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Immigration Policy Changes Related to Culturally Arranged Marriages

 Immigration Policy Changes Related to Culturally Arranged Marriages

As we head into an election year, we can expect some interesting debate across the political spectrum within the immigration space; not least from the NZ First party, which is often vocal in this area. Labour and its coalition partner have clearly been at odds recently over policy relating to culturally arranged marriages – an emotionally charged subject for large sections of our community.

A directive from Immigration New Zealand earlier this year saw the pathway for partners who had undergone a culturally arranged marriage but had not lived together (for any length of time), severely curtailed. INZ assess relationships on the basis of whether they are ‘genuine and stable’, with a number of factors being relevant to this – not least, time spent living together.

Given the cultural complexity surrounding marriage – what is, and what is not possible – it is not always possible for a married, or betrothed couple to live together for any length of time prior, or even directly after the marriage (due to offshore work commitments etc).

Therefore, to allow for this type of scenario, INZ had previously issued Visitor Visas to spouses of NZ residents or citizens, to allow them entry to NZ to start living with their partner; these could then be converted to work and residence visas over the course of time. However, given a visitor visa is essentially just for the purpose of a visit (and a long term or permanent stay was the intention), in these cases, the visas were issued as an exception to policy.

It was INZ’s directive to stop allowing the exception in these circumstances that sparked controversy and protest, especially in the Indian community, which was significantly affected by this policy shift.

But, as we have seen recently, with intervention at the highest levels of government, this strict interpretation of policy has been walked back some way. This has resulted in the amendment of current policy to cater for many of those affected and INZ will be re-visiting a large number of declined applications. If you believe you have been affected or would like to know your options, please give us a call.

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