Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.

She's 59, he's 22 and fighting to stay in NZ

Glyn Kessell and Balwinder Singh married three months after meeting. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Glyn Kessell and Balwinder Singh married three months after meeting. Photo / Brett Phibbs

A couple's age gap of nearly 40 years is being cited as one of the reasons Immigration New Zealand declined an Indian man's visa application - a move he says is "ageist".

Balwinder Singh, 22, met New Zealander Glyn Kessell, 59, at a hair salon in Glenfield last year.

The relationship started with texts, progressed to "intimacy" within three weeks and then marriage two months later.

Mr Singh said he was "madly, passionately in love" with his wife and the relationship had "hit off right from the start".

But officials do not believe the partnership is genuine and stable.

Mr Singh, who came here as an international student, applied for a work visa under the partnership category after his marriage, but this was declined.

"We have noted that you and your partner have a significant age gap," Immigration NZ wrote to Mr Singh, "and noting the religious and cultural differences between you and your partner, we are not convinced that you and your partner have demonstrated that this relationship is likely to endure."

It said the onus was on Mr Singh, a former Vodafone business specialist, and his partner to prove their partnership was genuine.

Mr Singh attacked the decision as "ageist and racist".

"I could have gone with any younger Kiwi girls, but I chose my wife because I loved her ... Age is just a number. It is also wrong to question the cultural difference, because if I wanted to be fully Indian, I would have remained in India."

Mrs Kessell-Singh, a former human resources manager, was asked in an Immigration interview how she felt about being older than her in-laws, who are 46 and 45. "I don't give a stuff ... I am 21 in my mind. It's not about the age, it's about who you like. Age is not relevant."

Mrs Kessell-Singh, who has a 37-year-old son, also denied Mr Singh had entered into the relationship to obtain residency.

Immigration NZ area manager Michael Carley denied the decision was ageist or racist. It was made "after an extremely detailed and thorough assessment, which included visiting Mr Singh and his wife at their home and interviewing them both".

"The couple got married after an uncommonly short three-month courtship. It was noted during a visit to the couple's home that their living arrangement appeared to be akin to a boarding situation."

The application was assessed twice by different officers, and the service had concerns about the couple's differing future expectations.

The couple's immigration adviser, Tuariki Delamere, has filed a complaint against the officers for discriminating over age, culture and religion in their decisions.

He said Mr Singh could take the matter to the Immigration and Protection Tribunal should his appeal to Immigration NZ fail.

He might be deported if the tribunal decided against him.

- NZ Herald

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