Immigration experts discount Culturally Arranged Marriage Visa report

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The category has existed for many years, they say

(Image from Stuff New Zealand)

Auckland, October 11, 2021

Standfirst: Six Immigration experts, four lawyers and two registered advisors sent us the following Press Note, following what has been termed as ‘fake news’ that appeared in some sections of the local media. This relates to ‘Culturally Arranged Visitor Visas,’ reports on which have appeared in Indian Newslink almost two years ago. Those reports can be read on our website (www.indiannewslink.co.nz) or here and here.

Confusion on ‘new changes’

There appears to be considerable confusion among communities due to a media article published yesterday about alleged ‘new changes’ to the Culturally Arranged Marriage Visitor Visa which have no basis.

Below is an account of our understanding of this Visa category and an effort to provide answers to many queries we have received since yesterday. 

New Zealand’s partnership policies require couples to demonstrate that they are living together as well as being in a genuine and stable relationship. This is causing ongoing problems for couples unable for cultural, religious, sexual orientation or other reasons to live together outside New Zealand.  

By way of exception, The Culturally Arranged Marriage Visitor Visa (CAM) has existed as a separate Visa category for a number of years. This Visa category was initiated specifically for couples who were entering an arranged marriage following their established cultural traditions. As such, living together has never been a requirement for a CAM Visa.

Immigration Criteria

Immigration criteria to be met include that the Culturally Arranged Marriage must follow an identified cultural tradition where the arrangements for the marriage, including the initial selection of the persons to be married, are made by persons who are not parties to the marriage. The New Zealand based partner must be a New Zealand citizen or resident. If successful, the applicant may be granted a Visitor Visa for three months from their date of arrival in New Zealand.

Initially, CAM Visa holders had to get married in New Zealand. However, amendments to this Visa category in November 2019 also gave the option of couples being able to get married outside New Zealand. Subsequent Visas based on partnership required and continue to require the couples to meet living together criteria.

Borders open to CAM Visa holders

Amid Covid-19 related restrictions, the New Zealand border has remained open to CAM Visa holders.  We are not aware of any recent amendments to CAM. 

The CAM Visa is, in reality, extremely difficult to navigate as most couples do not fit Immigration New Zealand’s very narrow interpretation. The insistence that the initial selection of the couple is facilitated entirely by a third party matchmaker is simply antiquated and out of step with contemporary cultural practices. 

For that reason, the category has had minimal take-up and a very high decline rate (157 of 249 i.e. 63% in the 2020/21 Immigration Year). The rules that require the vast majority of couples to demonstrate living together has kept thousands of couples separated throughout the border closure. 

Those wishing to reunite with partners are being forced to embark on risky “fetch and fly” missions depleting New Zealand’s workforce further at a time when experiencing extreme skills shortages. The health workforce is a prime example where doctors, nurses and caregivers are having to go offshore to reunite with partners, placing New Zealanders at risk.

Applications for Judicial Review

Two applications for Judicial Review have been filed with the High Court of New Zealand regarding these matters and associated Visa suspensions and lapsing, by D&S Law on behalf of their clients. They are due to be heard on December 8, 2021. 

Change to the partnership settings is urgently required to recognise all those couples in genuine relationships unable to live together for compelling reasons, whether cultural, religious or other.

The above Press Release has been issued by Alastair McClymont (McClymont & Associates), Anu Kaloti (Licensed Immigration Adviser, Migrant Workers Association), Arran Hunt (Stace Hammond), Katy Armstrong (Licensed Immigration Adviser on behalf of Reunite Families New Zealand), Pooja Sundar and Stewart Dalley (D&S Law)

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