Celebrating our achievements is something we don’t do enough of so firstly I want to say congratulations! Indian Newslink has provided information and commentary on our community and economy for a good 20 years and it’s time to celebrate it.
Please accept my best wishes for celebrations.
Over that time, our community has changed and we have become more and more multicultural as we welcome communities and families as visiting relatives, temporary workers, and residents.
We are not alone in our increasingly multicultural community.
It is something of a global phenomenon. Today there are over 272 million people in the world who were not born in the country they now reside in. That is a reason to celebrate the diverse and interesting world in which we live.
In New Zealand, we support a state-led approach to migration that upholds the human rights and wellbeing of migrants and their families and that promotes inclusive economic growth and sustainable development.
We value and respect our migrant communities. You make a huge contribution to our communities and our economy. Even more important to us is to continue to build an inclusive and tolerant society, this is an essential part of our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s focus on improving the wellbeing of our communities.
One of the areas we are working hard to improve is immigration policy and practise. You will be aware that there have been a number of areas where we need to do better.
Clarifying Partnership Visas
Like you I am concerned about the results of Immigration New Zealand’s recent clarification of processes around partnership visas and treatment of culturally arranged marriage. While it is being sorted out now, there is still a lot of work to do to clarify this to communities, but also to work with communities more, especially for Immigration New Zealand (INZ) to build understanding of the issues facing migrant communities.
I have also been ensuring Immigration New Zealand is fully focussed on bringing visa processing times down.
In 2017 under the previous National Government, INZ decided to close a number of offices and lay off experienced visa processing staff.
Back then, demand was forecast to grow around 4%. This was less than half of actual growth which has been between 7% and 8% year on year since then.
There were 40,000 more applications than expected in 2018-2019.
Rising volumes and staff
In the last year, there were over 1 million visa applications.
Volumes for all visas are increasing. People want to come to New Zealand because the economy is doing well, unemployment is low and we have a great Prime Minister in Jacinda Ardern.
This Government has supported INZ and invested significantly in visa processing to reverse these changes. 177 additional staff have been employed and a number of offices that were going to close, are being kept open (Henderson and Manila).
This is starting to make a difference but as I say, there is more to be done.
In all our work in immigration, from global cooperation on migration, to the prevention of people trafficking and the support for refugees, we must bring our humanity.
We like to think we are in a modern and tolerant world, but we forget quite how much work it takes to keep it that way. But what better work to do than to protect our humanity and build a global culture where everyone is valued.
I would like to finish on another comment from our Prime Minister: “Every choice someone makes to learn about another culture, to experience the simple act of trying out a different food, seeing a different form of dance, hearing a different language, that is a choice, to open yourselves up to another culture, ethnicity and to diversity.”
The benefits of being tolerant and inclusive are enormous, both culturally and economically, so we need to continue to make the right choices, and continue to contribute to a modern New Zealand that is inclusive and tolerant and welcoming.
That’s a New Zealand we can all be proud of.
Iain Lees-Galloway is Immigration and Workplace Relations & Safety Minister.
Government creates Culturally Arranged Visitor Visa
The government has set up a new category called ‘Culturally Arranged Visitor Visa’ to cater to people who subscribe to arranged marriages conducted overseas.
An additional complement of 177 staff have been recruited since June this year to help with visa processing and reduce delays.
Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway told Indian Newslink that the new Category has come into effect.
We understand that it would specifically benefit people from India, since according to community leaders, a majority of them get married as per the desire of their parents and elders.
“There were issues with the process used by Immigration New Zealand (INZ) to issue visas for culturally arranged marriages. It was inconsistently applied,” Mr Lees-Galloway said.
“Although the procedure to grant visitor visas to new brides (or grooms) already exists, the new category will specifically address the needs of people who get married offshore. INZ is working with the communities to understand their culture and practice better and take appropriate decisions,” he said.
Mr Lees-Galloway said that the government is now ensuring that people in a culturally arranged marriage can visit their spouses here subject to usual risk management processes.
“I will make a small change to instructions to allow INZ to provide culturally arranged marriage visitor visas to partners of New Zealand residents and citizens as the policy originally intended. This removes the need for work arounds, and maintains the ability to appropriately accommodate the cultural dimension around arranged marriages and have robust clear processes,” he said.
Checks and risk management
INZ will insist on hard evidence of the arranged marriages and scrutinise applications thoroughly. The evaluation of applications will be more stringent in cases where one or both spouses are less than 20 years of age.
“Marriage alone will not be sufficient evidence for immigration purposes and the applicants will be required to provide a range of documents to prove that their relationship meets our requirements In New Zealand, people aged 16 or 17 need consent from a Family Court Judge before they can marry,” Mr Lees-Galloway said.
These may include as appropriate (1) Marriage Certificate if married; Civil Union Certificate, if in a civil union (2) proof of shared residence (such as joint mortgage, tenancy agreements, or rent book (3) financial dependence or interdependence, proof of shared income or bank accounts, or accounts that show money transfers to or from the applicant and their partner; birth certificates of any children (4) any documents showing public or family recognition of the relationship correspondence including postmarked envelopes to the applicant and their partner at the same address (5) photographs of the applicant and their partner together (6) evidence of the duration of the relationship (7) the degree of commitment to a shared life (8) evidence of communication between the applicant and their partner- this may include cards, letters, emails and social media conversations (9) tickets from shared travel/activities (10) divorce documents from previous relationship(s) (11) evidence the couple own assets together and (12) joint utilities accounts.
Indian Newslink has handled a large number of cases which include young brides facing extortion by their in-laws, ill-treatment by their husbands and other forms of abuse.
There have also been cases of fake documentation to gain resident status and in a few instances, the groom is already married with wife and children in New Zealand.
Reassessing declined cases
Our Guests of Honour at the Twelfth Annual Indian Newslink Indian Business Awards Presentation Ceremony held on November 25, 2019 at SkyCity Convention Centre (from left) Vijay Singh, Jenny Salesa, Iain Lees-Galloway, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Grant Robertson, Simon Bridges, Muktesh Pardeshi, Paul Goldsmith and Michael Wood. (Picture by Narendra Bedekar)