The government has opened a new front in the war on Indian migrants in the same week that they have announce that the Parent Category is reserved only for the wealthy.
For a year, Partnership applications have been sitting unprocessed with Immigration New Zealand (INZ) in Mumbai.
INZ have trotted out a litany of excuses for these delays including blaming it on internal restructures, staffing shortages and even the Christchurch Mosque attack.
The reality however has now become clearer, with INZ having worked on a reinterpretation of immigration policy which ensures that people from the Indian subcontinent living and working in New Zealand may no longer be able to return to their home country to marry and sponsor their partners to New Zealand.
Immigration policy around Partnership applications has remained the same for a long time with the requirement that a couple should be living together in a genuine and stable partnership.
The policy and its definition of a Partnership has always had a cultural bias against non-Europeans, based on the idea that the couple have already begun living together and building a life as a couple before applying together for visas to New Zealand, or in a situation where a New Zealand resident or citizen living and working overseas and wishes to return home with his or her new partner.
Insensitive to Culture
Immigration Policy around Partnerships has never been reflective of the cultural practice found in the Indian Subcontinent where students, workers or migrants settle in New Zealand first, establish a home, employment and income and then return to their home country to marry, often to a partner of their extended families choosing or at least approval, before sponsoring their new partner for a visa to return to New Zealand after the sponsor has returned to New Zealand for work.
However, INZ have, in the past, taken a practical approach when applying Immigration Policy to these distinct cultural practices by accepting that Indian marriages frequently have a different way of developing, often with couples spending only a limited period of time together before their engagement or marriage.
Stability of Indian marriages
It is often reported that India has one of the lowest divorce rates in the world and in comparison to those divorce rates New Zealand, the stability of Indian marriages is significantly stronger.
A partnership must be genuine and stable. Genuine Indian marriages have a significantly higher success rate than in New Zealand. Immigration New Zealand acknowledges that the relationships are genuine, yet applications are declined because the sponsor has returned home to New Zealand to work and make a home for their new family.
The Mumbai office of INZ is now ploughing through a massive backlog of Indian applications in a very simple way: If the sponsor didn’t stay behind in India after marriage, and wait for the visa decision, then application declined. This would appear to be the message made clear from Wellington.
So, returning home to work, save money and wait for the partner’s visa is now the sole ground for declining those visas.
INZ are making it clear to the Indian community that if they want to return to their home country, marry and sponsor their partner, then they must quit their job, leave their home, leave their life in New Zealand and resettle back in India; living with their new partner and waiting the six to 12 months that it is taking them to process Visa applications before returning as a couple.
INZ couldn’t be bothered
At the same time however, sponsors of partners must prove that they have the financial means and accommodation to support their partner.
This of course is difficult to do; the sponsor has quit their job, leave their home in New Zealand to returned to India to live with their new partner.
Immigration decisions declining visas under this new reinterpretation of Policy clearly show that marriages are recognised as genuine, applications often being accompanied by photographs and DVDs showing enormous time and expense.
INZ have no concerns about the genuine nature of the marriage and yet Visas are declined solely on the grounds that the sponsor has returned to New Zealand to work whilst waiting for the Visa applications to be processed.
Over the last decade, we have seen a practical, common-sense approach to Indian Partnership Visas through recognition of how partnerships are developed, the focus on issues such as credibility, indicators of a genuine marriage and most importantly recognition of the fact that sponsors need to return to New Zealand to their home and work whilst waiting for Visa decisions.
That has now changed with an abrupt U-turn, the reasons for which we can only speculate.
We know that the Labour government expected a reduction of 20,000 to 30,000 nett migrants a year.
We know that (Deputy Prime Minister) Winston Peters has been bragging to his followers about the lowest number of resident visas granted in 20 years.
On all aspects of the immigration system, we see the Indian community targeted.
These developments and Partnership Visas would strongly suggest an underlying strategy to reduce migration numbers through specific targeting of the Indian community.
The Policy is being interpreted in such a way as to drive Indians out of New Zealand, either back to their own country or to third country like Canada.
How will this change? As the Prime Minister makes her annual appearance at Diwali events this year, she will take very careful note of members of the Indian community.
Ask Jacinda, “Why are you doing this?”
Alastair McClymont is an Immigration Law Specialist at McClymont & Associates, Barrister & Solicitors based in Auckland.