This is my 16th year of working as an Immigration lawyer for the Indian community, and hence I have spent as many years in dealing with the New Delhi branch of Immigration New Zealand (INZ).
My experience with this office 16 years ago was that it was somewhat disorganised, their ability to apply policy correctly was lacking and that corruption was a problem.
By 2001, this began to change under a new management structure.
Corruption issues were dealt with, the office became more efficient with significantly more customer service focus.
Until recently, my experience with INZ Delhi was that they meant well but had organisational issues. By and large, the staff understood the needs of Indian migrants and applied policies with a degree of common sense and humanity.
A dramatic shift occurred in the last three to four years with the introduction of a new management team from New Zealand. In my opinion, the Branch can now be characterised as extremely callous, with contempt for Indian migrants and determination to dissuade Indians from migrating to or settling successfully in New Zealand.
Junior immigration officers, whose work had a reasonable and fair approach, have now been corrupted so much by this new management philosophy that they too have become prejudiced, acting like the ‘brown sahibs’ of colonial times.
It is apparent that the two most senior managers arrived in India, determined to dramatically shift the focus of the Branch from providing quality customer-orientated service and become anti-immigrant, with an exception, of being temporary colour blindness that money creates.
Skilled category declines
Skilled Migrant applications from India have come to an almost complete halt.
Whilst applications in New Zealand can normally be processed in six months, the resources in INZ Delhi are so sparse that an application can take three or more years.
The Visa Officers allocated to Skilled Migrant files are so few and the effort put into working on these files so limited, that it can only be assumed as a deliberate act to discourage skilled migrants from applying or encouraging them to give up and migrate elsewhere. This is despite the disparate need for skilled migrants in New Zealand, exacerbated by the declining number of skilled applicants.
Whilst a large number of Student Visa applications are processed, the philosophy of the INZ is to get students into the country to pay money, and then discourage them from remaining in New Zealand, thereby forcing them to leave.
For example, a married student can now forget about trying to bring their spouse to New Zealand. INZ Delhi declines almost every Partnership Application from students, thereby compelling them to remain apart from their spouse.
This can cause misery, compelling the students to return, having already invested heavily in their education. If the spouse applies for a Partnership Visa, INZ will decline on the basis that the couple are not ‘living together.’ If the student returns to India to ‘live together,’ ÍNZ will accuse them of abandoning their studies, not attending to the course 100% of the time, cancel the Student Visa or decline any subsequent Temporary Visa applications, creating Catch-22 situation.
If a student in New Zealand successfully completes their course and obtains longer term Work Visas, they can also forget about returning to India to marry, because INZ will apply the same argument that the worker is not ‘living together’ with their partner in India, having returned to their job in New Zealand.
As soon as the worker takes extended leave to return to India to spend some time with their partner and prove that they are in a genuine partnership and are ‘living together,’ INZ would view the person as having abandoned their employment and will seek to cancel the Work Visa whilst the worker is in India.
The same applies to Indian workers on Work Visas.
If the Visa Officer struggles to think of a sound season to decline a temporary visa, they can just fall back on ‘a lack of incentives to return,’ allowing them to decline any partnership application, regardless of the sponsor’s immigration status. They would refer to the obvious, that the applicant would prefer to stay in New Zealand with their spouse than live in India alone.
The management structure in Delhi responds to such allegations and complaints very succinctly. They say, “The New Zealand Government has given us the power to do this, and this is what we choose to do.”
Of course, the New Zealand Government has also given every INZ branch the same power, which other offices do not use in this manner, but take into account the needs of New Zealand and that of the migrants.
The current situation is that a person from Pakistan or the Middle East, who wishes to apply for the same type of visa and have their application processed through INZ Dubai, has a better chance of having their application approved than their counterparts applying through Delhi.
INZ Delhi says that surveys indicate a high satisfaction rate amongst agents.
These respondents are unlicensed agents, who earn enormous commissions from sending students to New Zealand and hence dare not speak the truth. Some respondents are also timid sycophants, concerned more with their bank balances than speaking their mind.
We can therefore inevitably conclude that it is the deliberate intention of INZ Delhi to discourage Indian migrants from settling in New Zealand permanently.
Whilst they are happy to allow visitors and students to come to New Zealand, every effort is made to ensure that they return to India after having spent all their money, never to come back to this country.
The refusal of INZ Delhi to follow the legal requirements of dealing only with licensed or exempt Immigration agents, to ignore the practises of other offices and to ignore the criticisms of New Zealand High Court judges exemplifies this attitude of contempt and disregard for any semblance of fairness, justice, reasonableness or adherence to the rule of law. One can only hope that sufficient pressure is put on the government to bring immediate changes and a reversal of this programme of discrimination.
Alastair McClymont is Principal of McClymont & Associates (Barrister & Solicitors) based in Auckland