the cole family
Magazine shoot for Australia/New Zealand magazine - the family on Back Beach, New Plymouth mid-winter! (August, 2006)
We are Mike and Alexandra Cole, and together with our three kids we are the Cole family. We migrated from the UK to NZ in October 2003. We now live in New Plymouth, halfway down the West coast of the North Island and have travelled both the North and South Islands extensively.
We set up BritsNZ Ltd after a very tough first year in NZ (on a needs must basis) in an effort to help other migrants find their way to NZ without having to re-invent the wheel. Our 3 children were aged 13, 8 and 3 when we moved to NZ so we have a good knowledge of the NZ education system right across all the differing schooling levels and so can give valuable insights into how the education system differs between the UK and NZ countries.
We very much have an attitude (having been there ourselves) that there are no mad, bad or sad questions and it is much better to ask than not to do so, as the saying goes, knowledge is power!
When emigrating we agreed that we would create a video diary of our move for a UK emigration focussed publishing company. What we did not know was that we (and the other 4 families) were being judged by a panel of experts as to who was most likely to succeed. To our huge surprise not only did the judges single us out but so did the public who brought the DVD of all our moves.
We love our lives in NZ and whilst there have been many, many challenges during the past 10 years we would not give any of it up. We certainly would not live back in the UK and whilst it is and always will be a very special place, we believe whole-heartedly that NZ is better. For us and our kids.
We are now citizens which means by having both a UK and a Kiwi passport we have opened more doors for those kids and we very much wanted to add those additional roots being citizens has given us!
so why move?
So, looking back you might wonder quite where the journey began.
For us it probably began at Dower House campsite in Thetford Forest, where the kids were roaming freely and safely with hardly a care in the world. We were able to sit out in the warm evening sunshine (yep they do still have those in the UK especially in 2002/03) and relax. The thought was, why not more of this? We thought about what the UK stood for at that time, what the future appears to hold for our children (then aged 11, six and two), what our future was with work and taxes and government etc and how safe did we feel.
The conclusion we had was that we were largely dissatisfied with a large number of things. We appeared to be working harder to go backwards, the future did not appear bright for the kids and we were concerned for our own and their safety both from terrorism and from daily life (drugs etc).
With the decision made to move the next thing was where too? We looked at Europe, but of course Europe has its own problems and the language barrier was always a concern (having seen those great TV programmes of people doing such moves) so that was counted out fairly early on. We then looked at all the traditional areas... Canada (too cold for the wife!), USA (too complex to get visas), the Caribbean (concerned about educating the kids), Australia (too many deadly bugs and extreme temperatures) - finally NZ. This seemed like a good compromise... same language, similar scenery, similar schooling and a good mix of weather (still seasonal changes) and a potentially greater degree of safety both from terrorism and within.
A decision had been made! But then where to start your move feels like searching for a needle in a haystack. Argggh!
Our ebook 'Last one out, turn off the lights!' available on Amazon for purchase.
it's no easy feat!
The Internet is enormously useful - it led to numerous sites about NZ. What we found most helpful as a starting point, however, was accessing Outbound Publishing who issue the Emigrate New Zealand 'newspaper'. This was an invaluable source, which helped us with internet searches and in taking the first step of tracking down an emigration agent to get some basic information.
Keeping lists of your thoughts and what to do next is critical as it helps you stay focussed and retain your sanity.
Money is obviously important and you do need a very good handle on how much you have to hand as cash and how much you will have when you emigrate if you sell things (houses, cars, household items etc) BUT in our opinion if you have decided to do this move, this is the time when you have to put the blinkers on and not get stressed by the potential costs. If you cannot deal with that then you are probably not going to make it… you have to be absolutely focussed on getting to your goal and nothing should be allowed to distract you.
We recommend an agent to assist you, as they are close to the subject and have the knowledge you need. I suggest you try and research the agent(s) you are looking at on the net, have a chat with them and see if they will give you some clients to talk to or, find people who have used an agent and are happy to recommend. Again, we strongly recommend that you subscribe to Outbound Publishing and keep abreast of what is happening. Another must is getting to one of the Emigrate Fairs that they organise. These are brilliant! You get to see so many people and get a heap of free advice as well as have an opportunity to attend seminars to learn more about a number of useful things. This show, in our opinion, is a MUST so put it on your list!
We opted to use an agent and from the meeting with our agent I learnt I would be unsuccessful getting into NZ using my UK financial qualifications. So, we took away from the meeting the fact that the only way in would be to either set up or buy a business and go in on the Business Visa. This visa is only temporary in nature and after two years you need to prove your business plan. Assuming you can do this, you then move onto a permanent residents visa. Until this time you must prove you can afford to buy/set up the business and support yourself financially on the assumption that you take no income from the business (yes it does seem bizarre, but that is our understanding of the rules). Plus, you have no recourse to the State for any assistance.
getting down to business, well trying to at least!
After a trip to NZ a business was found and a deal struck, with all parties happy with the shape and content and with the formal signing sorted (via our NZ lawyer), it was time to put in the final paperwork and get the medicals done. I must admit that it took us a considerable time to actually press the button that would allow the contract to be sent back to NZ by fax as it seemed such a momentous thing… the kids were extremely positive about the whole thing and that was a great help in the whole process.
The medicals proved difficult to arrange partly because we were trying to keep costs down and they did seem to vary and partly because they were seemingly so busy and partly because the weather intervened with blizzards closing roads. In the end, we found a doctor to do the medicals. We were also waiting for the police checks to come back so it was all a bit tense trying to pull all the pieces together - this we managed to do. Once they were all together we sent the lot off to our agents to check all the paperwork - they suggested a number of alterations most of which seemed to require me to duplicate information but we complied and eventually all was ready for the courier to take it off to NZ.
Strangely, it is difficult to know what is worse, the trying to pull all the pieces together or the waiting for confirmation that the paperwork has all arrived safely in NZ.
The one major criticism of the NZIS and the Business Visa Unit in particular was the almost total absence of information and feedback. Customer service must be an alien concept to them! This was magnified as we did not feel able to push too hard as these guys were deciding our future, and we did not want to cheese them off too much! Yet, we were spending a considerable amount of money and this was our lives! Just before Easter, having chased them ourselves and having had our NZ lawyer raise questions with them as to timing (we were locked into dates on the contract for the business) we finally heard back from some chap in Wellington that our application had been declined.
Obviously this was gutting. The reasons given were not based on our business plan, but rather on the fact that we had not owned a business before and they questioned whether we could maintain ourselves on the funds available assuming that we would take no income from the business.
We immediately started to search out our NZ lawyer (who was on his travels in Asia) and when we finally found him started to put together yet more data for an appeal - both on points of interpretation of the then NZIS policy/law and on the more emotive points in the application. This again was not straightforward and as it transpired, had we been sitting in NZ then the appeal would have been automatically allowed BUT as we were in the UK they reserved the right to refuse the appeal. In any event, we managed to persuade them on the appeal and to pull together a significant amount of further information and comment as to why we felt we could own a business and how we would support ourselves. We worded everything as strongly as possible without being over the top and with the help of couriers got the appeal papers to NZ just before their deadline.
Despite being assigned a person in the NZIS to conduct our appeal review and them being aware of the contract dates, no rush was made. During all this time we were getting closer to our exchange date on the business. We managed to negotiate an extension to these dates but we then had to make the contract void as we appeared no nearer to having a decision made by NZIS.
the long awaited moment...
By this time we were feeling very disappointed and disillusioned. However, we had been told by our emigration agent that they had seen someone with my financial qualifications get approved and rated by the NZQA. They had subsequently applied for a Residents Visa, so the game was on again, but in a slightly different direction.
We managed to get all the necessary NZQA paperwork together, download the application form from the net, and send it all off via a courier to Wellington. We had paid for the express service which meant we should get a reply within 10 days… you get used to the tension of waiting, honest!
Unfortunately we did not hear back within the allotted time. However, as we progressed we had the surreal experience of everything falling into place as we needed it, which makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck!
It was the day we were setting off on our Devon holiday. We ended up leaving later than planned as kids and mum couldn't get their backsides into gear. Dad happened to be loading final bits in the car when the postie arrived and there was the letter from the NZIS. CONFIRMATION! We had been granted a visa (I can feel the emotion of it even now as I write this). Our hearts were thumping and we had to re-read it to make sure it was true. I bounded up the stairs and dragged Alex out of the shower to read the letter, and whilst she did that I sat on the loo and cried. Too much tension over too long a period and we had finally made it, we were just so elated!
We then thought about cancelling our holiday but as Devon was so very special to me we decided to go ahead and start saying goodbye to places and people. Everyone we told were so pleased for us and really shared our relief and excitement, albeit that there was a hint of sadness as we would be saying goodbye to them at some stage.