We're coming home from getting takaway, Loren's checked the mailbox, and is opening mail as we walk up the stairs... that's when he breaks the news: he has just opened a letter informing us that our residency applications have been accepted!
This is a huge deal to us. Here are the main big deal things that it will mean:
We are free to live, and to work, in New Zealand. Permanently. Our dealings with Immigration New Zealand are basically over, except for getting visas whenever we travel outside of the country.
We can become citizens, if we so choose, after we have been here for five years.
I can bring my parents in as residents after we have been here three years.
We may participate in the national subsidised healthcare system.
We can vote in the national NZ election, which will probably be held in November of this year. In fact, we will be required to register to vote once we are eligible, which will happen in May.
In short, we will have almost all of the rights of an actual New Zealand citizen. When we started this application process, we were quite confident we would succeed, but we didn't know it would happen this soon. We were told by Immigration to expect it to take 6 to 9 months. We were told by other immigrants that it often only takes four months. We weren't holding our breaths. In fact, we were in the process of applying for temporary work permits to make up the gap that might occur between our working holiday permits expiring and our residency application getting accepted. And thank goodness I hadn't gotten through that process yet or that would be an extra $400 wasted in application fees. In the end, it only took Immigration three months and two days to send us an acceptance letter!
Today I walked the two blocks down to the Immigration office to do the final step - turn in our 'migrant levy' (the final fee) and hand over our passports so that they can stamp them. We probably won't get them back for another week, and although I know that really the process is OVER, this bit is just tying up loose ends, it still feels a little disconcerting to be an immigrant and not in possession of your passport. I will feel immensely better when they are returned to us, all officially stamped with brand new residency permits.
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