Changes to Immigration New Zealand’s (INZ) Culturally Arranged Marriage Visitor Visa policy have taken effect, as of 18 November 2019. The new instructions make explicit that people who have entered into a culturally arranged marriage, in a wedding ceremony that took place outside of New Zealand, are eligible to apply for a visitor visa. 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.

Though the intention to amend this policy was announced by INZ last week, and despite the changes coming into effect on Monday, the specifics of the changes to the INZ Operational Manual were contained in an Amendment Circular only distributed yesterday. According to the new instructions: 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. This is provided that the marriage is in accordance with an identified and recognised cultural tradition where the arrangements for the marriage, including facilitation of the initial selection of the persons to be married, are made by the persons who are not parties to the marriage. The marriage itself, and the intended New Zealand spouse, must still meet other standard legal and visa-related requirements.

Significant additions to the wording of instructions set out the requirements for those applicants who have married before travelling to New Zealand. In these instances, immigration officers must be satisfied, through interviews and documentary evidence provided by applicants, that:

  • the marriage ceremony genuinely occurred and followed an identified cultural tradition
  • the couple have a genuine intent to live together and that it is intended the marriage be maintained on a long term and exclusive basis
  • the person the applicant married is a New Zealand citizen or residence class visa holder who they intend to live with in New Zealand in a genuine and stable relationship
  • the marriage followed an identified and recognised cultural tradition where the arrangements for the marriage, including facilitation of the selection of the persons to be married, have been made by persons who are not parties to the marriage
  • the visa application is made within 3 months of the wedding

Similar requirements continue to apply to applicants who intend to marry once in New Zealand. In order to grant the visa, immigration officers must establish that:

  • there is a genuine intent to marry and that it is intended the marriage be maintained on a long term and exclusive basis
  • the person the applicant intends to marry in New Zealand is a New Zealand citizen or
    residence class visa holder
  • the marriage follows an identified and recognised cultural tradition where the arrangements for the marriage, including facilitation of the selection of the persons to be married, have been made by persons who are not parties to the marriage
  • the couple intend to marry within 3 months of the applicant’s arrival in New Zealand
  • in the event the marriage does not take place the applicant will leave New Zealand

The Culturally Arranged Marriage Visitor Visa policy has been the subject of much public and media scrutiny over the past few weeks. These policy amendments being formalised as instructions have happened quickly, and there is still little assurance of exactly how the new instructions will be interpreted. As is the case whenever there are changes to immigration policy, the practical effects of the amended sections for the individual applicant cannot be predicted or generalised with complete certainty. Further, these policy changes apply only to those in culturally arranged marriages, who were married offshore no more than 3 months prior to making their application. Couples who would otherwise meet the requirements for this visa category, but for the 3 month timeframe, will still face the same difficulties in getting a Partnership Visa, or a general Visitor Visa.

To discuss these changes and how they may apply to your specific circumstances, contact Pathways NZ for more detailed information and a free preliminary assessment.

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