Immigration New Zealand needs to come clean why they have suddenly started putting emphasis on “living together” for approving Indian applications for partnership-based visas.

Is it for covering their back and clearing the backlog of thousands of applications that had been piling up in Mumbai office is the question that needs to be answered.

The issue of prolonged delays in processing times of partnership-based visas and the recent emphasis by INZ to waive exception from “living together” as required for partnership-based visas, and subsequent visa declines in large numbers, is affecting the Kiwi-Indian community.

While Cabinet Minister Shane Jones has taken an opportunistic plunge in the issue asking all “disgruntled Indians to catch next flight home,” the bigger and important question is being lost in this anti-immigrant rant.

Immigration Minister has categorically denied that there has been any special directive to either waive off exceptions or emphasise on “living together” for being eligible to get partnership based visas.

INZ has now claimed that they have issued an advisory to the Immigration Officers in May 2019 to emphasise on “living together,” for partnership-based visas.

This advice was purely an operational decision taken by INZ without any government directive as claimed by Minister Shane Jones.

In response to The Indian Weekender’s query about the government directive Peter Elms, National Manager Visa Services said, “The ability to waive temporary visa requirements is within the delegated authority for an Immigration Officer on a case by case basis, as is the discretion to grant a temporary visa as an exception to instructions.”

It is important to note that since last many years Immigration Officers has been issuing exceptions to the requirement of “living together,” which anyway does not have any time-requirement.

However, since May 2019, INZ figured out, almost arbitrarily that probably they have been issuing too many exceptions to the requirement and somehow came to a conclusion on their own that it was against Ministerial directive on the issue and had to be fixed.

“The blanket waiving of requirements or granting of visas as an exception to instructions as standard practice is not appropriate. It effectively creates de facto instructions without Ministerial approval,” Mr Elms told The Indian Weekender.

“Consequently, INZ staff have been advised to amend operational practice and ensure immigration instructions are adhered to unless there are circumstances in the particular case that warrant a waiver or exception to instructions,” Mr Elms said.

Why only now, INZ needs to answer?

However, the office of Immigration New Zealand failed to clarify why this so-called operational decision was taken arbitrarily, especially in the month of May when their office was facing an unprecedented volume of applications.

Recently New Zealand Herald had reported on Thursday, October 17, “The agency had more than 8000 temporary partnership applications across all its offices as of the beginning of September, with more than 3000 being for partners of workers. It was also dealing with a further 6000 partnership residence applications.”

“High application volumes and the closure of offshore processing offices have led to massive delays in partnership visa processing,” NZ Herald had reported

So the question that needs to be answered is why INZ has to tweak in its emphasis on “living together” without any directive from the government.

Is it just to clear their backlogs, at the cost of a vast number of Indian partners.

Notably, INZ National Manager Peter Elms has also said on national radio (RNZ’s Morning Post) on Wednesday, October 23, “Govt policy as it stands at the moment really does put an emphasis on people living together.”

This is not correct as the Immigration Minister has confirmed that there has not been any government directive to change any settings or expectations.