Immigration form blamed for separating overseas migrants from families in New Zealand

Thousands of work-visa holders who were overseas when COVID-19 closed New Zealand's borders are yet to return home.

They say attempts to get back to their homes are being made impossible because authorities have given them only 60 words to explain their ties here.

It's prompting the Prime Minister to haul in her Immigration Minister and brought promises of a fix from her deputy Winston Peters.

Three weeks visiting family in Tanzania has turned into a three-month nightmare for Shuchi Bhardwaj - isolating in her parents' sleepout, she hasn't even unpacked.

"Yeah it's been difficult," she tells Newshub.

Attempts to get back to her job, home and fiance in Auckland are being rejected by Immigration NZ, who said they don't have evidence of her relationship.

But she does have evidence - Newshub has seen it.

It's just Immigration's online form doesn't allow any supporting documents to be uploaded.

"[It's] heartbreaking and shocking for me," she says.

After Newshub asked questions, the Prime Minister's stepping in.

"I can see how that would cause issues so I'm happy to talk to the Minister of Immigration about that," Jacinda Ardern says.

Immigration says while there is no ability to attach documents, there is space to detail a case. That space is just 320 characters - about 62 words.

Bhardwaj is one of thousands rejected: of 11,301 requests to cross the border, only 2220 have been accepted. That's 9000 people stranded.

"Children are being separated from a parent but because they are on temporary visas they are not important, they don't matter, and the government doesn't seem to want to listen to them," immigration lawyer Alastair McClymont tells Newshub.

There's been an apparent commitment from Winston Peters to get the forms fixed.

"If you want to get the forms fixed up then an understanding, sympathetic Government in the way that we have formed this Government would look at that seriously so I take on board your message," he tells Newshub.

Immigration says these border restrictions are in place to protect the country from COVID-19, but returning migrants say they are willing to isolate.

For Peters the bigger issue is getting them on flights - but migrants can't even begin that process without an exemption first.