A Napier man fears it could be up to two years before he will get to see his wife again.
Michael Nelson, who arrived in Hawke's Bay in August last year, was due to reunite with wife Rachel Manalo after she finished work in April.
Then Covid-19 hit and Manalo, a resident of the Philippines, was denied entry to the country by Immigration New Zealand because of restrictions on non-residents entering.
Nelson says he's one of hundreds, even thousands, affected by the same policy, and the inability to see the one he loves is taking its toll on him.
The couple, who tied the knot in the Philippines in 2015, met on board a P&O Cruises ship in 2011.
Nelson worked in the security department and Manalo worked in the youth staff department.
The plan was for Nelson to set up a home and get a job in Hawke's Bay before his wife emigrated after her contract ended.
But despite realising an impending crisis was coming, Manalo was left stranded aboard a cruise ship for a month, finally disembarking in Manila, Philippines, in May.
Nelson, who lives in Tamatea, fears travel restrictions in place in New Zealand could now stop him seeing his partner for years to come.
"When Covid hit the world, my wife was stuck at sea for a month," he said.
"She applied for an exemption at the end of July to get into New Zealand which was straight away denied.
"Rachael is my soulmate and my rock," he added.
"We're hearing our borders might not be opening fully until 2022 - that's two years away. I can't wait that long."
Nelson says Immigration New Zealand told him nobody could enter the country, even if it was compassionate grounds, and there was no ability to appeal.
An Immigration New Zealand spokeswoman said the bar for being granted was set high to help stop the spread of Covid-19 in New Zealand.
"As Manalo was not travelling with her New Zealand citizen partner, does not have a relationship visa and is not ordinarily a resident in New Zealand, she did not meet the criteria to be granted an exception and therefore her request was not successful," she said.
"All individual requests for an exception to the border restrictions are considered against the strict criteria as set out in immigration instructions."
Not satisfied with the outcome, Nelson approached MP Stuart Nash for an appointment to discuss the issue but was told he was "heavily booked out" because of the election campaign.
Nash told Hawke's Bay Today the current immigration restrictions were well known and in place to keep communities safe.
"I understand that some people are unhappy about the new restrictions, but everyone has to work within the rules," he said.
Nelson said a last-ditch bid to find a loophole with the Citizens Advice Bureau was also unsuccessful.
"I feel very disappointed and upset to the point of being depressed having been let down by the system," he said.
An Immigration New Zealand spokeswoman said exceptions might be granted where people have a critical purpose for travel to New Zealand, including critical health workers, Samoan and Tongan citizens making essential travel and critical humanitarian reasons.
Nelson said he would help Manalo apply again for an exemption in September.