Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has assured the Indian Weekender to look into the issue of bias against Indian marriages within immigration policy after the issue was raised directly with her in an exclusive interview on Wednesday, October 7. 

Unsurprisingly, Prime Minister was caught unaware of any such impending issue where relationships of NZ citizens and residents with overseas-based individuals based on traditional Indian marriages were disadvantaged again after the Covid related border closure came into effect.

It is important to note that Prime Minister Ardern had been absolutely clear in all her public announcments, right from the very begining of the announcement on march 19, when she announced border closures that the partners and children of NZ citiznes and residents will be allowed to return NZ. (See RNZ story here

Expectedly, Prime Minister came to the quick defence of her government and the Immigration New Zealand about the existence of any institutionalised bias against Indian marriages within immigration policy, especially after she and her former immigration Minister had intervened late last year and were confident that the issue had been fixed. She also pushed back the interviewer’s suggestion that there was an institutionalised bias within immigration policy towards partnerships formed based on Indian marriages.

However, on being politely rebutted that there are hundreds of such cases, many of them have been regularly reported by the Indian Weekender where overseas-based partners who have earlier been granted a visa by INZ on the basis of their relationship with NZ citizens and residents, were not being given an exception to enter the border, PM invited the Indian Weekender to follow up directly with her office.

To be fair to the Prime Minister - it was a discomforting charge to be brought live in an interview - on her government which takes so much pride in the politics of kindness and compassion, especially after many recent announcements that allowed entry of many her government has progressively offered relief to partnership visa holders stuck overseas by granting them an exception to return NZ despite our borders being closed for everyone except to citizens and residents. 

To be precise, Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi had made the latest announcement on allowing partnership visa holders of non-visa-waiver countries (including countries like India and others) to enter NZ - in an exclusive interview with the Indian Weekender on September 14, which had initially brought relief in many couples experiencing forced separation because of the border closure.

However, that initial excitement had quickly dissipated into anxiety and frustration the very next day when INZ had issued an internal letter to all immigration lawyers and advisers on how they wished to implement the latest announcement by the Immigration Minister, once again pointing towards the disconnect between the government and the INZ.

The Indian Weekender was quick enough to note the disconnect between the government and the INZ and how partnerships based on Indian marriages were going to fall through the cracks and have been persistently raising the voice of this voiceless community, whose spousal relationships were recognised by INZ and granted a visa to enter NZ before Covid, but not given exception to enter NZ.

Why govt remains blinded about this important issue?

The interview with Prime Minister had confirmed the worst fear that there has not been any active lobbying by the MPs, including the only Kiwi-Indian MP in the government, despite stranded couples attempting to reach out to them through emails and social media, and sharing their plight of forced separation, even when INZ had acknowledged their spousal relationship and issued a visa to enter NZ.

Priyanca Radhakrishan is the only Kiwi-Indian MP in Labour Party and Private Secretary to the Minister of  Ethnic Communities Jenny Salesa

Alpa Desai – an NZ citizen is still experiencing forced separation from her spouse Kuldeep who was granted a visa to enter NZ on the basis of their conjugal relationship in February 2020 –even after successive announcements by the government allowing people on different relationship based visas, to enter NZ and join their families.

Surinder Kumar - an NZ permanent resident - who married Divya Shree last year October, and was issued a visa based on their conjugal relationship is still separated, despite having flown back to India to pick his partner as then required by INZ, to facilitate their entry into NZ.

The story of Ankit and Surabhi is even more bizarre as the wife Surabhi was granted a visa to enter NZ on the basis of her marriage with Ankit (NZ resident) and she had arrived in NZ in February this year. It was only when she had to return in emergency to visit her ailing father when she was locked out of the border as INZ refused to grant her an exception to enter NZ

The list of such unfortunate and voiceless couples is long as they struggle to understand the inherent contradiction between Immigration NZ and the government.

What adds insult to injury is the fact that there has not been an acknowledgement and lobbying for their cause, and they have been left to fall through the cracks, just because a previously siloed bias against Indian-marriages within immigration system has flared up again because of Covid, and the government has remained too distracted.

The Indian Weekender will continue to report the plight of people facing separation because of closed borders and more importantly to address the long prevailing bias within immigration policy for partnerships based on Indian marriages with support of the community and all industry stakeholders.

See Indian Weekender’s coverage on this issue below.

Indian partnership related visas come under fire again as immigration NZ refuses to give border exceptions 

After delayed partnership visa processing, the Covid related border closure keeps overseas partners away

Are Indian Marriages set to be disadvantaged again from relaxation on partnership visa applications?

How partnership visa applications based on Indian marriages can again fall through the cracks

Not a single visa decided under new culturally arranged marriage visa category in four months before border closure

Immigration NZ does not have data on the number of “General Visitor Visas based on relationship” issued