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Government reverses immigration authority’s directives on arranged marriage visa

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Following a public backlash, the Government has reversed Immigration New Zealand’s directives which made getting a spouse visa impossible for migrants with arranged marriages.

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway says that the ministry has fixed an issue affecting how Immigration New Zealand has processed visa applications for culturally arranged marriages, which will now see a consistent process applied which ensures people with legitimate arranged marriages can visit New Zealand while also preventing any rorting of the system.

“Earlier this year Immigration New Zealand issued guidance to front line Immigration staff that made it significantly harder for people to get visas to visit their partner. That guidance no longer applies with today’s announcement,” the minister says.

The new process clarifies:

  • Those who have a culturally arranged marriage to a New Zealand resident or citizen can apply for a culturally arranged visitor’s visa.
  • The visitor’s visa will have strict assessment criteria attached to it to ensure only legitimate arranged marriages are approved and to stop so called mail order brides and other potential rorts
  • Once the partner has been living in New Zealand with their spouse they can begin the process to apply for a partnership visa while proving the legitimate nature of their nuptials.

“There were issues with the process Immigration New Zealand used to issue visas for culturally arranged marriages. It was inconsistently applied,” the minister says.

“The Government is now ensuring that people in a culturally arranged marriage can visit their spouses here subject to usual risk management processes.

“I will make a small change to instructions to allow Immigration New Zealand to provide culturally arranged marriage visitor visas to partners of New Zealand residents and citizens as the policy originally intended. This removes the need for work arounds, and maintains the ability to appropriately accommodate the cultural dimension around arranged marriages and have robust clear processes.

“Once they are here, the visitor period will help demonstrate the genuine and stable nature of their relationship in order to get a partnership visa.”

However, an immigration officer must be satisfied that the marriage ceremony genuinely occurred and followed an identified cultural tradition and there is a genuine intent to live together.

“Immigration New Zealand officials will also need to check the marriage followed an identified cultural tradition, including the facilitation of the selection of the persons to be married being done by people who are not parties to the marriage. This is to stop so called mail order brides or other attempts to rort the system.” Iain Lees-Galloway says.

This change will have an retrospective effect: those declined since May who are clearly eligible under the clarified process will be reassessed by Immigration New Zealand. Others will be able to reapply if they consider themselves eligible. Those who meet the new criteria will have reapplication fees waived.

Prior to these amendments only those who were planning to marry in New Zealand through a culturally arranged marriage within 3 months of entry could apply for this visa.

People who have married a New Zealand citizen or residence class visa holder, (or who are intending to marry in New Zealand, New Zealand citizens or residence class holders), may be granted a visitor visa authorising a maximum stay of 3 months from their date of arrival.

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