trying to move back to new zealand during a pandemic

It’s crazy to think that in March, everything my partner and I had planned was going so smoothly. We were moving to New Zealand (for me, returning home; for him, a new adventure) with a two-week stopover in Bali for my 30th birthday. That all changed when Coronavirus hit. Borders were closed, flights were cancelled. Everything moved so quickly and the future became so uncertain. My visa in the UK had already expired at that point so I couldn’t work and basically had to take things day by day.

I’m not someone who likes to take things day by day. I don’t deal with uncertainties very well. I like to plan. I like to have some sort of control, especially when it’s my life at play here. With the New Zealand border closure announcement, it turned out my partner who is British could not enter without an exemption. Cue more stress. This meant that it was likely I had to leave him behind and find a flight back home.

Fortunately, the UK decided to extend everyone’s visas until 31 May. This was great news for me as it meant I could continue to work in my old job and earn monies and I had more time to work out what to do. New Zealand were accepting requests for exemptions so it seemed right that I would use this time to apply for Tom to come with me. We were rejected six times. In this time, my visa got extended for another two months until 31 July so we had a bit more time to keep trying and applying.

We were successful in our seventh attempt and had to send in supporting documents to prove our relationship. It felt like we were applying for a partnership visa with all the evidence we had to provide. Two days later, he received his entry approval. Cheers all round! For those of you who are in a similar position with the exemption and want some advice, I’ll be putting up a separate post which I hope will be hopeful.

It truly felt like we’d conquered the mountain. The climb is always the hardest but sometimes there are hurdles to coming down as well. So that’s where we’re at: the downward journey but picture the downward track being quite steep with lots of thorny bushes and wrong-turns along the way.

Since receiving the exemption, we’ve booked flights twice. First one was via Emirates and cost us an extra £350 on top of the £1400 credit we already had with STA Travel. We were scheduled to leave on 16 July but then Emirates decided to reschedule the second leg of our journey meaning we had a two-day layover in Dubai, which wasn’t possible. I knew a lot of people had been catching Qatar flights via Melbourne or Sydney and it’s been the most reliable so far. We rebooked our flights to leave on 14 July with Qatar with a 15-hour stopover in Melbourne. This cost us an extra £150. On top of that, we need to apply for the ABF exemptions and Tom needs a 771 subclass transit visa as our stopover is over 8 hours. So far, Tom’s received the 771 transit visa and we’re now waiting for the ABF exemptions.

As far as we’re aware, we’re still scheduled to fly and everything is going ahead as planned. But this morning, a friend of mine who has made it home and is out of managed isolation, tagged me in an interesting news article. The Premier of the Australian state of Victoria has requested that international flights be diverted from Melbourne for the next fortnight to cut down on the number of arrived travellers who need to be housed in hotel quarantine. This is because of the increase in number of infections in Victoria in the past few days.

I don’t want to panic. Nothing has been set in stone yet. But it almost feels like I should be concerned? At the moment, I’m keeping a close eye on flights and on the official websites to see if anything changes or if we need to review our flights and get new ones. What a nightmare this has all been. I’ve also been trying to avoid going out and being around crowds because I don’t want to get sick. I really want to get home. I don’t think I’m going to be able to relax until I’m in our isolation hotel in New Zealand.

So that’s the story so far. I thought it would be useful to document our plight, especially since I know there are lots of Kiwis out there who are in the same boat. Until the next one!

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