South Africans may stay in New Zealand


South African chef Albert Buitenhuis (50) has lived and worked in New Zealand with his wife, Marthie (47), for almost six years

In April this year Immigration New Zealand (INZ) turned down his application for a work permit on the grounds his health was suspect -- his weight, it seemed, was the issue. Albert weighs 126 kg now but strained the scales at 160 kg when he was allowed into the country in 2007.

His story was reported worldwide and many people said INZ should never have approved the couple’s visa applications year after year if they had an issue with Albert’s weight. In an interview with YOU last month Albert said he understood why a government would want to protect its taxpayers against high healthcare costs. “But I would have liked to have been told much earlier if they didn’t want me here.”

The couple followed the appeal process against the decision and their application to stay has now been approved. Soon after posting the result of their application on their Facebook page Albert had difficulty describing his emotions: “Relieved, excited, grateful, scared. I can’t describe how many emotions can run through your mind simultaneously.”

Without the right to work Albert and Marthie had no income for about five months. They sold some of their possessions to be able to pay for the new application and had to leave the house they rented. “I’m not sure where we’ll start to pick up all the pieces because they’re all over the place,” Albert said today.

- Suzaan Hauman

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