Kiwi-Indian MPs need to engage in more active, intense, and persistent lobbying with the Minister of Immigration for sorting the mess around the “living together" requirement for the partnership visa.
There is a mounting expectation within the Kiwi-Indian community from their fellow, co-ethnic MPs in parliament to sensitise New Zealand’s lawmakers and the immigration system about the discrimination meted out to relationships based on Indian marriages for visa purposes.
To say that currently there is no discrimination, perceived or real, would be inaccurate.
The fact that every year thousands of members of the Kiwi-Indian community have to either take long leave from their jobs, or resign, or close their businesses to travel overseas and live there for months till they manage to convince immigration officers that they have met the “living together” requirement for partnership visa clearly points to the unfairness in the immigration system.
This was further exacerbated during Covid-19 related border closure and restrictions, grossly disadvantaging many temporary migrant workers who have already been in the country to bring their overseas-based partners, despite proving to immigration that they were in stable and genuine relationships.
The simple reason why relationships based on Indian marriages are not able to get their partners to join them onshore on a partnership visa is that they do not meet the “living together” criteria.
Many Indian-origin New Zealanders go back to India to marry, they then return home to NZ to continue their work, businesses, and carry on with life, as they wait for their new spouse to join them here.
In most cases, they are relatively new migrants in the country having arrived recently, mostly on a student or a work visa, and have lived and worked in NZ for a few years, before returning to marry with their long-term relationships with the blessings of their parents and extended families.
It is this choice of first working hard to create a life in NZ and after putting roots of a Kiwi life, returning to their partners, parents and families to tie the knot in a culturally appropriate manner that puts them on an uphill path of negotiating with immigration rules that seem insensitive to the social mores of an entire culture.
Immigration instructions state that for a person to be granted a Partnership Visa, they must be “living together” at the time of the application (meaning throughout the processing time of the application).
A person who has first studied, worked, and lived in NZ for many years, parking aside their love-interests temporarily, while they build the dream of Kiwi-life and have returned back to tie knots with their chosen life-partners in presence of hundreds and often thousands of people pointing towards the full social and legal sanctity, are being considered not eligible as “partner” under NZ’s partnership visa rules.
While most of NZ’s lawmakers remain blissfully unaware of the pain and the plight experienced by Kiwi-Indians and many ethnic migrant minorities from South Asia and larger Asia, it is the responsibility of the Kiwi-Indian MPs who share the culture to come to the rescue of their fellow co-ethnic migrants.
It is not good enough for them, or any future Indian-origin MPs to ignore this long pending issue by simply projecting their respective political party or the government’s view on the issue.
What adds insult to injury are the carefully crafted responses to the media which subtly compares every inconvenience due to the “living together” mess in partnership visa, with the fear of deaths due to Covid that might descend upon us if any concessions were made to allow them bring their partners.
Official responses such as: “many have been adversely impacted by the border restrictions that have been in place to protect NZ from the devastating impact of Covid on case numbers, deaths and hospitalisation that many other countries have experienced. Those impacted include people who don’t meet the criteria for a partnership visa or culturally arranged marriage visa” are an insult to the community.
The expectation from the Kiwi-Indian MPs is to find out why those people are not meeting the partnership visa or culturally arranged marriage visa despite their marriages being fully socially and legally recognised everywhere else in the world.
And once they find out the real situation on the ground, have to engage in active and persistent lobbying with the Minister.
The Minister of Immigration has absolute power and discretion to issue an instruction that can allow immigration officers to grant partnership visas once they are fully satisfied that a genuine and stable relationship exists.
But till now Kiwi-Indian MPs – two in the present government that are electoral MPs – have not put any significant energy and attention on the issue, despite the community’s consistent suffering.