Skilled Migrant Sad Fate
We found out about new Zealand in no accident. Whatever your spiritual beliefs are, I’d like to stick on mine as I tell you about my story—our family’s story, saying it was God’s plan.
I’d like to begin this by sharing with you why ‘migration’ was an option for our family first and foremost. I was raised in a simple yet a relatively ‘stable’ family—an average sized house, a family car, private schools for both my brother and myself, occasional out of town getaways, three times a day full meals.
Nothing too fancy—but nothing necessary (within the scope of the general definition of ‘necessary’) was not provided. My mum and dad both hold a degree in accounting and are both Certified Public Accountants (CPA). Mum worked in different areas of finance, you name it—banks, universities, schools, international businesses, whilst dad pursued an IT-accounting career path.
Id have to admit we have always wanted/ thought about moving out of the country. But it has never become part of our concrete future planning until the ‘stability’ I thought we had started to fall apart. Dad, who was then working as the VP of a project for SUN microsystem and mum, who was the Director for Finance of International School of Manila both lost their jobs—simultaneously.
Wouldn’t you just consider that as a classic example of ‘strange turn of events’? I would definitely say so! From then on, both my parents were in ‘non-stop’ search for employments. Interviews were left and right, but luck didn’t blow our way in the slightest way. Perhaps, it wasn’t just meant to happen.
It wouldn’t have been that hard if a zero family income matches a zero everyday expense—but that was nowhere close to possible. Bills carried on as they always do, food had to be bought, life and its cost went on—in other words, finances were tight. With the whole family’s survival at stake, my parents thought about putting our good old ‘American dream’ into a prospect—this time we had no other option. With our taut finances and visitors’ visas on hand that provided our family with no security/assurance whatsoever, both my parents took their chances and flew to the USA in 2005.
“USA! YAY! Dream come true. I couldn’t think of anything better”.—“Nope. Nah-dah!” It didn’t feel anything close to that. Coming from a close-knit family, we needed to battle not just the physical stresses and pressures (eg. Getting an employment as soon as possible) but also the emotional burden each member’s absence brought to us. Blessed enough, my parents both had found employments that would temporarily provide our family, however, the application process for the family’s permanent migration in the US is a no joke.
Whilst their stay in the US, both my parents maximised their stay and tried every odds and ends just to get our whole family there. But nothing seemed to have worked—‘visa application denied’ was a typical frustration for the family then. After 7 months of stay, they had to come home (Philippines) without a hope for our possible migration to the country.
None of our worries were eased upon their return, in fact it felt even scarier that the attempts we made were of no help and our finances were even tighter. Months passed, it was the same old story—parents in search for job, but not in a slightest bit the situation was any different. Dad decided to go back to the US (this time without mum) just to give it a ‘last’ good try. We were all POSITIVE and WISHFUL. But believe it or not, after few months of stay, it was still a NO!! Another pile of cash down the drain.
I can still remember it was a gloomy, hot afternoon when everyone was DESPERATE to find a living. ‘Migrate to NEW ZEALAND?’ that was one of the advertisements posted in the Philippine start by SAMPANG AGENCY. As hesitant as everyone would have been, mum did cut the ad off and asked dad for his opinion. They both gathered information about New Zealand (job vacancies, cost of living, etc) and we found that it was PERFECT for my brother’s case, who was then turning 21, as NZ allows children to be dependents until the age of 24 unlike other countries that have younger cut off. Yet another ‘risky’ attempt, in fact even riskier.
But as my parents always say “whatever it takes for the sake of the betterment of our (myself and my brother’s) future ”. We applied for New Zealand through the assistance of SAMPANG agency who educated us about the requirements needed for the application process. They described New Zealand as a haven, which was somehow true (but the ugly truth is, its not always the case). As for our family, it was another HOPEFUL move—but id have to say being hopeful is not always bad.
We were really coming to the ends. Every penny we had was out to the agency and to the other requirements like medical, which costs a fortune for four people, IELTS, which both my parents had to take in Thailand (that definitely added to our financial strain), NZQA, etc. With the help of our good LORD, these requirements’ results were turning out accordingly. My parents passed IELTS, medical results turned out to be normal, the NZ point system qualified my mum to be the principal applicant for the family. GREAT!! However, these ‘good news’ didn’t guarantee us of anything yet. It didn’t change our soaring situation of an “increasing expense yet a zero income!!!”. We were unsure if we were doing the right thing this time around.
Wee by wee we started to liquidate the little blessings we used to enjoy—car, occasional trips, even our daily food was compromised. Budget had to be cut down—BIG time! You could just imagine what a life-changing and humbling experience that was!
Despite of this struggle, we held on to our faith that “GOD Will provide”. While waiting for our visa to be approved, there were a few sacrifices that had to be made--a lifestyle we had to give up, a sense of fear that had to be felt. It was in due time that my brother passed the licensure exam for Mechanical Engineering that allowed him to be employed in San Miguel as one of the production engineers. Not long after, mum finally got a job as the accountant of Lyceum University of Batangas, which however required her to be relocated and be away from us again (talk about a little sacrifice). But hey, that was a blessing that job patched up our everyday expenses.
After a year and a half upon application, my parents were granted a 6 month work to residency visa, my brother a visitor’s visa (which didn’t allow him to work at any time until the approval of our residency) and myself a student visa (which limited me from going to university unless I can afford to pay an ‘international student’ fee-- NZ$20K per year).
The approval of this visa was such a relief but at the other end of the spectrum, there was a pressure of getting mum a related job within the 6 month (a very short) time frame with all of our statuses are at stake.
Before leaving, we had to run quite a FEW errands. Setting aside our sentiments, we packed our bags, threw some stuff, given away some belongings--literally cleared up every corner of the house as we decided to have it rented. Letting go of these material things was hard enough, but saying goodbye to our family and friends was even harder, geez was that unforgettable?! I must admit, at 16, I was then half hearted to leave—almost would have chosen to stay if I had a choice.
Dad arrived 2week ahead before we did (which by the way I thought was a good idea). He initially lived with one of the Filipino families who we have made an arrangement with before dad’s arrival (recommended by SAMPANG agency as well). Within the first two weeks, dad spent his time finding a place (apartment) for the whole family. He did not waste a minute of his time finding a job of his own—but unfortunately there was no success for him then. Perhaps his arrival on a Christmas season had a huge bearing on that as most NZ companies are closed over the yuletide period.
Two weeks after, we arrived. No other statement can explain how it felt apart from ‘mixed emotions’— a feeling of ‘joy’ that after a long wait, the opportunity had finally arisen and at the same time a ‘scary’ feeling that we were clueless of where to begin with our new journey (not everyone would have felt the same. But just in case you do feel like what I did—I say its perfectly normal). Don’t get me wrong, New Zealand is a nice, retreat-like place, but if you were raised in a busy city (paranaque) like myself, there is no doubt you’ll be missing home. It did take ‘getting used to’ to like such a serene atmosphere.
The first apartment we lived in, I thought was little bit expensive for its size. It was a little too small but it actually looked like a ‘house’ rather than an old building you usually see on TV when people talk about ‘apartments’. The one thing I can vividly remember was that tiny home was almost unfilled. With a very small amount of pocket money we had, dad only purchased second hand things that we can afford and were superbly necessary—an old, grubby 3-seater couch, a round wobbly dining table, and three non matching chairs.
And the other few things we had was an electric stove, which was part of the apartment’s amenities, a personal computer, which dad brought from the Philippines, and our luggage that only include our clothes and few other cooking/eating utensils. To be completely honest, with the wrong mind set, you could easily fall under the pit of self pity or remorse. But it wasn’t the priority then—more than anything else it was the survival that mattered the most.
We spent the first few days finding our way around our area. Even though we are equipped with the ability to speak English, a simple conversation with anyone with a kiwi (nz) accent was a mission. It was almost as though they were speaking a completely unknown language. People in nz are nice enough, of course with a few exceptions. They are noticeably friendly, and acquaintances are not often hard to establish. But it doesnt often stay like that. Perhaps a ‘no-string-attached’ kind of relationship is a common theme. A little too different from a Filipino culture.
Going back to our journey, dad had to get an odd job as a grocery assistant just so he can support the family whilst mum was in search for an accounting-related job as per requirement of ‘nz permanent residency’. Since we left the Philippines (January of 2007), only four months was left from the 6month that we were granted upon.
Who said that was easy? Every day was a job hunting day—from 50 odd online applications every single day, some door to door company applications, none of the companies that got back to mum’s application was turned down by us—any accounting job we are after! It was very noticeable how the descriptions of the job vacancies require a new Zealand experience from the applicants for them to be considered in the position. So it didn’t remain a mystery why more than half of mum’s applications had gotten back just to say “we regret to inform you that your application was unsuccessful due to enormous number of high calibre participants”.
Some companies/agencies had worded their default messages a little harsher than the one mentioned. Based on our experience, it seems as though tertiary education provider was an important element in choosing the ‘high calibre’ applicants, and so no matter how vast mum’s employment history/experience was, it didn’t matter much. By the looks of it, it felt as though if you want your experience to have a bearing on your chance of being chosen for the position—it should well be a new Zealand one! It is actually safe to say that when you are not a New Zealand graduate—you are less advantageous.
Despite of our frustration reading these repetitive return letters, we just had to look at the brighter side of it—at least they were courteous enough to acknowledge we sent them something. About five of those hundreds of applications had gotten back and had interviewed mum. But none of those seemed to have given mum an assurance that she will get the job.
A month has gone—and we couldn’t help but feel like we were running out of time. Tied up with the condition of his visa, my brother was persistent in looking for a job. And lucky enough, he found a company who was willing to employ him once he is already legally allowed to work. I couldn’t speak for how my brother felt then. All I know is, he was as half hearted as I was, thinking he could have stayed home (in the Philippines) where he could get a job that he wants and wouldn’t need to worry about visa and what not.
Before the 2nd month of the extensive job search begun, Prime Recruitment Agency rang mum asking if she would be happy to start Monday of the following week as the accountant of Paccon Logistics. “HOORAY!!!”. There was no second thought whatsoever--JOB ACCEPTED without further a-do’s!. From that moment, I felt we were getting somewhere.
Although mum’s first NZ work experience was not smooth sailing, the company was (in general) very supportive of mum (being new in the country) and her plea to support our family’s application for residency. After presenting 3-month pay slips and reviewing mum’s job description in compliance with what NZ is requiring for the approval of our application, our permanent residency was finally granted in june 2007 (exactly 5 months after our arrival—just before our visa expired).
As soon as we were granted the permanent residency, my brother started working as a manufacturing assistant (which was a manual labour work, and was not engineering related at all). He was later promoted as the technical representative (a slightly engineering role) of the company. Dad, whilst still working as grocery assistant, had carried on looking for a job related to his profession. But like many other cases, dad hadn’t found any luck (yet!). Despite of his vast experience in his field, same requirement is being asked; that is—a new Zealand experience or a new Zealand educational background!!!!
As Im doing this blog post, I couldn’t help but look back on where we used to be. Its been three years—time flies and things have changed. It would be safe to say that our family has already settled. I am now a 19 year old, grown up woman who is looking forward to be a nurse some time next year. Despite of all the hiccups and hurdles, it was an experience filled with learning! (thanks to our good LORD).
My mum has moved on with her career (as Paccon was massively affected by the recession). My brother’s employer was likewise affected, and like mum, he has moved on to a better job, working as a sales engineer that utilises his pursued profession. As for dad, he still hasn’t found a job related to his profession, (but hasn’t given up in his search and is considering relocation). He has, however, been promoted as the warehouse manager of the same enterprise.
The truth of the matter is--there isn’t a perfect scenario. You will read/hear heaps of ‘risky’ exodus attempts with a happy ending, but it isn’t always the deal. Perhaps it will be fair to say that the success of migration is a case to case basis. In writing this blog, I was hoping to bring out a message that whichever country you’ve decided to migrate to, with the right SPIRIT and attitude, you can cope.
In saying this I couldn’t, however, guarantee you its going to be easy (because in our experience, it hasn’t been). Emotional, physical, spiritual, psychological preparation is necessary. And again, whatever your spiritual beliefs are, Id like to stick on mine in this little sharing.
I suggest you PRAY and/or listen to where that voice (HIS voice) is leading you to—Because my faith says, no matter how hopeless your case may seem, if that is where HE wants you to be, HE will pave the WAY! Hence I say our family—the Ajero’s story is a living proof of my belief-my faith..