Millennium Post

A nasty change

Stricter visa norms by New Zealand have caused an adverse impact on Indian immigrants – unskilled workers bearing the brunt, discusses Arun Srivastava

A nasty change

It appears that Indians are no more wanted in New Zealand. Otherwise, there is no genuine reason to fundamentally change the parameters of the visa issuing rules.

In a swift move, the New Zealand government has changed the provision of Visa. Earlier, the Immigration New Zealand used to have one or two months wait time for a visa but now a minimum of 8-9 month is required for the same task. While the time frame has been increased, the INZ authorities adopted a tougher stance on the partnership visa category, insisting that applicants had lived together (live-in-partner) for being eligible.

It is wrong to assume that the government bureaucrats especially the visa-issuing officials should be unaware of the Indian cultural and marriage norms and ethos. The government or INZ officials may be "lawfully correct" in changing the provision for making it strictly align with the government policy, but they ought to not force Indians to change their cultural and social norms.

No denying the fact that with their insistence to prove they lived together, the INZ officials would be forcing them to resort to some illegality which would harm the interest of New Zealand more.

New Zealand has a reputation for offering a warmer welcome to immigrants. But the recent treatment meted out to Indians is really intriguing and discerning. Indians nurse the feeling that it was a kind of racist policy change. While a couple does not need to be married in order to be reunited on a partnership visa in New Zealand, partners must prove they have lived together for 12 months.

The situation has turned alarming. Indian New Zealand residents are suffering mental health issues and some are returning to India due to lengthy delays in partnership visa processing. High application volumes, coupled with the closure of offshore processing offices, have led to a massive backlog in the processing of partnership visa applications. Many of the applications have not been assigned to case officers for months.

Though Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has repeatedly expressed his displeasure at delays and also urged the officials to be judicious, the issue is not getting proper attention.

He said, "I have asked them to look at what is possible and to come back with options on how we can ensure that people who are in genuine, culturally arranged marriages have the opportunity to bring their partners to NZ".

After a delay in the issuance of visa to wives, some husbands have come back to NZ. Unfortunately, ironically in some cases, such wives had little support in India. They had to suffer humiliation. They are being taunted by people that their husbands no longer wanted them. This situation was badly affecting their mental health.

Migration is something not new for New Zealand. It has become a significant component of the world economy. Countries need these people to fill jobs that natives can't fill. If the migrants weren't happy and settled, they would go elsewhere, which was a huge loss for New Zealand. There is no denying that this development would risk the reputation of NZ in other countries.

Till a couple of months back, INZ had 8,408 temporary partnership applications on-hand across all offices – more than 3,000 of those were for partners of workers. The department was dealing with a further 6,419 partnership residence applications. Recently, in a signed petition, Indians suffering from this malaise had urged the immigration minister to resolve the partnership visa matter.

The change was incorporated in May when the cultural exemptions suddenly stopped, and those with did not meet the requirements were refused visas to New Zealand. The Indian community also took out a protest rally against the decision.

It was indeed shocking to hear a lawmaker from the minor party, New Zealand First, in October telling Indians that they should leave New Zealand if they did not like its immigration policies. For the Indian community, it was nothing but adding insult to injury.

The experts are apprehensive of a renewed push to tighten the character test for visa holders which could see a fivefold increase in the number of people facing deportation.

In another significant development, INZ has differentiated between skilled and unskilled workers in the matter of parents from India visiting their sons. Applicants will no longer have the option to apply based on their settlement funds or a guaranteed lifetime income. The income levels that sponsors need to meet has been increased. The current median income is NZD $53,040. From 2020, the sponsor will need to earn before tax: NZD $106,080 to sponsor 1 parent and NZD $159,120 to sponsor 2 parents. This obviously implied that parents of non-skilled workers getting lesser salary could not visit NZ.

Views expressed are strictly personal

Arun Srivastava

Arun Srivastava

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