Shine off graduation due to visa hold-up

Younus Mohammad and his wife Sameha Tharannum, on their wedding day. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Younus Mohammad and his wife Sameha Tharannum, on their wedding day. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
It is a once-in-a-lifetime achievement, but for pharmacy student Younus Mohammad, receiving his PhD without the person who means the world to him will ring hollow.

Mr Mohammad says he is confused as to why his newlywed bride has not been granted a visitor’s visa — applied for in October — ahead of his graduation next weekend.

With no family in New Zealand, and his mother too sick to travel, Mr Mohammad said he had been feeling very anxious and "just stuck" at a lack of progress with Immigration New Zealand.

"What to do now, to be honest, I don’t know," he said.

After initially telling Mr Mohammad it was too late to change the date, the University of Otago has since advised him he has until December 4 to switch ceremonies to next May.

" [The university] have do a lot more work it seems, but it is acceptable."

He said he would wait a few more days in the hope the visa would come through, and he would be able to graduate and then spend time with his wife as they had planned.

Mr Mohammad married his wife, Sameha Tharannum, in an arranged marriage in southern India this July.

The pair had a "instant connection" and spoke on the phone for hours a day, he said.

Younus Mohammad is upset his new wife may not be able to join him when he graduates next Saturday...
Younus Mohammad is upset his new wife may not be able to join him when he graduates next Saturday. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Immigration NZ (INZ) general manager for border and visa operations Nicola Hogg said summer was the peak time when it came to visitor visa applications, and in the last three months more than 90% had been processed within 20 days.

However visas could take longer to process if they were "incomplete or complex".

INZ’s records showed Ms Tharannum initially intended to travel to New Zealand to live with her partner, and it was not until after it was lodged the need to attend the graduation was raised, Ms Hogg said.

"INZ appreciates Ms Tharannum and Mr Mohammad are frustrated by their situation, and that it’s unlikely her visa application will be completed in time for her to travel to New Zealand for her husband’s graduation ceremony.

"However, visas in this category are being processed according to the date they were received and can only be prioritised if there are exceptional grounds to do so."

Mr Mohammad showed the Otago Daily Times correspondence saying INZ needed proof the pair were in a stable relationship; Mr Mohammad said he had already sent a marriage certificate, testimonials from friends and family, and about 19 wedding photographs.

"I can send the whole eight or nine hour video if they want."

Mr Mohammad said he considered his supervisor and his friends his "extended family"— but his graduation, the culmination of five years’ of hard work studying for his doctorate at Otago, would still be bittersweet without his wife.

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