A man who was deported to India for overstaying his visa after fathering three children to a Kiwi wife has been invited to apply for an exception to the border restrictions to return to New Zealand.
Pawanpreet Singh, 24, first came to NZ on a student visa in March 2015, but his subsequent application for a student visa was declined and his stay became unlawful.
A year later, in November 2017, Singh was deported back to India when his wife, Saxoneyrose Malcolm-Bowring, 26, was heavily pregnant with their second child.
Malcolm-Bowring then moved to India with her children to be with him and they have been fighting to return as a family ever since. All three children are NZ citizens.
"I was almost eight and a half months pregnant when INZ officers came to our home arrested and took my husband from me and our 4-year-old daughter. They arrested him and took him right in front of her," she said.
Malcolm-Bowring said she tried everything to stop the deportation, but failed. She said her husband decided to overstay because he didn't want to leave his family.
"My husband missed the birth of our baby and I ended up having her early because I was so depressed which caused her to stop growing," she said.
"Having a baby is meant to be the happiest day of your life but for me it wasn't I was heartbroken, depressed, scared and alone."
After the birth Malcolm-Bowring was diagnosed with postnatal depression and said she suffered suicidal thoughts.
"When our baby was 6 weeks old, I flew to India with our two daughters so they could be with their father. I'm a Māori and I had to leave the only country I've known to fight to bring my husband home," she said.
"Our oldest daughter is now 7 and she has missed out on her first two years of school. If having three children together and me leaving my home country to be in India with my husband for almost three years isn't classed as a genuine relationship then I don't know what is."
The couple had their third child in India, who is now 2 and has not seen his New Zealand family.
Malcolm-Bowring said their lives have been on hold and they feel "mentally and emotionally pained and traumatised".
An INZ spokeswoman said Singh's application for a third student visa was declined in November 2016 because he was not able to provide sufficient evidence of funds, and he had not made satisfactory progress with his previous course.
"Under Immigration instructions, all student visa applicants must have enough money to support themselves during the time they live and study in New Zealand - namely at least $15,000 per year or $1250 [per month they will be in NZ] if the student will be undertaking a programme of study lasting less than 36 weeks," she said.
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She said the instructions were in place to ensure the students can support themselves and not end up in a vulnerable situation whether they become victims of exploitation.
Singh made two requests for a student visa while unlawfully here, but these also were declined.
"As a result, Mr Singh was deported in November 2017. Due to his deportation, he was subject to a two-year ban which prevented him from being granted any further visas to New Zealand," she said.
This ban period ended in November last year.
Singh submitted a partnership visa application in May 2019, which was allocated for processing after his ban period ended.
Further requests for information about their living together for 12 months or more was made last December, and this was received in February.
"Processing of this application was impacted by the closure of INZ offices during alert levels 4 and 3 and the current border restrictions," she said.
The agency was not currently processing any offshore applications.
"Mr Singh requested an exception to the border restrictions as a partner of a New Zealand citizen or resident. He has now been issued with an invitation to apply," she said.
However, Singh was required to repay costs associated with his deportation before another visa can be granted.
Malcolm-Bowring said they have repaid the deportation costs to their lawyer, but the lawyer did not pass the money on to Immigration NZ. She claimed the costs have now been repaid.