Married but alone: Couple torn by immigration laws
A couple could be torn apart six months after their wedding day because officials say their love is a scam.
David and Amy Smith, from Feilding, Manawatu, married in February, but Amy faces deportation as they are not considered official partners under New Zealand law.
Originally from Hong Kong, Amy moved to New Zealand last year.
The couple bought a home together in December, but for Amy to gain a visa she must have lived with David for 12 months.
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Immigration New Zealand also believes Amy's diabetes will be a burden on the country's health system.
The visa struggles, including medical assessments and doctor visits, have cost the couple more than $7000.
She was granted an interim visa while awaiting a decision on a work visa. However, that has expired and a letter from senior immigration officer Kate Dower says she is now "unlawfully" in New Zealand and "liable for deportation".
In the letter, Dower says she was not satisfied the Smiths were living together in a "genuine" and "stable" partnership.
"Although you and your partner are married, own property together and appear to have incorporated each other into their wills, the information available does not satisfy us that your relationship is genuine."
Although Dower acknowledged the couple had joint property ownership, shared a residence and had financial interdependence, she said there was no evidence any purchases had been a joint decision.
Immigration NZ area manager Marcelle Foley said Smith needed to make the "appropriate arrangements" to leave the country. But, a deportation liability notice had not been served, she said.
The couple met on Facebook 18 months ago and Amy decided to move to New Zealand in December, with the hope of a better future.
She was tired of working 12-hour shifts seven days a week in a Hong Kong hospital and worked as a healthcare assistant in Feilding before her interim visa expired.
Although Amy is married to David, she has been turned down for a visa on two occasions.
David, who lost his first wife 14 years ago, said he didn't want to become a "Skype family" who resorted to internet video calls as their only mode of communication.
"We're as happy as a pig in a poke," David said. "When I saw her at the airport, she wrapped her arms around me, gave me the biggest hug and said 'I love you too'.
"[A friend] said to me 'you're the happiest I've seen you in 14 years. You're as high as a spark. You're alive again aren't you?'.
"And they want me to throw it away, send her back to Hong Kong. No, I don't think so."
After buying a home together, money was tight and they needed Amy to go back to work, David said.
"[Immigration NZ] won't accept we live together. They think Amy is here to sponge off the Government. We haven't spent a government dollar since she's been here.
"We're running out of money and we just need her to be able to legally go to work."
Amy said correspondence from Immigration NZ had been poor, which made it difficult to adhere to the visa application process.
"I want to stay with my husband and look after him. After I met him, I felt he's the best man for me. Now that we are staying together we are so happy.
"I want to be happy."
David said they were hoping to find a way for Amy to stay, but Dower said Immigration NZ could find no reason to grant a visa.