A Silicon Valley businessman and single dad with no relatives in the US, Martin sought to join his extended family in New Zealand, where he had had strong ties for decades. Aaron helped reunite Martin with his aging mother and the rest of the clan by securing him a visa on humanitarian grounds, a category with just an 8.5% success rate since the COVID pandemic.
My sister married a Kiwi about 35 years ago and moved to New Zealand. When my parents retired, they, too, moved to New Zealand to be proud grandparents to my sister’s four children, so now the bulk of the family is here. Because of that, I’ve actually spent a tremendous amount of time in New Zealand, travelling there frequently for extended periods, and am very connected with our family there.
When all the insanity with COVID happened and school became virtual in the US, I had a conversation with my sister, who wanted to be closer to her own grandkids in Thames. She said, “I wish I could move to Thames. Why don’t you try and come down here?” My mother was seriously ailing in health and needed family support which my sister could not provide if she moved to Thames.
It triggered a thought: I’m a single dad raising my son. When COVID hit, I lost a friend and I realised I had no family in the US. I realised that I needed to get him around family in case anything did happen to me. The fragility of life just hit me between the eyes.
I started searching for lawyers to see what path was available, if any, to get into New Zealand. I reached out to some business associates and started asking, “Who do you know that might be able to navigate the waters?” because I knew it was a one-shot situation. You apply once and you either get it or you don’t. I needed to make my case as eloquently as possible. It definitely takes someone who knows the law and how to play within the lines, so to speak. Amazingly enough, two people I know in New Zealand both directed me to Aaron. I got on the phone with various lawyers and had conversations, but Aaron was unique.
A Lawyer Who Actually Listens
He was straightforward and honest from the beginning, and he was extremely organised. He was interviewing me just as much as I was interviewing him! He was asking critical questions to see if I was a valid case and asked for information to verify that what I was saying was real. That earned a tremendous amount of respect with me because I’ve engaged with lawyers for 30-plus years in my business career, and it’s extremely rare to have a lawyer be selective in terms of who he’s taking on as a client. Anytime that’s ever happened to me, it’s created a bond that has lasted for many, many years and built a business relationship. So that was a huge trigger for me to say, yes, this is someone I really want to work with.
Fortunately, I keep all my records in digital form, so the only thing that took time was getting my police record from the UK, where I had lived as a child. Aaron asked me to reach out to all the people I knew in New Zealand and have them provide as much background on my relationship with New Zealand as possible. Effectively, I’ve been the one earning income for the family. I put all my sisters through university and paid for houses over the years, so he saw those connections right away. He also saw the close relationship I have with my mother because he could see from my passports how extensive my visits to New Zealand have been: literally every year for at least a couple of weeks, if not a month, and sometimes twice a year, if I had the time.
He understood that what I was asking for was life-changing – for myself, my mother, and my sister. My mother is now 94 and her health is deteriorating, and my sister has been her primary caregiver for many, many years. We’ve essentially switched roles: Now I’m my mother’s primary caregiver, which freed my sister to move to Thames.
Aaron put all that into a very concise and eloquent 3,000-word essay, stating the facts in a precise way to clearly illustrate my case. His honesty and genuine capacity to understand what we were asking for translated very well in his pitch. When he filed the application, he said, “You’ve got a slim chance, but you’ve got a chance.” And then we filed it. In less than a month, he said, “I’ve got good news.”
A Wonderful New Life in New Zealand
I put my house on the market and it sold it two hours. My car sold in four hours and my RV in a day. Everything started falling into place, and it just felt like it was meant to be. It was amazing! Given that there were over 100,000 expressions of interest from Americans wanting to leave the US and look at New Zealand and other countries, I knew it was an extreme long shot. That’s why I felt that having a lawyer in place to do it right the first time was so essential, and that’s why I engaged him. It gave me such a high degree of comfort.
We’re really enjoying every moment we have here. I spend at least two, three hours a day with my mom. I’ve been able to get her out of her retirement community and out for drives. Before, she was limited in how much time she could get out to sit in the sun or at the beach, so she’s really enjoying that. My son has had a really warm welcome in New Zealand from his fellow students and has already received a couple of awards for his science projects and joined an indoor soccer team. It’s been a really wonderful experience altogether. I’m so glad I’m part of the 8.5 percent who were approved for a visa in this very challenging category.
I tell you, it’s life-changing. I’ve now restored my relationship with my mother. Before Aaron, I didn’t think that was even an option, at least not in the current environment. For him to be able to navigate the waters and get us in as quickly as he did, I owe him a debt of gratitude forever. Aaron is one of the most fundamentally honest, compassionate lawyers – and good listeners – I’ve ever come across, not only focusing on what he can do but also just listening. You have to listen to what someone is saying to know what path to actually recommend to them. He took the time to listen, which is rare in today’s world. He’s a unique gem, that gentleman. He really is.