Man faces deportation
An Indian man who has worked as vineyard contractor in Marlborough is facing deportation after a four-year battle to stay in New Zealand with his wife and young children.
Prubhjit Singh, who has lived in Blenheim since 2002, may be deported after failing Immigration New Zealand's good character test. A provisional decision by the Ombudsman upheld Immigration NZ's decision to make him leave the country.
Mr Singh said his wife and their sons, aged 23 months and 3 months, were New Zealand citizens and it would be hard for her to look after the children without his help.
If he had to leave, he wanted to take his elder son with him to Punjab in India, where they would stay with his father, a retired army officer.
Mr Singh said he was still waiting for his son's passport to be processed.
Documents from Immigration New Zealand show Mr Singh has several run-ins with the department.
His student visa was revoked just months after he arrived in New Zealand in 2002 for not attending his approved course of study, a Bachelor of Information Technology at Wellington Institute of Technology.
In 2005 he was ordered out of the country and banned from returning for five years, although that was later overturned because of his wife's status as a New Zealand resident, and because they were operating a vineyard contracting business in Marlborough, where there was a labour shortage.
In October 2008 his visa application was denied because he was facing charges of aiding people to work in the country illegally.
Mr Singh lodged a complaint with the Office of the Ombudsman over visa denial in September 2009, and has continued to work illegally since then.
In 2010, he was found guilty on six charges of unlawfully aiding Indonesian ship jumpers to work in New Zealand. He said it was unfair that Immigration had denied his visa application in 2008 before he had the chance to go court.
"It is supposed to be innocent until proven guilty."
Immigration officials visited him over the years to check that employees of his vineyard labour contracting business were working in New Zealand legally, he said.
"They never said anything to me about my status. They let me run the business for four years, and never told me to stop. They knew I was over-staying."
It was unfair to remove him from the country before the Ombudsman had issued its final decision, Mr Singh said.
He received a letter from Immigration New Zealand in November last year saying he had until tomorrow to leave the country or he could be deported.
Immigration NZ fraud and compliance manager Peter Elms said Mr Singh had been unlawfully in New Zealand since his work visa expired in July 2008.
Mr Singh would have an opportunity to present any humanitarian circumstances he wishes to have considered during a interview with an official, he said.
Assistant Ombudsman Richard Fisher said Mr Singh could comment on the Ombudsman's provisional decision before the final decision was made.
"We will consider anything that he has to say." In her provisional decision, Chief Ombudsman Beverley Wakem said Immigration New Zealand had not acted unreasonably in denying Mr Singh's visa because of his previous immigration offences.
Originally from the city of Nashik in Maharashtra, India.
June 2002: Arrived in New Zealand on student visa and moved to Blenheim.
September 2002: Student visa revoked for not attending approved course of study.
November 2002: Claimed refugee status based on fear of attacks by Islamic fundamentalists.
December 2003: Refugee status dismissed for lack of evidence; appeals refugee decision.
January 2005: Appeal dismissed.
July 2005: Served with removal order by Immigration NZ and banned from the country for five years.
November 2005: Marries Indian woman in Blenheim; leaves New Zealand at own expense.
May 2006: Removal order cancelled and allowed back in the country. Reasons include his wife being NZ resident and they operate a vineyard contracting business in Marlborough, where labour is short. He is granted a visitor permit and a series of work permits.
June 2008: Immigration NZ fraud division issues alert that he could be arrested for encouraging eight Indonesian sailors to work here illegally.
July 2008: Work permit expires.
August 2008: He is arrested and charged with immigration offences.
October 2008: Application for work visa denied.
September 2009: Lodges a complaint with the Ombudsman over visa denial.
April 2010: Convicted on six immigration charges and sentenced to four months' community detention and 200 hours' community service.
August 2012: Singh Services Ltd, a vineyard contracting company of which Mr Singh was a director, was put into liquidation.
November 2012: Told to arrange to leave New Zealand by February 14, 2013, or he could be deported.
December 2012: Singh Services (NZ) Ltd, another vineyard contracting company of which Mr Singh was a director, was put into liquidation.
January 2013: Chief Ombudsman releases provisional decision finding that Immigration NZ had not acted unreasonably in denying work visa.
- The Marlborough Express