Tibetan man married to New Zealand woman risks deportation after officials questioned their marriage

By Lobsang Tenchoe

DHARAMSALA, Nov 29: A Tibetan man married to a New Zealand woman, who plans to spend the rest of his life in New Zealand with his wife, is facing deportation after Immigration New Zealand(INZ) raised doubts over their marriage.

Dorjee Tsering and Patricia Tsering are married in the eyes of Tibetan and Indian law. Tsering, a Tibetan refugee met his wife, Patricia Goldsmith from Dunedin, New Zealand in India in July 2016 and the couple got married weeks later on August 5, 2016.

But INZ doubts they have a valid relationship and paid an unannounced early morning visit to the couple’s Dunedin home, following which Tsering now faces deportation, reports the New Zealand Herald. 

The report stated that the couple came to New Zealand after Dorjee Tsering was granted an interim visa, which expired on November 8, 2017. He now has 42 days to appeal his liability for deportation.

On October 3, 2017 immigration officials made an unannounced visit to the couple’s Dunedin home between 7am and 8am to investigate their living arrangements and question them.

Dorjee Tsering and Patricia Tsering. Image-Christine O’Connor

Citing the small number of items belonging to Mrs Tsering at the apartment, INZ in its subsequent letter to Mr Tsering has stated that the couple had not met the elements of ‘credibility, genuine partnership and stable partnership’, the report added.

INZ area manager Marcelle Foley has further stated that INZ considered partnership applications very carefully but were not satisfied that the couple were living together in a relationship which met immigration requirements.

According to the report, the couple’s courtship, failure to provide the names of one another’s parents and neither of them wearing their wedding rings has led the INZ to question their marriage.

“Letters of support as well as supporting evidence provided by the couple were considered by INZ but did not mitigate the department’s concerns,” Ms Foley has said in the report.

The couple has acknowledged their age gap in the report. Tsering, a performer, is 28 while Mrs Tsering is 54. The couple’s courtship was for just three weeks, but are adamant their relationship is genuine and lasting.

However, in the couple’s defence, Mrs Tsering has said that it was down to cultural difference as Tibetans never refer to their parents by their first names. ”It’s the culture: you don’t just call a parent by their first names,” she said in the report.

Moreover, Mrs Tsering’s uncle, Dr Peter Strang and Chairman of the body corporate of Tsering’s apartment building, associate Prof John Harraway, from the University of Otago statistics department has said that they have no doubts that Tserings are indeed husband and wife.

“She is older than he is and they did get married quite quickly, but it’s ok for men to marry women younger than them but they raise their eyebrows when women marry men who are younger. But they made all sorts of assumptions [about their relationship] on pretty minimal evidence … they have had family gatherings with us, they have helped with our garden, we have met for meals and had them for meals: there is no doubt in my mind there is evidence of a good relationship. I think it’s draconian and unnecessary: it’s upsetting for them, and it’s upsetting for us,” Dr Strang said in the report.

And Dr Harraway has said, ”I hope this situation can be sorted out for the benefit of all concerned, I have no qualms at all [about the Tserings being in a relationship] based on my observations of them in the months they have lived here.”

The Tserings are said to have appealed to Dunedin North MP David Clark for help. Dr Clark’s office said they knew about the case, but made no further comments.