A man's plea to stay in New Zealand has been rejected after an immigration tribunal heard he messaged escorts while claiming he was in a committed relationship.
The 28-year-old citizen of India, known only as JS, has lived in New Zealand since February 2012 on a series of student visas, and in 2019 he applied for a partnership work visa based on his relationship with an Aotearoa citizen.
The pair, who claim to have been in a relationship since 2015, was interviewed in February this year as part of his visa application, but "some statements [they made] raised concerns about the genuineness and stability" of their partnership.
During the interview, JS admitted he'd sent sexually explicit texts to sex workers, but these were done "merely out of fun". When his partner found out he'd met an escort, she didn't object since the pair were "mature" enough to handle the situation and it wasn't against the law "to go to such places".
However, the tribunal took another view.
"Immigration NZ had concerns that the appellant admitted that he had, on recent occasions, contacted escorts through text messaging," its decision says.
"In making the claim that the appellant is entitled to contact escorts, the couple have overlooked, or failed to understand, the importance of demonstrating that their partnership is exclusive of others, and the tribunal cannot be satisfied that the couple's partnership is genuine, stable and likely to endure."
His application was rejected and he became liable for deportation. However, he appealed the decision to the Immigration and Protection Tribunal.
In his appeal in August, JS claimed his partner will be "unable to cope" if he leaves and Immigration NZ ignored all evidence showing the couple had a strong bond.
They both allege Immigration NZ is prejudiced because the pair are from different cultures and races - she is Cook Island Māori - and they were "deceived" and "trapped" by questions designed to show they weren't in a genuine or exclusive relationship.
The tribunal rejected this claim, according to its decision, saying Immigration NZ routinely conducts interviews where many couples have racial and cultural differences.
"The tribunal is satisfied that there is no evidence of unfairness or bias."
The decision also says JS' partner believes her "entire life is at stake" if he is made to leave Aotearoa. It also says she has started taking medication for anxiety and depression.
The tribunal declined his appeal and he is required to leave New Zealand within 28 days of the decision or be deported.
It acknowledged it could be difficult for JS to return to India given travel restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic and there is "uncertainty" about commercial flights to his home country. It recommends he contact the High Commission of India in New Zealand to show his interest in a repatriation flight.
He's also advised to arrange a temporary visa if he's unable to leave New Zealand on one of these flights.