Immigration New Zealand to reassess 'hundreds' of partnership visas

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) is to reassess hundreds of Family Stream visa applications after an investigation into the criteria used by staff to make their decisions.

Doubts about the correctness of the decisions first began to arise in 2013 after 14 people whose applications for visas had been rejected complained to the New Zealand Immigration Ombudsman. The 14 decisions were all made by staff at INZ offices in Mumbai and New Delhi.

The Immigration Ombudsman then contacted INZ on behalf of the fourteen complainants. After an investigation, INZ accepted that the decisions to refuse the visas were taken on incorrect criteria.

Nearly 500 applications may have been 'wrongly refused'

A further investigation at INZ's Indian offices revealed that a further 60 applications may have been wrongly refused. INZ then expanded its investigation to other offices. It now believes that a further 459 applications may have been incorrectly refused since July 2011.

The applications were for Partnership-based Temporary Visas granted under the family stream. Where a foreign national has a visa allowing them to reside in New Zealand, such as a student visa for example, their partner may apply for a temporary visa to accompany them. Some partners are allowed to work while in New Zealand.

The New Zealand Herald reports that one applicant for a partnership-based visa, Naresh Kumar, applied to join his wife Manisha Bhatia in Hamilton where she was studying a graduate diploma in sport and exercise science. Mr Kumar was refused a visa on the basis that his relationship was not genuine.

Lived together for six months

INZ refused to change its decision even when Ms Bhatia provided evidence that the couple had lived together for six months after being married in 2011.

INZ has written to Ms Bhatia telling her she is eligible for reassessment but saying that her case will not be reopened because she has made a fresh application for a partnership visa.

Ms Bhatia and Mr Kumar say that they will now attempt to reclaim the fees for the first two applications which were wasted.

Reassessment process has begun

Michael Carley, an area manager for INZ told journalists '"A dedicated team of immigration officers not involved in any previous decisions relating to the cases has begun the reassessment process. INZ would like to apologise for this error and wants to reassure affected customers that their applications will be reassessed as a matter of priority by dedicated specialists in our Indian offices.

'Extra staff training has taken place in India following this case. We place huge importance on our customer service and we are confident that these changes will result in a big improvement'.

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