Kiwi-Indian temporary migrant Sanjay Sojitra (30) is frustrated with two years of forced separation with his newly wed wife Jalpa Savliya, who continues to live overseas in the absence of any legal visa avenue to join her husband in New Zealand.

Immigration NZ is not processing any visas from overseas till August 2022 except for those who have a “critical purpose” to enter NZ, which although includes partnership visas, Anita’s application as a partner of an individual living in NZ will not qualify under the current restrictive definition of partnership visas.

Technically most of the relationships based on Indian marriages where the individual has to travel overseas from NZ to get married and return to continue with their work and lives while they wait for their spouse to arrive in the country do not qualify under the current restrictive definition of partnership visas.

This leaves the likes of Sojitra, who continue to hold temporary visas, despite being in NZ for almost five years or more, separated with their partners and spouses.

This is despite a few decisions taken by this government in the last four years to provide a temporary fix to a problem that has flared up since early 2019 and refuses to subside in perpetuity, leading a lot of people and immigration experts to conclude that there is a bias within immigration rules against the relationships based on the Indian marriages.

The perceived bias against traditional Indian marriages for immigration purposes continues to be chronically misunderstood and lacks political ownership from any major political parties despite the issue affecting a large section of the Kiwi-Indian community.

It would be interesting to see if there would be any concerted effort in 2022 to systematically address this perceived or real bias within the immigration rules that disadvantage relationships based on Indian marriages quite disproportionately.

If you are an Indian-origin person living in NZ and have chosen to marry someone from your own culture overseas, the chances are that you would be required to go through a long and frustrating engagement with the Immigration NZ to eventually bring them home to start living with you.

This is simply because the current partnership visa rules are outdated, obsolete and one size fit all approach, which only reflects the relationship definition in Anglo-European (Pakeha) culture.

The immigration rules for partnership visas only accept a couple as living in a conjugal relationship if they both have lived together for some considerable length of time. Essentially meaning that they have demonstrated enough commitment that they both intend to create a life together.

Unfortunately, this rule does not take into consideration the fact widely prevalent in the Indian and many other cultures of the orient, where two individuals do come together after a ritual ceremony with an intent to create a life together. Living together is a subsequent result and not a necessary pre-requirement for being solemnised and socially accepted as a couple living in a conjugal relationship in such cultures.

This simple fact remains not acceptable to the Immigration bureaucracy, purely because they continue to operate under a legislative regime (law) that was formalised several decades ago and continues to remain unrepresentative of the vastly different multicultural Kiwi society of today.

There has not been any concerted community and political action to bring a legislative change, to permanently remove the disadvantage experienced by Indian-origin people in bringing their overseas-based partners and spouses.

Two years of the global pandemic has further exacerbated this situation with closed NZ borders and extremely restricted entry opportunities available, and erosion of unfettered travel opportunities.

Sanjay has travelled to India to solemnise his marriage with Jalpa, who is a trained pharmacist in February 2020.

Sharing his frustration of separation and complete absence of clarity on when his wife will eventually be able to get visa-avenues to request entry into NZ, Sanjay said, “I understand we are going through Covid pandemic and have already waited for two years.”

“How much more I am expected to wait and remain separated from my wife.

“Living together with your partner is a basic human right, and my understanding is that it should not be unreasonably extended without any clarity.

“I have been in NZ on student, post-study and essential skills work visa [working as ICT support Engineer] for almost five years and am committed to living permanently for a long term.

“After living for five years, I should not be presented with stark choices of either leaving the country to bring my wife and in the process permanently lose my NZ visa and the opportunity to enter back into the country or just accept this forced separation as my fate,” Sanjay said frustratingly.

“The government has taken many steps for reuniting families of citizens, but now two years after the pandemic, it is important that it should consider about reuniting families of temporary migrants living in NZ,” Sanjay said.