Iranian woman Mersedeh Shabanzadeh turns 33 today and had planned to celebrate her birthday with her husband in New Zealand.

Despite being granted a visitor visa, Shabanzadeh has been caught up in the border restrictions due to the coronavirus outbreak, and her visa is expiring on May 2.

In desperation, Shabanzadeh applied for an exception to policy, but her application was declined.

An Immigration New Zealand spokeswoman confirmed that her request - submitted on April 15 2020 - was unsuccessful as she did not meet the exceptions criteria.

Kasra Koulaeian has not seen his wife Mersedeh Shabanzadeh for two years. Photo / Supplied
Kasra Koulaeian has not seen his wife Mersedeh Shabanzadeh for two years. Photo / Supplied

Shabanzadeh is one of thousands of visa holders who are being impacted by the border restrictions.

"INZ's first priority is supporting the Covid-19 response," the spokeswoman said.

"We are aware that there are a range of issues impacting visa holders as a result of the border restrictions, including situations where visas may expire before the restrictions are relaxed, and INZ is currently working through these."

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Kasra Koulaeian married Shabanzadeh in October 2018 in Iran and she applied for a partnership visa after he returned to New Zealand in December that year.

"Without any contact from an immigration officer, her application was declined in July," Koulaeian said.

"She got depressed and so did I because of the effect this decision had on my life."

They were then told in an email from INZ after a few months that she could apply for a visitor visa.

"We applied again and we were thrilled when she was granted a visitor visa that was valid for nine months."


Shabanzadeh had planned to travel in March and be in New Zealand to celebrate her birthday with her husband in Auckland, but then the Covid-19 lockdown processes started. The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website

"Now her visa will expire on May 2, and I don't know what will happen next," Koulaeian said.

"I want to make her life better but now I feel I have ruined it. We promised never leave each other at our wedding ceremony but now we are separated. We promised to be together in happiness and sadness until out last breath but now we are far far from each other."

Koulaeian said he has not seen his wife for two years.

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The New Zealand border is currently closed to all but New Zealand citizens and residents.

"However, the New Zealand Government acknowledges that there may be extremely limited circumstances where it is appropriate for a person who is not exempt from the border restrictions to travel to New Zealand," the INZ spokeswoman said.

These exceptions are only for extreme circumstances where people have a critical purpose for travel to New Zealand, including essential workers, NZ-based partners and dependent children of a work or student visa holder who is in NZ and critical humanitarian travel.

The Government issued an epidemic management notice in March granting automatic extension until September 25, 2020, for about 85,000 temporary visa holders in New Zealand whose visa expiry falls between April 2 and July 9.

Those whose visa expired before April 2 and are unlawfully here are urged to contact INZ urgently and submit a Section 61 request to regain their lawful status.

For more information on visa status