Sham marriage or fake marriage is not something new in First World countries where it offers a ticket for those wanting to escape the circumstances in their country of origin but unable to obtain a permanent residency status for themselves in desired country. Proficiency in English is usually the biggest barrier.
Back in the late 90s and early years of the 21 century, there was a substantial influx of ethnic Chinese migrants from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong into New Zealand after a fundamental change in New Zealand’s immigration policy. It was very easy to gain a PR status for as long as you have certain skills or can prove that there is a certain source of money destined for investment in NZ for a lock-up period of two years. I also knew of many who borrowed the money needed back in their home country and return it after they’ve been granted a PR and also those who produced fake universities certificates.
I came to know Jack and his wife Daisy (not their real name) who hails from China while I was doing grocery shopping at an Asian grocery in Dominion Road. He also had a part time job as a mover and he was not shy to approach me to recommend jobs to him after he knew who I was. As time passed, we became friends and we met frequently for mahjong at another friend’s place. One day, out of nowhere, I enquired how long they have been married and how they met. Initially Jack was reluctant to tell the story but Daisy was frank.
She told me how she came to know an agent back in China whose main job was to introduce single male or female in NZ, arrange a “marriage of convenience” between them and bingo! The agent would then help her to obtain a NZ PR and she can divorce him after 3 years when she is qualified to apply for citizenship. (After April 2005, NZ PR can only apply for citizenship after staying in NZ for 5 years.) The fee she had to pay then was NZ$ 20,000.00. She had always wanted to leave China but gave up gaining the PR status via the legal way after failing the IELTS tests many times.
She flew to Auckland and was introduced to Jack for the first time. Jack was a divorcee and his ex-wife moved back to China. As Jack was living alone, he offered Daisy a room in his two bedroom house. After living together for a few months, fate had it that they felt in love for each other and became real husband and wife.
I do know how many fake marriages turn out to be real love between the two like theirs but I do know of a lot of sham marriages turned out to be tragedy of rape, constant abuse, extortion and many more.
I also came across an odd couple that frequented my office many times, each time they will ask about divorce procedures in New Zealand only to call me back later saying they are not going to divorce. But then, after a while, they will come back again and the whole cycle will repeat itself. After their second visit, I started to suspect something and on their third visit, I ask directly if they belong to the category of shame marriage which they denied vehemently. Then I told them that they’d better tell the truth or I’ll report it.
That’s when the husband said he was told that the woman is a single by the agent in China, they got married and he had obtained his citizenship. By then she had wanted divorce but he was reluctant as he had fallen in love with her and treated her like a wife all these years. I did not enquire if they ever had sex. Then he found out that the reason she wanted a divorce badly was because she is married in China but she said it is her lover. She defended her right to have a lover. Suddenly, as if knowing that what she did was against the law, she hurriedly grabs the man’s hand and left my office.
I was torn in between reporting about the case and keeping for silence for a while to observe what happened next. Two months later, out of the blue, I received a phone call from the woman saying she is divorcing the husband in China and marrying this “husband” in Auckland. She then invited me to their wedding dinner which I didn’t attend.
There is another story of sham marriage that I would like to share.
One early spring night, I was having Sichuan hotpot with a group of friends when a lady called me on my mobile. Over the phone she claimed that she had been raped by her husband and she asked for my help. It was my practice by then to go to the house of those who called for help to understand the situation before deciding the best way to help them.
After spending half an hour to calm the lady, she finally confessed that she came to NZ under the sham marriage ring, which I had suspected while driving to her house. Her “husband”, a local man, would visit her occasionally to demand money so that he would not divorce her before she obtains her citizenship. Her PR will automatically become void if they were divorced. However, that day, after taking some cash from her, he raped her.
There is nothing much I can do. She can report the rape, he will face the law but she will definitely be charged and deported. I explained the consequences to her and she decided to maintain her trauma in silence. I really wanted to report the case to the police but if she refused to, what can I do, I am not the victim? Besides, it is hard to identify sham marriages. I have not heard from her since that night. Sometimes, I wonder, how is she doing now? I can only say “种瓜得瓜, 种豆得豆, you sow what you seed”.