More than half of all applications for exceptions received under “family of a New Zealand citizen/resident” category have been declined by Immigration New Zealand.

According to the data obtained by the Indian Weekender, Immigration NZ has confirmed to have declined a whopping 51.99 per cent, with another 6.41 per cent not being considered at all for processing – of all the applications received under the “family of an NZ citizen/resident” category.

Immigration NZ was responding to a query by the Indian Weekender around the total number of exceptions granted for the applications from non-visa-waiver countries for the partnership – related visas.

Immigration NZ could not provide the requested data as it does not collect such data in a reportable format for applications under “family of NZ citizen/resident category” based on visa-waiver, and non-visa waiver countries.

NZ borders continue to remain closed allowing only citizens and residents to travel without having to seek permission (although they are still required to book a Managed Isolation and Quarantine facility) – rest everyone else is required to seek an exception from border-closure.

The government has right from the very beginning of the border closure on March 19 asserted that the partners and close families of NZ citizens and residents would be allowed through the closed borders.

However, the manner in which that verbal assurance has been implemented on the ground, including how the policy has evolved in the last eight months have left many families divided and frustrated.

At the beginning of the countrywide lockdown in April, only those applicants were allowed who were travelling along with their Kiwi partners.

Initially, many anxious Kiwis had to travel overseas – in many cases in hot Covid zones – to return back with their non-Kiwi partners and spouses and overcome the immigration hurdle.

Subsequently, the government made few more announcements to ease some restrictions that were keeping families and partners of Kiwi citizens and residents, separated and divided.

It included allowing people on “relationship-based visas” to travel to NZ (without being escorted by Kiwi-partners) and allowing travel from Visa-waiver countries to join a Kiwi-partner in New Zealand. Later this was opened for non-visa-waiver countries (including India and wider South Asia).

However, this has not ameliorated the plight of separated partners and families as per the government’s stated intentions, and thousands of families remain locked out of closed borders, left behind to deal with the bureaucratic system.

In fact, multiple policy announcements, and selective allowance of individuals travelling with their Kiwi-partners into the country or - “fetch the partner” – as it is popularly referred on numerous social media groups – are leaving many families distraught.

Sean Thomas (name changed) travelled halfway to Dubai in mid-November to bring his wife Mary Thomas from India, who had travelled the other half of the leg from India.

The couple had booked in a hotel in Dubai while they awaited the result of their application with INZ for an exception to enter New Zealand.

So far, their application for an exception has been declined three times, and it has already been more than four weeks of wait for the couple in a foreign country with no immediate respite in sight.

In INZ’s data, Mary will be counted as one person seeking an exception under “family of NZ citizen/resident” category, regardless of the number of times she has filed a request for an exception. 

A spokesperson of the Immigration NZ told the Indian Weekender that till November 24, a whopping 21,206 people have applied for the exception under the family of NZ citizen/resident category – of which only 8,815 were approved.

Notably, 36.09 per cent of people making requests for border exceptions have done so under the ‘family of a New Zealand citizen or resident’ category.