A mother of four New Zealand citizen children says it is emotionally distressing to not know whether she can be around to see her children grow up in New Zealand.
Sharon Choo, 40, originally from Malaysia, is married to a New Zealander Barry Eade, 56, and has four children aged between 5 and 12.
Although the children are all New Zealand citizens, Choo has been denied a residence visa because Eade had previously sponsored two other foreign partners.
Since moving here four years ago, Choo said it has been “unsettling” and a “daily torture” not knowing if she can be with her children and watch them grow up.
Nichola Hogg, Immigration NZ’s general manager border and visa operations, said INZ received a residence visa application for Choo under the partnership category in February 2021.
A decision was made in July last year to decline the application as she did not meet the requirements to be granted a residence visa.
“Ms Choo’s partner, Barry Eade, has previously supported two successful residence visa applications under the partner category and is therefore unable to support Ms Choo’s application,” Hogg said.
“INZ’s role as a regulator is to assess visa applications against the relevant immigation requirements and we have no ability to apply discretion when considering residence applications.”
Hogg said under current immigration instructions, for a New Zealand partner to be eligible to support a partnership residence visa application, they must not have acted as a partner in more than one previous successful residence class application.
Adding to the sense of uncertainty, at one point Choo was put on an interim visa while waiting for the result of her application.
Hogg said interim visas were granted in situations where an applicant’s current visa was due to expire before a decision was made on their new visa application.
“In Ms Choo’s case, she was granted an interim visa while she waited the outcome of her work visa under the partnership category,” she said.
“We can confirm that although her residence visa was declined, Ms Choo still holds a valid work visa and is able to remain in NZ for the duration of her visa.”
Hogg added: “We empathise with the difficult situation Ms Choo and her family find themselves in.”
Choo’s current partnership work visa expires in October next year.
Choo met Eade in Malaysia in 2008 where he was working as a boat builder.
Eade sad he felt a connection with her even though she couldn’t speak English well and wasn’t confident with the language.
“From the first time we met, Sharon left quite a lasting impression, and then we started to meet for meals almost every day, most of which lasted until after midnight,” he said.
After being together for a few months, he asked Choo to move in with him and she agreed.
It was during a trip to Thailand to deliver a boat for a regatta that Choo became pregnant, and they had their first son, Sebastian.
“Having our first son was a new experience and a new challenge for our future together,” Eade said.
“We made the decision to get married, and had a large family ceremony that followed the Chinese tradition back in Alor Setar, Malaysia.”
They had their second son Alexander in 2015, Nicholas in 2017 and then their youngest Riccardo in 2018.
“One of the main reasons we decided to come back to New Zealand was for our kids and their schooling,” Eade said.
In Malaysia, Eade said Sebastian had been attending a Chinese school in Malaysia.
“The schooling was very forceful when it came to learning. School starts at 7.30am to 1.30pm, and the afternoon is littered with different tuitions,” he said
“When he arrived back home late in the evening he would still have homework to do, and this meant he would finish at 9pm on average. Crazy stuff.”
However, since moving to Auckland and attending Silverdale Primary, Eade said Sebastian has shown more interest to learn and also has time “to be a kid”.
“You can see happiness in his face,” Eade said.
Eade said the entire family had adjusted and were now “well immersed” in New Zealand life.
“This is where I was born, this is where I want to see my children grow up, but I feel it is unfair that INZ has this rule that I cannot support the mother of my children for residency,” he said.
“Going back to Malaysia is not an option, neither is having my children grow up without their mother.”
Eade said he had two failed relationships with foreign partners, one was a British national in 1992 and another Malaysian woman in 2003.
“As with life and love, sometimes things don’t turn out as planned, but it is not something that families should be punished for,” he said.
“The criteria should be whether a relationship is genuine, and ours one hundred per cent is, rather than how many times someone had failed in relationships.”
Eade, however, said he did not believe he was a residency sponsor for his first wife and is in the process of seeking legal advice over that.
Choo, who now works as a cleaner, says her family and children meant everything to her.
Their third son also has mild autism, and will not get the same support in Malaysia as he does here.
“Life is a lot harder for me here in New Zealand when compared to Malaysia, but I think it is better for my children to be here, so it is worth the sacrifice,” she said.
“They really mean the world to me and I cannot imagine being without them even for a day.
“In my heart, New Zealand is home, but in my head, it is such a torture every day and so unsettling not knowing if I will be able to remain with them.”