A same-sex couple who moved to New Zealand to raise children without judgement are worried about their future as officials procrastinate about what city they can live in.

Singaporean couple Christina Chua, 44, and Vivien Loh, 37, met while they were working as flight attendants with Singapore Airlines and visited Auckland to get married in 2014 - something they couldn't do in their own country.

They have visited New Zealand numerous times since then but last year decided to make the move for good.

"We chose NZ because it's the most accepting country of same-sex couples, and this is where we think we can raise a family without facing discrimination," Chua said.


Chua was granted a 12-month entrepreneur work visa on May 7 to move to Wellington and establish her successful information and communications technology (ICT) business in New Zealand.

But Chua, who had given birth to her baby two days before getting the visa, said she had been struggling to cope with managing her family and business since she moved.

Earlier this year she lodged a request to relocate her business to Hamilton, so she could be closer to family in Auckland.

However, she has yet to get an answer from INZ and her current visa will expire next Tuesday.

Christina Chua with her partner Vivien-Loh-Chua who left Singapore where same sex relationship is a criminal offence to start a family in NZ. / Dean Purcell

Moving cities is considered a variation from the business plan she submitted, upon which the visa was granted.

Chua said she can't understand why it's taking so long for INZ to consider her application.

The delay had created a lot of uncertainty and was incredibly stressful. The thought of the possibility of having to relocate permanently back to Singapore had also given her nightmares and sleepless nights.

In Singapore, same-sex relationships are not recognised by law, and same-sex sexual activity - even if consensual and committed in private - is illegal. This is unlike NZ, where LGBT people have the same rights as others.

Both Chua and her wife have given birth in New Zealand to a child each - conceived through IVF - and are legally recognised here as their parents. Back home, even the adoption of children by same-sex couples was against the law.

Her company in Singapore, FirstComm Pte Ltd, employs more than 100 staff and has an annual turnover of more than $5 million.

"I am an established entrepreneur and am very proud of myself being a female business woman with a decade of business experience track record, especially in a very challenging technology software market like Singapore," Chua said in a letter to INZ.

"However, I am still a mother who has just given birth to a baby ... the reason I came to NZ was for my kids to have family equality in a society with laws that accepts same-sex families."

Chua's parents-in-law, Henry and Tina Loh, have flown in regularly to help the couple with the care of their children since the birth of their second baby, who turns 1 this Sunday.

The family with Loh's parents, Henry and Tina Loh. Photo / Dean Purcell
The family with Loh's parents, Henry and Tina Loh. Photo / Dean Purcell

Massey University sociologist and immigration expert Professor Paul Spoonley said INZ should exercise flexibility in decisions under the scheme because business and personal conditions change.

"The entrepreneur work visa has quite explicit requirements with a clear focus on 'benefits to New Zealand', as long as those benefits and conditions are being met then the spirit and the letter of the visa is surely being achieved," he said.

"There must, and should be, some flexibility as both business and personal conditions change."

Spoonley said relocating from Wellington to Hamilton still offered the same number of residency points because they were both outside of Auckland.

Spoonley said studies he had undertaken on the entrepreneur work visa scheme had found very few successful candidates.

INZ Assistant General Manager Peter Elms said under the scheme, successful applicants were granted a 12-month initial visa for them to establish and run their business here.

They would then be granted a further 24-month visa, but must provide evidence that they had taken reasonable steps to establish their business in line with an agreed business plan.

Chua had applied for a subsequent 24-month visa on January 28, and Elms said further information had been requested from Chua on February 18 and March 6.

"Chua has requested to revise her originally agreed business plan, including changing the location of her business," Elms said.

"The request was still be considered ... and no decisions have been made."

The delays, he said, were because Chua's application involved a number of change requests by her, which slowed down the application process.

INZ accepted their same-sex marriage and it was not raised as a concern during the assessment.

Elms said that Chua would be granted an interim visa should a decision not be made before her current visa expired on May 7.