Saturday, June 16, 2018

Getting to stay

Today is the anniversary of what was, in retrospect, probably the most important day I had as an immigrant to New Zealand. On June 16, 1999, I became a NZ permanent resident, and the stress and turmoil of being a temporary resident finally ended. More recently, it turned out that it also set me on a path that should keep me safe, which is even more important.

Considering how important the event was, it might seem surprising that I don’t observe it every year like I do so many other anniversaries, but the truth is that it got left behind because only three years later I became a citizen, and, after that, this particular anniversary didn’t seem to matter very much. Also, by the time I became a citizen, I’d been living in New Zealand for the better part of seven years, so Ī was well-settled by then.

Nevertheless, it WAS an important day because up until that 1999 day, I’d been able to stay in New Zealand only with a series of temporary visas and permits, the first of which bound me to a particular employer. When that company ceased trading, and I was made redundant, I needed to buy a one-way ticket the the USA—it couldn’t be an American territory, it had to be the USA itself. So, I bought a ticket to Hawaii for some $1200, I think it was. Only then was I granted a six month tourist visa so I could stay in New Zealand, and with Nigel. But, I couldn’t work or study. (I eventually got a partial refund of the ticket price).

At that time, I also couldn’t sponsor Nigel to live with me in the USA. So if my ability to get a temporary visa ran out, we’d have been separated. That all ended on June 16, 1999, and once I’d applied, I could get a work permit sponsored by Nigel.

When marriage equality finally arrived in the USA in 2012, there was finally a way for me to sponsor Nigel to live with me in the USA. By then it was too late: Our roots in New Zealand were way too deep to dig them up.

Last year, in talking about the day I became a citizen (June 10, 2002), I mentioned that “For the first time in my life, I’m profoundly grateful that I have a second passport.” That’s still true, but maybe a little bit more now than then: I have a measure of safety that folks in the USA don’t have, should everything descend into utter disaster. Unless a nativist wave sweeps the world, or some other international pressure arises, I should be safe here in New Zealand, no matter what happens in the USA.

Even so, and even though I’m extremely glad for that safety net, I remain hopeful that things in the USA will work out. As I said in that post last year:
Looking at the world as it is today, and comparing it to the one 15 years ago, it would be easy to be despondent or resigned or fatalistic. That’s not me. No matter how bad things may seem most days now, I choose to believe that they can get better, that they will get better, despite everything.

Hope is a powerful force: It’s what brought me to this country in the first place, and it’s what makes me continue to believe—no matter what—that the future will be better, even if there are a few bumps in that road along the way that make progress seem unlikely. Having hope is a sort of armour against all the bad. In my opinion, hope is not optional.
Honestly, it’s good that hope is so powerful, because every day that passes makes it harder to hold onto. I hope that I never lose hope, but more so, I hope that I never have reason to lose all hope.

Because of those June events, in both 1999 and 2002, I know I’ll be okay because I get to stay with my husband, who is, after all, the reason I came to New Zealand in the first place. That’s most important of all.

I guess I should be better about giving these June anniversaries the respect they deserve.

The photo above is a detail of my Residence Permit and my first Returning Resident’s Visa, which was good for two years, placed on facing pages of my US passport. I first used it in 2013.



rogerogreen said...

As much as I love my country, you should STAY THERE

Arthur Schenck (AmeriNZ) said...

To be completely honest, right now I'm afraid to go there for a visit. 😟