High Court proceedings have been filed seeking judicial review of two recent decisions made by the Minister of Immigration on behalf of Professor Michael Witbrock.

The first decision is dated 23 June 2021 related to the continued suspension of the processing of offshore visa applications until 06 February 2022. The second, dated 07 July 2021, is the Minister’s decision to issue instructions to Immigration New Zealand to lapse or return, and refund offshore visas including applications made by partners of New Zealanders and migrants.

The grounds for the action are that the Minister failed to properly consider the obligations international conventions, which New Zealand ratified, placed on him when making these decisions as it continues to separate partners and families. The decisions made also result in discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex and sexual orientation as these social groups do not always permit partners to live together depending on which country they are based. Freedom from such discrimination is protected by the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.

The applicant is a Professor at University of Auckland in the science faculty. His husband applied for a visa to come to New Zealand to be reunited with the applicant in November 2019. Immigration New Zealand determined the couple are in a genuine and stable relationship, and were prepared to grant a visitor visa, but due to the suspension on issuing such visas he has not yet been granted a visa. A subsequent border exception request was declined by Immigration New Zealand. The couple have not seen each other in person since January 2020. The applicant’s partner is a citizen of China where he currently resides. There is no path provided by China which enables them to live together as a same-sex couple, and it would be significantly more difficult for them to do so than for a heterosexual couple, given the lower recognition of same-sex relationships in China compared with New Zealand. This case, however, is wider than just the applicant and his husband.

Tens of thousands of New Zealand citizen, resident and temporary visa holders have been separated from their offshore partners and children as a result of the suspension on the processing of offshore visas. As a result of the decision to lapse and return visa application, these families will face even greater delays to their reunification once the border reopens. We attach a copy of both our statements of claim filed in the High Court for further detail.