International students unable to access vaccine pass feel 'excluded'

Source: 1News

International students and migrant workers unable to access their vaccine pass feel "excluded" and not part of the "team of 5 million".

New Zealand International Student Association national president Afiqah Ramizi on Tuesday told Breakfast she knows of vaccinated people who have already been turned away from work or retail as their foreign passport is not accepted as verification to get their pass.

The Covid-19 Protection Framework, known as the traffic light system, will replace New Zealand's alert level system from December 2 at 11.59pm. Auckland's border will still remain closed until December 15, though.

Under the new traffic light system, people will need their vaccine pass to prove they are vaccinated against Covid-19 before they can enter some premises.

Find out more about how the new traffic light system will work here.

Ramizi said like many people around Aotearoa she was happy life was returning to some kind of normal.

But she added it had been difficult for some people to get their vaccination pass to enable that new freedom.

"As we know on the My Covid Record website there are only a select few options for us to verify our identity and none of the options actually applies to international students or foreign workers unless they have use of a drivers license, for example.

"So there's no option for us to show our passport, which we have used everywhere as our verifying document," she said.

"From that, we have had a few international students not be able to get their vaccination pass yet, and some of them on the day that the vaccination pass was rolled out they were turned away from their work and also some retail places because they couldn't show a proof of their vaccination, even though previous to the vaccination pass they've just been going to work as usual, going to retail places as usual."

Anyone having trouble accessing their pass is asked to call 0800 222 478 and have their NHI number ready.

Ramizi said it had been "a breeze" for some to navigate the system and by contacting the 0800 number, but for "a huge chunk of us" that hasn't been the case, and that it had been "really difficult" with being told to use their RealMe account, meaning a longer wait for that to be verified.

She said the system had "effectively excluded us as immigrants and as international students".

"We don't feel like we are a team of 5 million, especially because we know that by the 3rd December almost everyone will have their freedom again when the traffic light system is going to be in place but for us who need to go through the process of either calling the 0800 number or using the RealMe account, that would take us longer than just 10 days to get that freedom, to get that vaccination pass."

Ramizi said she was particularly worried about those people who need their pass for work and education.

"So it is really divided at the moment," she said.

"We would like to see our passport be accepted on the system because it is not a big problem to verify our identity, we use our passport for immigration purposes, they can just go to immigration and look 'is this person someone who is here in New Zealand legally? Can we trust this person?' you know, if trust was really an issue."

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told 1News the best thing for people to do if they were having issues getting their vaccine pass was to call the 0800 number.

"It's never going to be an easy task when you're talking about 200 different countries, different sets of requirements, different certificate regimes etc. That's why we set up the 0800 number, to make it as easy as possible."