I held them in my arms."
He said it was really good to be able to reach out and touch and feel his family.
"This is something you don't know you are missing, you know there's a hole there in you... you don't feel right."
He said they communicated using Skype and Facebook which "helps but it doesn't replace".
Craig said it felt like no time had passed. "It's quite a funny feeling actually."
She said it felt very natural that he was there, and just as if he had gone up the road to get milk.
"It's been long, but in the same moment it didn't feel like there was a beat of heart that had passed."
Lambert is in the country for a month between his six-weekly treatments for his MS.
While he is here, the family plans to head to the beach and enjoy doing everyday family things together like eating meals and celebrating a lost tooth.
Craig and the children moved from Canada to Whangārei in June last year. Lambert was coming over to visit in October last year when he was turned back in China.
Lambert had been given a multiple entry 12-month visa which expires in February next year. He plans to visit for another month before the visa expires.
The family would look into the options for him to be able to come to New Zealand once his visa expired, including applying for residency.
Craig said there were a lot of logistics to consider, including the supply and administering of his medication, and Lambert's two older children, aged 11 and 13, who live in Canada.
She said for now just the fact he "can come into the country is the hugest thing".
"Now we've got those options."