Many onshore temporary migrants who remain separated from their overseas-based partners even after living in the country for years are miffed with the government’s invitation to the families of potential new work visa applicants.

The Minister of Immigration Michael Wood recently announced the opening of the Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) on Monday, July 4, and simultaneously extended the invite for partners and dependents of the new work visa applicants.

“Opening visa applications for partners and dependents of workers who are applying for work visas will make it easier for migrant workers to bring their families with them to New Zealand, making us an attractive place to live and work,” Minister Wood said.

This announcement has left many temporary migrant workers currently onshore and experiencing forced separation from their overseas-based partners because of the Covid-related border closure and the bizarre emphasis on the “living together” requirement for the partnership visa under NZ immigration rules frustrated.

Meherzad D Patel, a 29-year-old Chef who has been living in the country for the last six years and has been married for nearly three years (November 2019) is irked that his wife’s partnership visa has been recently declined while the government is luring potential new work visa applicants to bring their families along in the country.

The letter from the immigration officer addressed to Meherzad’s overseas-based partner Mahafrin Buhariwala said, “In your case, we note that you stated that you first met your partner in 2014. In 2016 your supporting partner moved to New Zealand. You got married on November 28, 2019, and spent around two months together before your supporting partner returned to New Zealand.”

“You do not meet the living together requirements to be granted a partnership visa.”

Speaking with the Indian Weekender, Meherzad said, “This is very frustrating outcome of our application after more than two years of patient wait for border reopening and restart of visa processing for the families of temporary migrants.”

Meherzad is currently on a work-to-residence visa as a professional chef after having first arrived in the country in 2016 as an international student studying a hospitality course and has gone back to India to get married in November 2019.

Subsequently, they filed for his wife’s partnership visa in February 2020, which had to be suspended due to Covid inflicted border closure in March 2020 and was only recently reopened for processing, raising the expectation of a couple of eventual reunion only to be dismayed.

“It is really frustrating to see that the government is ready to roll out a welcome to the new work visa applicants to bring their families, while the temporary migrant workers like me who have experienced the biggest impact of the government’s Covid response border closure are being left out in lurch,” Meherzad said.

Onshore temporary migrant workers have experienced the biggest brunt of forced separation with their respective partners due to border closure as they largely remained outside of the ambit of the government’s highly restrictive approval for the partnership-based visas allowing only citizens and residents to bring their overseas families.

To make it worse, a large chunk of the Kiwi-Indians and ethnic minority migrants who did not meet the “living together” requirement under NZ’s immigration rules because of the cultural inappropriateness of living together before actual marital knots are tied in the ritualistic ceremony have struggled to be united with their overseas-based partners in the last two years.

While many citizens and residents, who could otherwise reenter New Zealand’s closed borders, had resigned from their jobs and left the country to live with their overseas partners for many months, only to fulfil the immigration rules of “living together” for partnership visa, were able to bring their partners in the country during the last two years.

Temporary migrant workers in the country did not have any such luxury for the last two years of border closure as they were not eligible to reenter the country if they left shores during the closed border regime. They were expecting that the government would offer some relief and pathways for them to bring their overseas-based spouses in priority.

It seems that even when the partnership visa processing has restarted for their overseas partners, they still are unable to meet the “living together” requirement under current partnership visa rules.