A group of Kiwis - including a Queen's Service Medal recipient - have slammed Immigration New Zealand's visa policy as "racist".
The group are appalled and embarrassed that two Ethiopian tour guides they befriended on a recent holiday in Africa have been refused visitor visas to New Zealand because they weren't deemed genuine visitors.
They say their tour guide and driver, Abenezer Dereje and Abraham Mekonnen, brought Ethipoa to life for them, and in June this year they wanted to repay that kindness.
“I said to Bill, 'What if we could all just chip in and bring Abe and Abraham to New Zealand?' and he said, ‘Why not?’” tour group member Claire Hurst told 1 NEWS.
The two tour guides were delighted with the offer and planned to visit, staying with their new Kiwi friends.
Getting them here on visitor visas they assumed would be pretty straight forward.
However, after five months of work and just days after the men sent their passports to a processing centre in South Africa they both received emails saying their NZ visas were declined due to the application not considered to be genuine.
“If they'd come from England would they have been declined? Of course they wouldn't have been,” Ms Hurst says.
In a statement, Immigration New Zealand has told 1 NEWS: "A visitor visa requires careful consideration to determine whether they are a bona fide visitor".
Despite letters from the tour company they work for, it went on to say the pair "didn't demonstrate sufficient evidence to demonstrate strong employment or financial ties to Ethiopia”.
The ministry wasn't moved by the offer from the Kiwis to pay a bond for the men and there is no right to appeal the refusal.