In 2003, the Government amended immigration policy to allow for the granting of a visitor visa for a culturally arranged marriage for people intending to come to New Zealand to marry a New Zealand citizen or resident. As part of the requirements under this visa category, the ceremony had to take place in New Zealand. Individuals who are in a culturally arranged marriage where the marriage ceremony took place offshore were not eligible for a Culturally Arranged Marriage visitor visa.

Immigration instructions require applicants applying under partnership to provide sufficient evidence that they are in a genuine and stable relationship which includes the ability to demonstrate that they live together.

Individuals in a culturally arranged marriage where the marriage ceremony took place offshore are often not eligible for a partnership-based visa because they typically haven’t lived with their New Zealand based partner and therefore cannot provide sufficient evidence to demonstrate that they live together in a genuine and stable relationship. They have also not been considered eligible for a general visitor visa as immigration instructions require applicants on visitor visas to be a genuine visitor who only intends to stay temporarily.

Earlier this year, it became apparent that policy was not being applied consistently and that INZ was granting too many exceptions to that policy. These should only be granted on a case by case basis, and when the individual circumstances of the case warrant an exception being granted.

What’s changed?

The Minister of Immigration has made a change to the Culturally Arranged Marriage visitor visa category to better reflect the intention of the policy.

The change allows a visitor visa to be granted to individuals who are in an arranged marriage, regardless of where that marriage ceremony took place. That means individuals who had a culturally arranged marriage outside of New Zealand may now be eligible for the visa.

INZ has also issued new guidance to clarify that if an individual is travelling to New Zealand to join a partner after a culturally arranged marriage offshore, they may still be considered a genuine visitor visa applicant. This guidance will update the guidance that was issued on 10 May 2019.

Together, these changes may provide individuals in an arranged marriage who have not lived together, with an opportunity to come to New Zealand to live together so that they may later satisfy immigration partnership visa requirements.

Immigration instructions for partnership visas have not changed.

How do the changes affect individuals who were declined a temporary visa between 10 May 2019 and 31 October 2019 to come to New Zealand to begin living with a New Zealand citizen or resident partner?

Where INZ is able to identify affected partners of New Zealand citizens and residents who were declined a temporary visa between 10 May 2019 and 31 October 2019, it will email these applicants by 2 December 2019 to invite them to complete a new application form. The fee for the new application will be waived.

INZ will assess these new applications using the updated culturally arranged marriage instructions or the INZ’s new guidance on general visitor visas.

The new application should include updated relationship evidence, evidence of funds, and any other updated relevant information.

What about individuals who don’t fall into the above group?

Individuals who do not receive an email from INZ and think they may have been affected can complete a new application.

Individuals in this situation will be required to pay the usual application fee and will need to include a cover letter with the application, explaining why you fall into the above group.

INZ will consider refunding the application fee on a case by case basis if it is determined that an individual should have been included in the above group.

Will everyone who puts in a new application be approved a visa as a result of these changes?

Not all visa applications will be approved as a result of these changes. Applications will be assessed on a case by case basis against immigration instructions. Applicants will still need to meet health and character requirements and be genuine visitors to New Zealand.

Changes to Culturally Arranged Marriages visa category

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