Expert highlights potential racism in Jason Kerrison family immigration case

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is refusing to take a stance on whether "cultural differences" should be taken into account in visa decisions - as was the case with Opshop singer Jason Kerrison's family. 

The Prime Minister is also defending her embattled minister Kris Faafoi who promised favours to his famous friend regarding the visa decision, as Newshub revealed last week. 

Kerrison's mother Jude and her husband Mich Obadiah have been married for two years. Immigration NZ declined Obadiah's partnership visa saying their relationship wasn't genuine and stable. 

Immigration NZ told them: "You and your partner are of similar age, however there is a significant cultural difference between you and your partner which has not been addressed."

Immigration Lawyer Alastair McClymontis is concerned about the process, telling Newshub: "Because there is so much discretion in decision making there's a real risk it can become racist."

He says it's an extremely common situation - just not for couples of the same ethnicity.

"As soon as you get the mixed cultures you often get a problem with Immigration New Zealand making the accusations that because they are cultural differences it's unlikely to be a stable partnership."

Newshub asked the Prime Minister if she is comfortable with Immigration New Zealand using 'cultural differences' to decline a visa. 

She responded: "None of that criteria has changed - I see those as operational questions." 

Back in 2014, a complaint was made to Immigration New Zealand calling its questioning over cultural differences "racist and unacceptable".

The complaint was upheld, and yet the Prime Minister won't take a stance and Immigration New Zealand refused to comment or explain its policies in time for this story. 

Last week, Faafoi apologised to the Prime Minister after Newshub obtained and revealed a series of text and Facebook messages between Faafoi and Kerrison, in which Kerrison asks Faafoi for help with his step-father's declined partnership visa application. 

Faafoi tells him he'll "talk to the people that can speed things up" but "can't put anything in writing", and soon cuts off communication.

Faafoi said in a statement on Friday he needs to be "more upfront in the future about what I can and can't do if I'm approached for help". 

"I have apologised to the Prime Minister and understand I have let her down in regards to my dealings with Jason Kerrison over an immigration matter concerning his family."

The Prime Minister defended Faafoi last week, saying he was not Associate Minister of Immigration at the time, and had no ministerial responsibilities for immigration matters.

Ardern doubled down in her defence of Faafoi on Monday, saying he "actually didn't do anything... what he said was inappropriate but in fact the minister did nothing". 

The Prime Minister said she did not advise Faafoi not to offer his resignation. 

Kerrison asked Faafoi for help with a family immigration case on August 5. 

Faafoi told him "I'll talk to the people that can speed things up". He requested and received the case number, tells Kerrison "Bro i have a plan"... and "I'm on it bro".

Then three and a half months later Faafoi assures Kerrison "Bro, its moving but I can't put anything in writing". 

Ardern reiterated that Faafoi apologised to her and said "what matters is what he did and in this case he actually did nothing". 

She said Faafoi's language was "poorly chosen and wrong".