Culturally Arranged Marriages and Partnership Visas
In 2016 (which doesn’t seem that long ago) an article was published in the NZ Herald quoting Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse, stating “New Zealand was not in a position to judge those entering the country for culturally arranged marriages”. While this comment was specifically referring to the rates of domestic violence within culturally arranged marriage cases – it also reflected a wider lack of understanding within the Immigration spectrum relating to culturally arranged marriages and their significance.
The policy surrounding culturally arranged marriages has remained unchanged since 2014 and arguably needs review – i.e. safeguards in place to protect those that come to New Zealand for culturally arranged marriages and then find themselves in adverse situations.
However, in the meantime, we continue to assist clients facing difficulties in explaining their circumstances to INZ. In many cases, due to the professionals they initially engaged with not fully understanding the cultural, religious, social and family significance that these relationships hold. This lack of understanding by an applicant’s representative, often means important information is not forwarded, or clearly explained to INZ.
We frequently see cases where representatives have assumed that a culturally arranged marriage is one where a bride and groom have not met at all, have had no communication with each other, have never spent time with each other; and the couple have had no say in their marriage. When presented to INZ, this often raises questions. For example, with a couple’s willingness to enter into the marriage i.e. was there meaningful discussion by both parties? Or, are they being forced?
As it currently stands, people intending to marry NZ citizens, or residence class visa holders in New Zealand – may be granted a visitor visa for a maximum stay of 3 months. This comes with some provisions which include that:
• the couple intend to get married within 3 months of the applicant’s arrival; and
• the marriage follows an identified cultural tradition (including the initial selection of the persons to be married, are made by persons who are not parties to the marriage); and
• it is intended that the marriage will be maintained on a long term and exclusive basis; and
• there is no legal impediment to the marriage; and the NZ residence class visa holder must meet basic partnership criteria as a supporting partner.
Evidence of the above criteria being met must also be provided – and this is usually where things start to get a little difficult. As visitor visas based on culturally arranged marriages are offshore applications, INZ has no obligation to seek comment or clarification from an individual before issuing a decision; and applicants have no right of appeal on a negative outcome. Therefore, it is important at the outset, an application is clear, concise and thorough.
To ensure that your circumstances are not lost in translation, it is best to deal with a representative who understands your culture, and is able to represent you comprehensively to INZ. Our Immigration staff speak Hindi, Gujarati, Mandarin and Filipino. Talk to us today for advice on how to proceed.
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