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‘Undone’: Couple’s visa heartbreak after application fiasco

A couple facing constant hurdles to get a residential partnership visa said the process left them feeling “defeated”.

Kiwi professor Michael Salmon, 30, and his partner Sarah Wilson, a 29-year-old nursing student from the United States, were told they would have to wait 13 months for their visa application to be approved in order for Wilson can stay in the country.

But in the meantime, her current visa is about to expire – and their attempts to obtain a temporary visa have failed.

Wilson says the process left her exhausted.

“I’m a stubborn person, but I feel defeated. There are other people far more deserving than me who haven’t been able to sort through this process.

“I love New Zealand, I would love to stay here, but it feels like a losing situation. There are people who have spent more than us. You are at the mercy of whoever is on the What advantage the New Zealand as a whole make this process so difficult?

“I played the game, spent the money, what else can I do?”

Wilson, whose goal is to become a mental health nurse, has lived in New Zealand for five years on student visas.

The couple have been together for over two years and live together. To apply for the residential partnership visa, they had to provide the same evidence of their relationship again and again: Facebook photos, proof of a joint bank account, photos of their dogs, letters from family and friends, and personal details, like how often they have sex.

But the communication from Immigration New Zealand left them confused and frustrated.

“We were under the impression, since we were told we had to wait 13 months, that she would get a temporary visa that would allow her to continue working 20 hours a week and studying,” says Salmon.

But they were told that Wilson could not obtain a provisional visa. Meanwhile, his current visa is set to expire in a few weeks. Wilson was also told that she could not apply for another student visa while waiting for the partnership visa, so she would have to apply for a partnership work visa, at a cost of $635.

If she got it, she couldn’t afford to continue studying while working. They then received another call from immigration letting them know that she could in fact apply for another student visa in the meantime, contradicting the old advice.

As of March 30, Wilson had not received a case manager, as is standard for visa processing.

A spokesperson for Immigration NZ told the Herald that processing times for partnership visa applications vary depending on the “complexity of the application”.

“Currently, we process 75% of resident visa applications [partner of a New Zealander] within nine months and processing 75% of temporary work visa applications within three months.

“Given the ongoing impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, it remains difficult to predict visa application volumes, but we have hired and trained new processing staff over the past 12 months.

“These staff have been trained in a number of different visa categories to ensure that they can be moved between different visa categories depending on visa volumes.”

But for couples like Salmon and Wilson, the wait is far too long.

“If the temporary visa doesn’t come in time, there are thousands of us and she has to go home anyway,” Salmon said.

“We have planned our worst case scenario and we will be able to get out of it one way or another.” A Givealittle page has more than covered their costs so far.

It turns out the couple aren’t alone in their battle – after sharing their story on Facebook, countless friends have come forward with similar stories to tell.

The experience added to the couple’s sense that New Zealand has become an increasingly difficult place to live.

“There are some really talented people that we need in New Zealand to get the hang of it,” Salmon said.

“We shouldn’t have to rely on the kindness of others to participate in the country we choose to live in. It’s just another little thing that contributes to New Zealand’s unliveability.

“I would be lying if we said we didn’t consider leaving the country when we can’t thrive here.”