Can you be deported for being fat?

New Zealand may give a South African man the boot for taxing the country's health care system. Never mind that he lost 60 pounds while he was there.

By Jason Notte Jul 30, 2013 3:39PM
Image: Overweight © Image Source, Getty ImagesTo the "Borgata Babes" in New Jersey who just discovered that it's OK for employers to fire people for getting fat, look at the bright side: At least you'll be able to get another, less misogynist job in the United States.

Albert Buitenhuis, a South African who has lived in New Zealand for six years, may get deported from his adopted home because the government says he is too fat. Though Buitenhuis actually weighed 65 pounds more when he first moved to New Zealand, the BBC reports that the 286-pound man couldn't renew his annual work visa because he failed to maintain "an acceptable standard of health."

One would think that would only help his cause in New Zealand, where nearly 27% of citizens are obese. However, that's still relatively svelte compared to the 33.5% of South Africans who qualify as obese and the 31.8% of Americans fitting the same description.

That presents a problem for New Zealand, where even residents like Buitenhuis who live in the country with work permits receive many health care services for free, including prescriptions and treatment at public hospitals. A U.S. resident spends nearly three times more money on health care than people living in New Zealand, according to country comparison website

The public costs add up in a hurry, though. In 2006, the private and public health care system spent $624 million on health care related to being overweight, according to The New Zealand Herald. That's a small fraction of the $190 billion the U.S. spent on similar care, according to the Harvard School Of Public Health, but it's not exactly a drop in the bucket for a small country.

An immigration spokesman said Buitenhuis's application had been rejected because his obesity put him at "significant risk" of complications including diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. That same spokesman also noted that "it is important that all migrants have an acceptable standard of health to minimize costs and demands on New Zealand's health services.”

So it could be worse, cocktail servers: You could lose both your job and citizenship for putting on a few extra pounds or, in this case, even losing 60 or so.

More on moneyNOW

Tags: Dramajobs
Jul 30, 2013 4:08PM
The truth is that New Zealand is one of the only countries that is this strict on their immigration.  They won't be asking for handouts, bailouts, or loans from other countries, so they can do this.  It isn't very nice, but it isn't illegal.  They aren't expelling their own citizens, but they seemed to have failed to renew this man's visa due to his weight.  I wonder if he had other health problem he didn't want to disclose or whether the added six years since he moved there put him into the heart-attack likely group.  This is one cost of having universal health care, you have to absorb the costs of everyone's health costs, not just the poor.   The U.S. does what amounts to shoving the cost of the health care from the sick onto the well.  So if one person goes into the emergency room with a gunshot wound, and the next ten people have mild problems that don't really need treatment, the people with mild problems and don't get treated still pay around $3,000 each if they have insurance.  That $30,000 treats the uninsured gunshot victim.  The problem with that is that the hospital still charges the state the $30,000 or $100,000 for the uninsured gunshot victim.  How is New Zealand's system so much worse?  At least the citizens get decent health care. 
Jul 30, 2013 5:11PM

I lived there for 2 1/2 years and before getting our work visa's approved my wife and I had to pass a rather extensive health exam.  We had absolutely no problem with it.  This is just one of the ways they control who comes in their country.  While no system is perfect, we loved not having to pay for health insurance.  That said a lot of kiwis also didn't go to the doctor for the little things.  They just know that the doctors are for more serious issues. 


There is no reason the US can't adopt the same regulations for people wanting to come into our country LEGALLY.  The fact is a lot of countries have strict guidelines on immigration and rightfully so.  Each country belongs to it's citizens, not the world.

Jul 30, 2013 4:11PM
Well, he is six years older now and still obese.  New Zealand has every right to not want to let unhealthy people "adopt" their country.   I wish the United States was more like New Zealand when it comes to immigration. 
Jul 30, 2013 5:10PM
To bad we don't deport all the fat Mexicans.
Jul 30, 2013 5:41PM
That's a commendable move by New Zealand.  The government is obligated to do whatever it has to do to keep healthcare costs down for its citizens.  That's a concept the U.S. government hasn't yet seemed to grasp.  One big reason why healthcare costs more per capita in the USA than in most other Western countries with socialised medicine is because the U.S. population is much less healthy.  It costs a poopload to provide free, nationalised healthcare to everyone when 1/3 of the population is obese, smoking and/or addicted to prescription pills.  If Obamacare is to be the law of the land (and it will be, despite what Rand Paul & co. are trying to do), then to keep costs down and avoid national bankruptcy the government had better be prepared to penalise or deny coverage to citizens who are obese, who smoke, or who abuse their medications.
Jul 30, 2013 5:04PM
well i will say what we need to =DEPORT!!= Is amy illegal aliens & all their familys -even if the kids were born here!! get them OUT!!
Jul 30, 2013 4:51PM
Great idea.  I hope this is incorporated into any Immigration Law this nation passes.
Jul 30, 2013 3:57PM
Maybe he should move to New York. I hear they'll trim people down with Bloomberg in office.
Jul 30, 2013 4:11PM
As a smoker that has been taxed and discriminated against for years, I'm all for taxing and discriminating against fat people! I hope Obama care adds an additional fee for fatties like it does smokers... fatties pay you fair share!!!! And add even more taxes to pay for children's health care like I have to. Eating something fattening? Go outside. Eating something fattening... don't do it in public. Etc etc
Jul 30, 2013 6:24PM
I wonder if we kicked out all the illegals that freeload on our healthcare system if everyone's costs would go down. Just change Fat to Freeload and there you have it. 
Jul 30, 2013 7:41PM
Nearly 2/3's of all Americans are overweight and getting worse.... Will it cause us to be a third class nation in another 10 years? 
Jul 30, 2013 5:35PM
Nobody would be here......hey, Porky!.........get the lights will ya?!
Jul 31, 2013 9:17PM
I'm so offended! I'm going to eat skinny people now!
What do you expect from a socialist nation that kisses the butt of the UN? They love telling people how to live. If you had an issue with his weight you shouldn't have let him in. If they're deporting fat folks they need to get rid of their own citizens.
Jul 30, 2013 7:33PM
wow! really?...all three of you are incredible bigots...get help
Jul 30, 2013 7:31PM


Now if only this poor slob was a billionaire banker or some other 'job creator' who needed a bail out at government expense he could get the Republicans to pay all his debts with tax payer money.


In addition to the bailouts for billionaires program he could get a huge bonus for being  one of those 'talents that has to be retained', the talent being adept at losing other peoples money while getting his bought and paid for Republican party to bail him out a middle class expense.


And for desert the Republican Fascists would even through in a tax cut while cutting SS and Medicare on the peasants.

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