caught between the cracks, surviving between the cracks: Year 6 as a NZ guest worker


One hundred percent NZ pure, for citizens, residents and workers alike.

One hundred percent NZ pure, for citizens, residents and workers alike.

I can’t conceive of a mental picture that’s expressive enough, but imagine being teleported with your fellow Pinoys to a dog sledding race somewhere in the Arctic Circle. In the middle of a surge between giant mounds of snow, your sled falls into a half hidden crevasse more than 10 feet deep.  Before you can collect your wits and assess any injury to you and your dogs, inertia and the slope of the icy floor push you further into another crevasse, this one even deeper.  Can it get any more uncertain from here on?

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ON PAPER, and on surface level, New Zealand, one of the most liveable and most desirable places to migrate to on our Lonely Planet, has given aspiring migrants probably the widest range of tools with which to become adopted New Zealanders and fulfill the migrant dream of plentiful food, comfortable shelter and a peaceful life. The skilled migrant policy,  working holiday scheme, cultural policy are all manifestations of the welcome given to nomads from overseas.  Athletes, religious, farm workers and different classes of people from all walks of life, assuming the latter are law abiding, healthy and sincere in building a new life, are welcome to become New Zealanders.  Even political refugees stand a healthy chance of at least being heard and hosted while their cases are considered.

But in reality, because of fierce competition from fellow migrants all over the world, the average aspirant to these shores is not unlike a participant in the weekly lottery.  Thousands of applicants for a visa, any kind of visa flood online sites of immigration NZ, and once their papers are sorted and sifted, still a huge number of the original applicants flock to visa processing centers.  After requirements are scrutinized, verified and assessed, the merits of these hopefuls are weighted not just on their own but relative to other, equally deserving applicants.  After that, the moment of truth arrives in the interviews, where everything hinges on the human element : whether or not the applicant and his/her papers match, answers to crucial questions concerning honesty and character, and the X factor of is there anything dangerous lurking within the outwardly innocuous applicant..  If everything passes muster, then and only then are the precious visas issued.

[Before I continue, I must stress that there are several filters that eliminate probably three-quarters of the original applicants before visas are granted, based on the merits.  First, there is the NZ$270 application fee, roughly US$220.  This immediately wards off all but the most serious applicants.  Then, a long wait of processing and verification assures all the candidates that they should have the stablest of incomes or war chest of funds while waiting for the visa result.]

As I had neither the energy or discipline (not to mention the qualifications) to go through the more traditional, albeit time-consuming admission streams,  I chose a popular, though risky method : I was fortunate enough to be granted a visit (tourist) visa, and solicited the help of my brother in finding a job in New Zealand early 2007.  Needle in the haystack and eye of the needle, but Bro pulled through and got me a job in his workplace.

But as mentioned, the trouble with this method is what happens if you can’t find a job suited to your qualifications within the short time of your valid visit?  Remember, the sentinels of New Zealand’s borders, also known as Immigration NZ, already know that your purpose in coming to their country is merely to see the sights and visit relations, which fortunately I had.  To do anything else, like attend job interviews and look for jobs, while not too surprising, raises the proverbial eyebrows and attracts attention.  Luckily for me, even when I wore my welcome out with my first employer, I was able to find still another job that allowed me to apply for a true-blue, certified work visa that extended my stay in New Zealand.

Here’s where the paradox begins: Job it was that provided the legal basis for my stay in Aotearoa, but my trade was on neither the Long-Term or Short-Term Skills Shortage List, meaning my job was no help if ever I wanted to apply for Permanent Resident status someday soon.  And I was already too entrenched in my job to even think about any of the other migrant policy streams.  Yes I was able to work in New Zealand and continue justifying my stay, but only as long as I kept working in my particular job and kept my employer happy.

I hadn’t remained idle in reducing the odds against becoming a PR, or permanent resident when the opportunity to apply ever presented itself.  I started honing my skills, tried to advance my skill set towards certification in my vocation, and made myself available whenever new or lateral development was offered.

The problem was, I had fallen between the cracks.  My situation didn’t correspond with the standard scenarios under which the NZ government makes permanent resident status accessible.  But I had already invested too much blood sweat and tears  to just roll over and give up the ghost.  Hanging over the precipice, I had to harden my steely grasp on the shallow foothold I gained, and claw my way to the distant summit that remained unseen.

In the meantime, I know I can no longer fall back on any other possible skills or blame myself for whatever missed chances fallen by the wayside.  I’ve fallen further into a tighter spot, but I’ve made my choice.  Besides, six years after my original work visa, I’m still in New Zealand.

***     ***     ***

Last week I lodged yet another work visa application, my seventh in the same job and with the same employer, a record of sorts for me.  Fate has been kind to me, with all the uncertainties and whirlwind changes in both my particular line of work and the New Zealand economic climate.  Nearly all the kabayan I started out with, in different lines of work, have become permanent residents.  Some have even become citizens and have called New Zealand their permanent home.

For me to do that, I have to continue struggling, continue fighting the good fight.  The obstacles are challenging, because the rewards are great.  Despite myself, I have acquired the patience and discipline required to stay in the game of migration.  I have blazed a trail towards my destiny as a migrant, and have no choice but to soldier on.

Mabuhay to Pinoy migrants, all over the world!

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8 thoughts on “caught between the cracks, surviving between the cracks: Year 6 as a NZ guest worker

  1. Hi Noël, faith moves mountains and so hard work. Am impressed how you have soldiered on despite all the hardships we migrants face everyday just to get that fleeting PR stamp on our passports. I will surely include you in our family’s prayers that God may grant you more blessings and the grace to accept His Holy will. Don’t forget to pray to mama Mary, she will always intercede for us. God bless!

  2. Hi Kuya Noel….I always love reading your blog postings. Somehow one day you will get that most sought after visa sticker in your passport. However, I am also curious about your plan in achieving it?

  3. Pingback: repost courtesy of Bunso : “The Elusive First Job (in NZ)” | YLBnoel's Blog

  4. Pingback: y da pinoy & da new zealand boss r good 4 each other | YLBnoel's Blog

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