Immigration staff get new guidelines on Relationship Visas

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Many declined applications being reconsidered
Venkat Raman
Auckland, December 4, 2019

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has issued new guidance to Immigration New Zealand staff on assessing various types of visa applications that involve a relationship component.

This would include how to assess temporary bona fide requirements.

These guidelines follow the recent changes to the ‘Culturally Arranged Marriage Visitor Visa Category.’

An MBIE Notification said that the new guidance recognises that people coming to New Zealand to join their partner can be considered genuine visitors, as long as they meet all other requirements for a visitor visa.

“The new guidance ensures that individuals in genuine relationships who have not lived together will not be disadvantaged and may be eligible for a visitor visa to join their New Zealand based partner. As part of the announcement, INZ also committed to contacting individuals who had a New Zealand citizen or resident partner and had been previously been declined a visa that was assessed under the older guidelines (from the May 10, 2019 Visa Pak).

Declined applicants contacted

INZ has confirmed having emailed about 800 individuals who have been identified by the Department as ‘declined visas assessed under the older guidelines.’

They have bene invited to submit a new application for a visitor visa.

The fee and levy for these new applications will be waived.

The email was sent to people who are outside New Zealand who were declined a visa after May 10, 2019 and had applied for the following: (1) Culturally Arranged Marriage Visitor Visa 2) General Visitor Visa where the purpose was to join a New Zealand citizen or resident partner living in New Zealand (3) Work or Visitor Visas based on Partnership with a New Zealand citizen or resident.

Criteria for New Application

Individuals should satisfy the following for inclusion in the invitation for a new application: (1) They should be still outside New Zealand (2) They should not have been subsequently approved a Visa after the initial decline application and (3) They should not have a current application being considered

The last date to submit new applications under this invitation is February 2, 2020.

“INZ is committed to processing these applications as quickly as possible. The applications will be assessed in the order received and we the aim is to complete these applications within 25 working days after receipt,” the notification said.

Some Conditions

Those making new applications must meet all the requirements that are in force for a Visitor Visa. INZ does not guarantee that visas will be granted to any particular individual.

“Individuals who did not receive an email inviting them to submit a new application but think that they were decided unfairly because of the guidelines published on May 10, 2019, can apply for a Visa and explain why they were affected. These individuals will need to pay the appropriate fee for that application. INZ will consider the individual’s circumstances and refund their visa application fee if it is found that they were unfairly affected,” the Notification said.

An MBIE official said that INZ is committed to engaging with the Indian community and has taken a number of steps to have an ongoing relationship with Indian community leaders.

Culturally Arranged Visitor Visas

INZ had changed the way in which Partnership Visas were processed, insisting on ‘sustained relationships’ between an applicant and a spouse and that they should have lived together for a year prior to filing the application.

Members of the Indian community were angered and the issue had become a major irritant for the government. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern met with community leaders and the Indian media, assuring them that INZ will not insist on this requirement.

Immigration Minister Iain Lees Galloway told Indian Newslink that there were issues with the process used by INZ to issue visas for Culturally Arranged Marriages and that a new category has been established.

“It was inconsistently applied. 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.

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