Government creates Culturally Arranged Visitor Visa

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Venkat Raman

The government has set up a new category called ‘Culturally Arranged Visitor Visa’ to cater to people who subscribe to arranged marriages conducted overseas.

An additional complement of 177 staff have been recruited since June this year to help with visa processing and reduce delays.

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway told Indian Newslink this evening that the new Category would come into effect immediately.

We understand that it would specifically benefit people from India, since according to community leaders, a majority of them get married as per the desire of their parents and elders.

Addressing concerns

“There were issues with the process used by Immigration New Zealand (INZ) to issue visas for culturally arranged marriages. It was inconsistently applied,” Mr Lees-Galloway said.

“Although the procedure to grant visitor visas to new brides (or grooms) already exists, the new category will specifically address the needs of people who get married offshore.  INZ is working with the communities to understand their culture and practice better and take appropriate decisions,” he said.

Mr Lees-Galloway said that 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 INZ 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,” he said.

Checks and risk management

INZ will insist on hard evidence of the arranged marriages and scrutinise applications thoroughly. The evaluation of applications will be more stringent in cases where one or both spouses are less than 20 years of age.

“Marriage alone will not be sufficient evidence for immigration purposes and the applicants will be required to provide a range of documents to prove that their relationship meets our requirements In New Zealand, people aged 16 or 17 need consent from a Family Court Judge before they can marry,” Mr Lees-Galloway said.

These may include as appropriate (1) Marriage Certificate if married; Civil Union Certificate, if in a civil union (2) proof of shared residence (such as joint mortgage, tenancy agreements, or rent book (3) financial dependence or interdependence, proof of shared income or bank accounts, or accounts that show money transfers to or from the applicant and their partner; birth certificates of any children (4) any documents showing public or family recognition of the relationship correspondence including postmarked envelopes to the applicant and their partner at the same address (5) photographs of the applicant and their partner together (6) evidence of the duration of the relationship (7) the degree of commitment to a shared life (8) evidence of communication between the applicant and their partner- this may include cards, letters, emails and social media conversations (9) tickets from shared travel/activities (10) divorce documents from previous relationship(s) (11) evidence the couple own assets together and (12) joint utilities accounts.

Indian Newslink has handled a large number of cases which include young brides facing extortion by their in-laws, ill-treatment by their husbands and other forms of abuse.

There have also been cases of fake documentation to gain resident status and in a few instances, the groom is already married with wife and children in New Zealand.

Reassessing declined cases

Applications declined since May but are clearly eligible under the clarified process will be reassessed by INZ.

Mr Lees-Galloway said that such persons will be contacted in the next two weeks. Others will be able to reapply if they consider themselves eligible. Those who meet the new criteria will have their reapplication fees waived.

But partnership visas and visitor visas declined since May 2019 for many reasons may not necessarily mean that they will be accepted under the new process.

“INZ may decide interview the applicant and partner or even conduct a visit to the couple to help determine that the relationship is credible, genuine and stable. They must be able to provide a series of documents considered essential as proof,” Mr Lees-Galloway said.

Related Story: Shane Jones fuels ire over Immigration on Page 12


Photo Caption:

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway (Picture Supplied)

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