It is high time that the demand for quashing the requirement of "living together" for partnership visas needs strong credible political backing and community's support.
For long, the issue has been persisting around without any concerted community support and ownership by the political leadership in the country, resulting in the inconvenience of forced family separation for thousands of Kiwis and guests in this country.
Thousands of Kiwi citizens and residents and countless more temporary migrant workers remain separated from their overseas-based partners and families, primarily because they fail to demonstrate to Immigration New Zealand that they were "living together" as a couple.
The Kiwi-Indian community has experienced the maximum brunt of this arbitrary interpretation of the "living together" requirement for partnership visas by Immigration New Zealand in recent years, much before family separation in the current Covid-19 ravaged world had become a bit more acceptable.
Thousands of partnership visa applications, largely emanating from the Mumbai office of Immigration New Zealand, were summarily rejected in 2019 because of the sudden change of heart of immigration officials in the interpretation of the "living together" requirement for partnership visas.
At that time, the issue was largely perceived as a trivial ethnic community issue, seen largely from the lens of non-western cultures versus western culture, where the expectation was conformity from the previous to the latter.
Even the solution offered by Prime Minister, which eventually turned out to be a mere band-aid, was offered in the form of tweak around in the culturally arranged marriage visa category.
As it eventually turned out that the offered solution was neither reasonable nor practicable – forcing Immigration New Zealand to revert back to pre-May-2019 practices of assessing such partnership visa requests.
It clearly exposed the restrictive view of seeing the entire issue as limited to an ethnic-cultural minority and hence conveniently brushed under the carpet.
Sadly, neither the Kiwi-Indian community nor the political leaders representing the community-owned up the issue and worked rigorously to rake up the matter at the higher echelons of parliament.
Ideally, one of the sitting Kiwi-Indian MPs before the 2020 elections should have worked hard along with the community to prepare a members-only bill to quash the absurd "living together" requirement for partnership visa – if raking up the issue within their respective political parties was too much an ask.
Members Bill in New Zealand parliament is a unique opportunity available to individual lawmakers (Members of Parliament) to demonstrate their passion and commitment towards any particular issue.
Such Bills only see the light of the day and are accepted for discussion and voting in the parliament after having been picked up through a lottery system, but it does demonstrate the robust commitment of individual MPs towards the cause, which often have made immense contributions in the society's outlook towards an issue.
David Seymour's members' bill on euthanasia has changed the country's direction and appetite on a very sensitive issue for many Kiwis.
Unfortunately, none of the then Kiwi-Indian MPs in parliament (Priyanca Radhakrishan, Parmjeet Parmar, Kanwaljeet Singh Bakshi) has bothered to work in that direction – owning the issue up and working along the community to come up with a Members Bill in parliament seeking change in law that discriminates against Indian marriages for partnership visas.
Anyway – that was then – now today, the issue still remains unresolved, except that it has now become obvious that its scope has widened as more and more Kiwis – beyond the Kiwi-Indian community – are experiencing the wrath of arbitrary interpretation of the requirement of "living together" for partnership visas.
Kiwis of many dispensations – ethnicity, race and cultural background and sexual orientation – have experienced and continue to experience discrimination from this archaic interpretation of "living together" requirement for a partnership visa.
There are many social media groups where thousands of Kiwi citizens and residents have come together to support each other in what seems to be the common pain point of not having demonstrable "living together" experience to satisfy Immigration New Zealand that they are a legitimate couple, albeit only living separately overseas, because of various compulsions of modern lives.
A lawsuit has been brought in NZ courts against a decision by Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi, which also adversely affects such separated couples trying to enter NZ and join their partners.
A petition is also going on seeking the signature of New Zealanders affected or sympathetic to the demand of removing the arbitrary requirement of "living together" for a partnership visa.
A protest was held in front of Beehive by such Kiwi citizens and residents facing forced separation from their overseas-based partners on Monday, August 2, which witnessed participation from sympathetic political leaders.
However, what is still required is passionate community support and dedicated political ownership to bring the issue to the centre of national attention.
It is for the Kiwi-Indian community to dwell if it is prepared to throw its weight behind an emotive issue that has affected them more than anyone else in the recent past and support the call for quashing the requirement of "living together" for partnership visas.