Thursday, November 15, 2007

Skilled worker fails the fat test for immigration

A submarine cable specialist headhunted for a job in New Zealand was forced to slim down before this country's immigration service would let him in.

Welshman Richie Trezise was denied an employer-backed talent visa when he failed the Body Mass Index test (BMI), a fat measurement using a person's weight and height.

His BMI was 42, making him morbidly obese and a potential burden on the health service under New Zealand immigration policy.

A New Zealand company asked this man to come to NZ to work for them, so obviously, he had the skills they needed, and I would think that they knew his size when they interviewed him. Didn't they know that New Zealand's immigration policy would turn him away?

"My doctor laughed at me. He said he'd never seen anything more ridiculous in his whole life. He said not every overweight person is unhealthy or unfit," said Mr Trezise, who plays rugby and used to be in the army.

The 35 year-old went on a crash diet to lose many kilos and two inches from his waist.

He passed the BMI to begin work for Telecom here in September.

At least he has a decent doctor. But for immigration to tell someone they must lose weight in order to get into the country to work a job for which they had been recruited is irresponsible, to say the least. He would not be a drain on their health care system, he has private healthcare.
When a country is lacking sufficient numbers of skilled workers, they certainly cannot afford to turn away qualified immigrants just because those workers don't meet a certain BMI. If they insist on doing that, then a lot of athletes wouldn't qualify to enter New Zealand, since most of them are obese by BMI standards.
I wonder if they would have refused entry to Luciano Pavarotti to perform in an opera there? After all, that was his line of work, and he would have been paid for that performance. Would they tell Queen Latifah that she can't make a movie there? She would be working there and earning money. What about John Goodman or any other actor that has a BMI over 24.9?
The Immigration Service says it doesn't know how many people have been turned away because of BMI. I find that hard to believe. They don't keep any records of who has applied for entry, and why they were refused entry? Shoddy record-keeping practices if that is the case.
So it doesn't matter how well-qualified you are to do a job that is sorely lacking in skilled applicants, if you are fat, you can forget about it. It won't matter how healthy you are, because they can tell just by looking at your fat that you are going to be a drain on their health care resources.
Sorry I'm such a vindictive bitch, but all I could say to New Zealand is "Don't come crying to the skilled fatties of the world when you can't find enough thin people to fill your jobs. You didn't want us when we were willing and able to work for you, now that you need us, tough shit. You can sleep in the bed you made."


  1. Yup. My husband's best friend moved to NZ years ago and has been on at my husband to go out there. We decided to look into it, I did extensive research, and we were all for it. My husband's in their very-much-wanted category, skills and experience-wise. I'm not, as I have no degree and no career due to chronic illness, but I'm only on one medication and I certainly wouldn't be a drain on their system. But no...I have PCOS and all women with PCOS are automatically denied. You can appeal, though, I was told, and prove that you won't cost more than a certain amount per year, and it'll be fine. So I was still optimistic. Until I found out that there's a blanket ban on anyone with a BMI over 35. At the time, my BMI was 38. Now, it's 42. I can't lose weight because I have lipoedema which makes weight loss literally impossible, so I couldn't do what the other NZ-bound fat people on the boards I frequented were doing, and go on a frantic diet-and-exercise regime to lose weight in time. So that was the end of that idea. We're now looking at moving to Ireland, as we're from England and as such there are no requirements for us to meet before we are allowed in.

  2. shira, that is just such a messed up way for a country to deal with immigration. Do they really think what your PCOS would cost them to treat would out-weigh the benefits of having your husband fill one of their empty jobs? Things like this are just so short-sighted, it seems like no one is willing to take the time to really research anything to see if the costs would balance out, or would have a positive or a negative effect.
    Hope all goes well and moving to Ireland works out for you.

  3. That's horrible. I'm lucky enough to work for a company that has offices all over the world and that is also very open to employees transferring around. Someday I might want to transfer to a foreign office, and it's terrifying that I might be denied just because of how I look.

    One note on the actor thing, though. I doubt this would apply to them because they're only coming into the country temporarily and would probably be on a work visa or something instead.

  4. lindley, I'm not so sure about the actor thing, since the gentleman in the article also had a work visa from his prospective employer. I don't think he was going to be in the country permanently either, since he was there to work on the underwater cable (unless the company had intended to keep him on for maintenance work on that cable).

  5. Oops, I'm sorry, I completely missed that! I take it all back.

  6. Lindley, no problem. I'm not sure that actors' visas would be the same as an employer-backed visa anyway, and it's a valid question.

  7. Good grief! Screw New Zealand and its discriminatory immigration policies. Let 'em sink under!

  8. Ouch. I'm a New Zealander, and this stung. It's ridiculous that these policies don't reflect the people that are currently here, many of whom are immigrants from Polynesia, who tend to be of higher BMI anyway. Never mind the hundreds of rugby players that constantly fly in and out of the country, where BMI obviously isn't even a factor for them.

    There are days when I am very proud to be a New Zealander. Reading this post; today is not one of them.

  9. Marshmallow, I know the feeling. There are days when I'm not real proud of some the things the USA does either. But we do the best we can and try to change as many minds as we can, and hope that it all works out. I'm not ready to give up yet, that's for sure.

  10. Vesta, I think they just don't bother to connect the doesn't occur to them that the highly-skilled thin man would be able to afford to pay for whatever medical requirements his fat wife might have. Nor does it occur to them that just maybe, fat and unhealthy are not synonyms, and really, it's so much easier to discriminate against the fatties than to do some actual research. I was upset but not surprised at the fat ban; I was more shocked at their blanket ban on women with PCOS. That's one-sixth of all women! What the hell were they thinking?
    Thanks for your good wishes; it's disappointing not to be able to go to NZ but I keep reminding myself that at least Ireland isn't full of volcanoes and doesn't have eight-inch spiders...

  11. Ahhhhh, but Shira, Ireland is full of Guinness! Each country has its dangers! ;-)


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