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Lower Hutt family 'gobsmacked' over residency rejection

Java Point Cafe owner Steve Jensen has lost faith in the system after his family's residency application was rejected earlier this year.

In the same week that one prominent American's citizenship deal is back in the news, a family of his less well-known compatriots in Lower Hutt have been forced to leave.

Java Point Cafe, in the central city, closed for good on Friday as owners Steve and Nancy Jensen got ready to leave the country they love.

The couple, along with their four children, came to New Zealand from the United States in August 2013.

Java Point Cafe regulars Noah McNeill, 9, and Rob McNeill sign a farewell book for the Jensen family at a party held at the cafe on Wednesday.

"I fell in love with the country and then I fell in love with the people," Steve Jensen said.

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They found an immigration adviser and started the process of moving, running the cafe, and buying a house.

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In May 2016, they applied for residency but, six months later, they received a letter saying the validity of their application was in doubt.

"The first and foremost [issue] was profitability and a flawed business plan," Jensen said.

"They didn't believe we had employees, they didn't believe they were Kiwis. They wanted IRD numbers, they wanted birth certificates."

The family extended their visas to work on their residency application, but in March they were rejected. "We were gobsmacked."

Jensen said the reason given was that their cafe was not profitable. As far as the Jensens could tell, they were profitable – but the business plan submitted with their application was not thorough enough.

The family decided not to appeal, and will leave on July 14.

National list MP Chris Bishop, based in Lower Hutt, has been working with the family, and said the problem appeared to be that they entered on an entrepreneur visa, under which they were required to show they had brought business and employment to the country.

"The unfortunate thing is, they've gotten three-quarters of the way there, in terms of profit and employment and investment."

He has made a personal appeal to Associate Immigration Minister Scott Simpson to look at the Jensen's case.

A spokesperson for Simpson said a request for ministerial intervention had been received.

Java Point Cafe staff member Missy McCauley said staff were devastated.

In March, the Jensens gave them all the opportunity to leave early, or stay working until the end. "We all stayed until the blimming end."

* Comments on this article have been closed.

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