'Penalised for doing the right thing' - man cries foul over fiancee's visa rejection
A North Canterbury man faces having to leave his terminally ill father to be with his fiancee after her application to stay in the country was declined.
Kirk Robertson, known as Seamus, says he feels "penalised for doing the right thing" after he and his Vietnamese fiancee, Pham Thu Thuong Nguyen, came to New Zealand last December after the death of his mother.
The couple, who started a relationship in 2016 after meeting in Vietnam the year before, moved to the small town of Eyrewell, northwest of Christchurch, so Robertson could look after his 77-year-old father and take over the family business.
Robertson had been teaching in Australia for the past 20 years and had to take time off work to help run Angus Robertson Mechanical after his father was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer.
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Pham Thu Thuong Nguyen, known as Thuong, applied for a one-year Partner of a New Zealander Work Visa in July ahead of their wedding, planned for October.
Two months later, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) declined the application, stating it was "not satisfied that you and your partner are living together in a genuine and stable relationship".
Robertson said the couple felt they were being "penalised" for "doing the right thing by looking after my father".
They planned to appeal the decision but would move back to Australia if it was rejected, placing the future of the family's company at risk, he said.
"It's put me in the position where I might have to leave the country to be with the woman I love and the woman who will soon be my wife.
"We'd have to leave my father alone on a rural property with an engineering business in the last years of his life, and that is not acceptable."
Figures provided by INZ showed 2955 work visas requested under the partnership category were declined in the 2016-17 financial year, while 37,794 were approved.
INZ asked Thuong in September for more information about her living circumstances and the nature of her relationship with Robertson.
Robertson said it had been difficult to prove the couple lived together because they were staying with his father and there were no bills or tenancy agreement bearing their names.
He believed that was why INZ turned down the application, despite the fact the couple supplied more than 100 pages documenting their relationship.
"We don't have many letters with both of our names on them as we have my father's name on all the bills," he said.
"We would not be living here if my mother was still alive. We are being penalised for looking after our business and my father."
INZ area manager Marcelle Foley said it was the responsibility of the visa applicant to supply all the evidence they wanted to be considered when making the application.
"There was not sufficient evidence to satisfy the immigration officer regarding the extent and nature of a shared residence, financial interdependence and joint decision-making," she said.
Thuong, who had been in New Zealand on a visitor visa, was told she had 42 days to appeal the decision or leave the country.
Robertson had written to Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse asking for a review of the application process.
In a letter responding to his request, a staffersaid it would likely take five months to consider because of the large number of requests the minister received.
Waimakariri MP Matt Doocey backed Thuong's bid for a visa and had written to Associate Minister of Immigration Scott Simpson saying he was happy to support her appeal.
- The Press