Immigration New Zealand continues to decline partnership visa applications, even after the Minister has publically announced to have “fixed” the issue of culturally arranged marriage visas.  

Shipra Maheshwari, 29, originally from the India, who is married to New Zealand citizen Vaibhav, and had initially filed a partnership visa application like everyone else, had received decline letter from INZ for the want of “living together,” on Friday, November 15 – clearly suggesting that Minister’s new instructions have not yet reached the front officer’s desks. 

“We are not satisfied that you meet immigration instructions V3.15 as you have not demonstrated that you and your partner are living together in a genuine and stable relationship,” the letter from INZ to Shipra as seen by the Indian Weekender said. 

This decline letter, very much similar to thousands of other decline letters received by the partners of Kiwi-Indian citizens and residents in the last few months, clearly demonstrates that the “new” Ministerial instructions and the immigration fact-sheet released subsequently by INZ have not reached frontline case-officers. 

Notably, the Minister had announced on Wednesday, November 13, whereby making changes in the culturally arranged marriage visa category that will allow a consistent process applied for people in culturally arranged marriages to facilitate them join their NZ based partners. 

“I will make a small change to instructions to allow Immigration New Zealand to provide culturally arranged marriage visitor visas to partners of New Zealand residents and citizens as the policy originally intended,” Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway had said.

The Minister had also announced that those declined since May and who are clearly eligible under the clarified process will be reassessed by Immigration New Zealand and will be contacted in the next 2 weeks. 

High-handed arbitrariness in INZ’s actions

While the Minister himself had not announced the exact time-span within which majority of applicants earlier declined a visitor visa will receive “new” advice for reconsideration on their applications following the new instructions on culturally arranged marriage visas, INZ had arbitrarily set that time from May 10 – October 31. 

The selection of date of May 10 was perfectly rational, as it was on that day when INZ’s Wellington-based bureaucrats had issued a directive to its frontline officers that effectively changed the way of assessing applications for partnership visa applications, resulting in a tsunami of rejections. 

The new Ministerial instruction would override that 10th May instruction. 

However, what defies common sense is that why October 31 was chosen as the cut-off date for considering reassessing of application rejected for want of living together, especially when the Ministerial intervention had itself come on November 13? 

A common-sense expectation would suggest that the window should be opened right till November 13 when the Minister actually changed the instruction, to give a fair chance to others facing the similar brunt of summary-rejections.  

Did the people whose partnership visa was not assessed accurately from October 31 till November 13 when the Minister had actually issued a new instruction not deserve similar respite as some others were deemed fit to get?

Was that decision based on any rational thinking or just another arbitrary exercise of discretion? 

Anyway, not many would have expected that INZ’s frontline officers will continue to decline partnership visas for want of “living together” in complete disregard of changes in policy instructions by Immigration Minister. 

At least Shipra’s Auckland based husband, Vaibhav, who has been keeping a close eye on the entire partnership visa issue woes, the Minister’s announcement and the newly released immigration fact sheet, was bewildered to receive the news of visa-decline just two days after the Minister had said to have “fixed” the issue. 

“I was really surprised to have received my wife’s just two days after Minister had issued new instructions,” Vaibhav told the Indian Weekender. 

“I was hoping that my wife’s visa will be assessed under new instructions around culturally arranged marriage visa,” Vaibhav said exasperatingly. 

Apparently, it seems that confusion still prevails within Immigration New Zealand on how best to engage with partnership visa applications emanating from its Mumbai-office, even days after the Minister has publically announced to have “fixed” the issue. 

The media office of Immigration New Zealand had been contacted for a comment seeking further clarification and still waiting for a response.

What does general notification on INZ website say?

The general notification on INZ's website on November 13 acknowledges that the department is currently busy in developing a new process following the Minister's announcement around Culturally arranged marriage visas. 

"We are developing a process for dealing with partners of New Zealand citizens or residents who may be affected by the change in processing guidelines," the notification says. 

"We will assess current applications that could be affected by this in line with the updated guidance once it is released," the notification further says. 

However, the decline meted out to Shipra's application suggests that INZ's juggernaut is refusing to stop despite Ministerial announcement and continues to churn out decline after decline. 

It seems that there is a lot more to be "fixed" within the Immigration system.