It is a statistical fact that Immigration New Zealand in India has been declining visa applications by partners of those in NZ on Work or Student Visas at a much higher rate than anywhere else in the world.  It reflects what many in the industry regard as a culture of bias against visa clients in the New Delhi and Mumbai branches with whatever means are to hand.  Some have even suggested jealousy and racism motivate the case officers to make harsh decisions.

Immigration has been using what is called the “bona fides test” to knock out the majority of partner visa applications.  The logic goes that someone whose wife or husband is in New Zealand will have no incentive to return to India if they get a temporary visa to come to NZ, and so could represent a “risk to the integrity of the Immigration system.”

Earlier this year I contributed to a submission about this prepared for the New Zealand Association for Migration and Investment by Doug Tennent, Law Lecturer at the University of Waikato.  It was directed to the Office of the Ombudsman, a watchdog department that investigates complaints against Government departments.

A key point which we made was that NZ visa policy explicitly allows partners of Student and Work Visa holders to apply for visas to be reunited in this country for the period of the NZ-based partner’s visa.  In fact, it was inserted as a particular incentive for people to come to study long-term in New Zealand, by dangling the expectation that they could bring their spouse or partner over once they got settled in.

Furthermore, Doug Tennent quoted Immigration’s own sources to state that:

Historical research confirms that some 75% of Chinese students, and over 90% of Indian students, who decide to study in New Zealand do so because of the opportunity to work and to pathway to permanent residence

Now, if someone is married and thinking of Residence in the future, naturally they will want to bring their wife or husband to join them.  And the policy is set up, on its face, to allow that to happen.

That is, Immigration and the export education sector have been inducing people over here to study and work, but the approach of the India visa offices amounts to a betrayal of those pleasant promises.  The big picture is not very pretty – New Zealand using deception to extract large sums of money from international students, only to enforce separation of families by applying policy in a mechanical and – some would say – cynical manner.

The Ombudsman caught the bad smell around the whole situation and took action.  Immigration has agreed to review the way in which such applications should be decided, and in light of that to reassess hundreds of partner visa applications which had been declined for “bona fides” reasons.  Despite their attempts to roll back the agreed course of action by stealth, both the Ombudsman and NZAMI have fought to keep Immigration management honest.

I do wonder, however, what it is that has infected the visa branches in Dubai and Mumbai.  Although a victory of sorts has been won, dealing with INZ India is still considered to be a nightmare by those of us in the industry.  The callousness and mechanistic use of policy to thwart applications is not going to stop unless the culture of those branches is swept clean.  I have seen good managers go in and be warped to the thinking of their staff.

Most of the staff are from India themselves.  One has to wonder why they feel the need to be so vicious to their own people.

Perhaps Immigration just needs to pull the plug and move all India visa processing to another country.  A lot of people would breathe a sigh of relief if that happened, but don’t hold your breath.