By Gill Bonnett, RNZ
A British doctor says she feels let down by a government which pleaded for healthcare workers but has now gone silent on how they can become residents.
Dr Anne Solomon is one of 235 doctors and 900 nurses waiting to join a queue for residence, which has been closed since April last year.
The Government was crying out for medical staff, she said, and especially on the Kāpiti Coast - where she and a fellow GP are the only family doctors taking on new patients from Paraparaumu to Levin.
The family was assured the process to get residence would not take long.
Before skilled migrants can apply for residence, they submit expressions of interests, which get selected fortnightly and are then invited to apply. But a decision on when to re-open ballots was deferred for another six months in October, with no announcement since that period expired.
"Like all GPs, I pull out all the stops for my patients and I work late into the evening, way beyond my paid hours because I love my job and I care about doing it well," she said.
"But I don't feel like New Zealand cares about me very much at the moment, or my family."
Her husband Aeron Davis is a professor at the Victoria University of Wellington and they moved their three teenage girls here last year in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic.
One of them will be leaving school at the end of the year and, as things stand, without residence, she will not be able to work.
"If she can't work here, she doesn't really have a life here," Solomon said. "And if our kids don't have a life here, then nor can we - and so we have to face up to the very uncomfortable possibility that we might have to uproot - having come all this way and made this enormous effort to settle - and go home again."
The family also cannot buy a house as non-residents - ironically, they also have to pay extra for healthcare if they fall ill.
Solomon said they were told residence would be straightforward and that the pause on expressions of interests would be temporary.
"We've made the most enormous change in our entire lives, and we trusted what we were told, and it's not materialising and no reasons have been given, and we feel like we're being left to sink or swim."
The number of people with expressions of interest waiting to be selected has grown to 10,000.
All those people were in the dark about when they would be able to apply for residence, immigration adviser Erin Goodhue said.
"There's no certainty, even though the minister keeps saying we'll look at it soon and it will happen soon, but that's been said for a long time now, and nothing's changed, nothing else has been forthcoming. So a lot of people are just thinking, 'Do I even have a future in this country, am I wanted here?'"
In a statement, Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi told RNZ the suspension of residence ballots allowed Immigration New Zealand to focus on processing existing applications.
He had asked officials for more advice and expected to make an announcement soon, a spokesperson said.
"The minister has signalled there will be a review of the SMC (Skilled Migrant Category) to ensure it is meeting New Zealand's needs," the spokesperson said.
"In the interim, he is considering how to best manage and prioritise requests that are currently in the queue."