An Auckland woman, who has been fighting for years to get her husband here from India, says she is being forced to make a "heartbreaking choice" of husband or children because of New Zealand's border policy.
Saffia Khan, 50, a New Zealander originally from South Africa, married Mahmmad Farook, 35, in 2017, and had unsuccessfully applied for a partnership visa in 2016.
After being apart for more than two years, she has again failed to get a border exception for Farook to come as a visitor.
"I love New Zealand but NZ doesn't love me, and it's making it complicated for my husband to even visit me," Khan said.
"NZ talks of aroha, but where is the aroha when husbands and wives are forced to be apart from each other."
Khan said she and Farook have been in a relationship since 2013, but Farook has not been able to get a partnership visa or even a visitor visa to come here.
In 2017, Khan returned to India again to have their cultural wedding and lived with her husband for two years in order to meet INZ's partnership visa requirements.
"When I returned to NZ in May 2019, I had to find my feet all over again," Khan said.
She approached an immigration lawyer to help with the application of a partnership visa again for Farook, but was told that it would fail as the power bill on their rental property in India was not in their names but the landlord's.
"The landlord told us in the India system the power and water bill is in the landlord's name only and not the tenant," she said.
"So just based on the power bill, one document, we could not apply for the partnership visa."
Khan said she recently applied for a border exception request for her husband to come as a visitor, but that too was declined.
"Based on my poor health condition I can't be in India when Covid is out of control there," she said.
"Now the cultural marriage category has been opened we were culturally married too and lived together for two years in India now I'm told we don't qualify under that category."
Khan, a teacher, said when she left for India, she lost her job, had to sell her assets and was forced to be apart from her daughter, 26 and son, 23, both from a previous marriage.
"I had to let go of two cars and my household furniture. It's massive losses not to mention the expense of airfare and settling down in another country," she said.
"My son has mental health issues but I'm forced to leave him and whenever I return I find his mental and physical health has deteriorated so badly to an extent where he can't even get a job."
Khan felt she was being deprived of a "basic human right" to be living with her husband and children as a family.
"I also lead a very lonesome life in New Zealand I don't have the joy to go out, it hurts me so badly looking at other happy couples."
Farook is experienced in plumbing, electrical work and construction and Khan said he would be an asset to New Zealand.
"I'm at a no-win situation when I'm with my husband, I miss my children dearly and when I'm with my children I'm desperately missing my husband," Khan said.
"God forbid if I die one of them will sadly not be around to see my face or vice versa should I lose any one of them."
Nicola Hogg, general manager border and visa operations, said INZ had sympathy for the difficult situation Khan and her husband find themselves in.
"INZ considers partnership visa applications very carefully. An immigration officer needs to be satisfied that the applicant meets immigration instructions and the relationship is credible, genuine and stable, and likely to endure," she said.
"Marriage documents alone are not sufficient evidence ... it is the responsibility of the applicant to satisfy the immigration officer that the requirements of immigration instructions have been met.
Khan is a New Zealand permanent resident, Hogg said, and Farook applied for a partnership visa in July 2016 on the basis of his relationship with her.
"The application was declined as Mahmmad did not submit sufficient evidence to demonstrate that both he and Saffia had lived together for any amount of time at the point he applied for the partnership visa," Hogg said.
"INZ has not received any subsequent partnership visa application."
She said border restrictions are in place to protect New Zealand during the global pandemic.
"These restrictions mean that most people, apart from New Zealand citizens and residents, and their partners and dependents who meet eligibility criteria, are not able to travel to New Zealand," Hogg said.
"Exceptions to these border restrictions are available to people who meet certain criteria - for example, people deemed to be critical workers or people who have a humanitarian reason for needing to travel to New Zealand."
Farook submitted a request for a border exception on June 5 this year but the request did not appear to meet the criteria, Hogg said.
"Mahmmad was not invited to apply for a visa as based on the limited information provided, he did not appear to meet the requirements for a critical purpose to travel to New Zealand," she said.
INZ has not received any application from Mahmmad under the Culturally Arranged Marriage visa category.