The grieving New Zealand-based brother of a young father killed in Melbourne has missed his last chance to say goodbye because of Covid-linked travel restrictions.
Melbourne resident Bhupinder "Bobby" Singh was farewelled on Sunday by his wife and 3-year-old daughter. But his parents and older brother weren't able to see him one last time.
The 25-year-old was riding his motorbike home from work last Wednesday when he was hit by a truck in busy afternoon traffic.
His devastated brother, Indian national Harmohit Singh, tried desperately to get to Australia for his younger brother's funeral - but was halted by travel restrictions.
"Because I'm on a skilled migrant visa, there's no guarantee that I would be allowed back in New Zealand," he told the Herald.
"They [Immigration New Zealand] said I could apply for an exemption to come back to New Zealand once I'm in Australia, but everything is over here. If they say, 'You can't come', what will I do?
"I can't even touch my brother - he's gone."
Only New Zealand citizens and permanent residents are allowed into the country under current border restrictions.
Exemptions can be granted but in limited circumstances.
An Immigration NZ spokesman said there was no automatic right of re-entry for temporary work visa holders who leave the country while current border restrictions are in place.
"Prior to Covid-19 border restrictions, Mr Singh would have been able to depart New Zealand and return on a valid visa," he said.
"Mr Singh would be required to apply for and be granted an exception before being able to return to New Zealand. However, he is unable to do this while in New Zealand.
"Under current border settings, it is unlikely that a temporary work visa holder who has chosen to leave New Zealand would meet the high bar required to be granted an exception to re-enter the country."
Singh said the tragedy was heightened as his heartbroken parents in India couldn't travel to Australia to say goodbye because of travel restrictions between the two countries.
"My father got a visa for Australia, to attend the funeral - but he couldn't get a flight," Singh said.
They'd pinned all their hopes on him being at Bobby's funeral to see him one last time, Singh said.
"I'm really worried for my parents. There are no options for them to get there."
Speaking to the Herald Sun this week, Singh said: "My mum, at the moment, is in a very critical situation.
"She can't speak … My father, he broke on the inside as well."
Instead, the family had to spend the day of Bobby's funeral consoling each other on the phone.
"He was the backbone of our family," Singh told the Herald.
"He was very hardworking."
Singh, a Wellington pizza store manager who has lived and worked in New Zealand for the past five years, said he doesn't want anyone else to suffer what he has.
"I want an option where we can bring everyone together. FaceTime is not the same."
The Immigration spokesman said INZ has no ability to apply discretion when considering requests for border exceptions.
Exemption requests would have to meet strict criteria in order for a person to be allowed to come into New Zealand.
"While changes have recently been made to allow individuals such as temporary work visa holders to request a border exception under the 'normally resident' category, there are specific criteria that need to be met," he said.
"A key criterion is that an applicant must have departed New Zealand between 1 December 2019 and 9 October 2020, meaning Mr Singh would not be eligible for this exception."
According to the Australian Border Force website, New Zealand residents, regardless of their visa status, can travel to Australia only if they have a valid travel visa and have not visited a Covid hotspot.