Green MP Ricardo Menéndez March cleared of doubt over partner's visa by Immigration NZ

Green MP Ricardo Menéndez March has been cleared of suspicion regarding his partner's visa entry, with immigration officials confirming it was treated like any other application. 

Opposition MPs raised concerns about the visa of Menéndez March's partner during a parliamentary select committee on Thursday, questioning if there had been any special treatment. 

One criteria of the partnership visa is that an applicant must be "living together" with a New Zealander in a "genuine relationship" - and National MP Erica Standford raised doubts about whether that had been the case. 

"If a couple were domiciled in two houses, in two countries, and they simply stayed with each other on holiday every now and again, would that not then meet the 'living together' instruction?" she asked.

Immigration NZ head Greg Patchell said he would look into it, telling Stanford: "In the situation you've described... it probably wouldn't meet the criteria." 

Menéndez March's partner was invited to apply for a visa on December 3 last year and a six-month visa was granted on January 11. The Green MP flew to Mexico in December to care for his sick parents and returned with his partner in February. 

Immigration NZ confirmed on Friday the visa was processed "in the normal manner via an authorised decision maker" and was approved as it "met immigration instructions" for a person coming from a visa waiver country.

A border exception category came into effect for partners of New Zealanders from visa waiver countries on October 5 last year, and Menéndez March's partner made the application after those changes. 

Green MP Ricardo Menéndez March.
Green MP Ricardo Menéndez March. Photo credit: Newshub

"No escalations or interventions occurred as the application was treated like any other for that category," Immigration NZ said. "It was treated like any other application."

Green Party co-leader James Shaw said it was rich of the Opposition to accuse Menéndez March of wielding undue influence given National MP Simon Bridges advocated to get The Wiggles spots in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ). 

"You had an MP that asserted influence and got his way and now his party [is] throwing aspersions at one of our MPs," Shaw told reporters. 

Menéndez March has faced backlash after Newshub revealed he tried not once, but twice, to get an emergency spot in MIQ, after leaving for Mexico without booking spaces for his return. 

The Green MP made two separate applications, the first on January 13 as a "critical public or health service" and the second on January 15 as "required for national security".  

"I think it's the applying twice and claiming to be critical to New Zealand, one in national security and the other one as a critical health worker," said National leader Judith Collins. "I'm not sure that he's either and I think there's some questions that need to be asked."

Menéndez March told Newshub he applied for the "critical public or health service" category thinking he'd qualify as a public servant. 

He said all New Zealanders are free to apply for emergency spots in MIQ and that the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) - which oversees MIQ - "rightly" declined both of his applications. 

"I think MBIE does a really fair and thorough assessment of whether people meet those criteria and it was rightfully declined. I think it's really important that MBIE has those strict assessment processes to judge those applications," Menéndez March told Newshub. 

"I think any New Zealander has a right to make an application in the different streams that exist and like I said I'm really happy that MBIE sought due process to see the merits of the application itself.

"People are able to seek leave in any workplace. I'm really happy and thankful that my parliamentary colleagues, as well as the public, have shown a lot of understanding and compassion for the time that I took off to spend time with my family."

Shaw said earlier this month MBIE chief Carolyn Tremain phoned him in mid-January to inquire about Menéndez March's MIQ application. Shaw said he told her that under no circumstances should there be special treatment. 

Spaces in MIQ are currently "extremely limited" due to high demand, according to MBIE. The MIQ website shows spaces booked until May