New visa process in place for culturally arranged marriages

7:52 pm on 14 November 2019

The government says it has now fixed the visa application problem for those with culturally arranged marriages.

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Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway Photo: RNZ /Dom Thomas

In May, Immigration New Zealand issued guidance to front line staff that made it significantly harder for those with arranged marriages to get a visa to visit their partner - that will now no longer apply.

The changes have caused severe friction between the government and the New Zealand Indian community.

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said the previous process INZ used to issue visas for culturally arranged marriages, was inconsistently applied.

Mr Lees-Galloway said a new process would allow for a spouse to arrive with a three-month culturally arranged marriage visitor visa.

"For the people involved they will see the same outcome, which is that they will be able to get a visitor visa, come to New Zealand, live with their spouse and demonstrate to Immigration New Zealand that they are in a genuine and stable relationship.

"The process behind that now has a lot more certainty [and] a lot more clarity," he said.

Mr Lees-Galloway said until now a culturally arranged marriage visitor category only facilitated marriages that would occur in New Zealand, but this visa would now cover those that occurred overseas.

The process will be written into Immigration's instructions to provide clarification for staff.

He said INZ would also be looking at the marriage ceremony to make sure it does follow recognised cultural practices.

"What I've encouraged INZ to do is to work alongside our migrant communities to get a stronger understanding of what those cultural practices are, so they can clearly identify genuine legitimate culturally arranged marriages."

Who will this affect?

About 1200 people have been identified who have clearly declined visas since May on the basis of their culturally arranged marriage.

INZ will be in contact with them in the next two weeks before having their application reassessed at no cost.

However, there may be an additional 1300 people who were denied a partnership visa, who may or may not be eligible under the new laws.

Those 1300 people will need to pay a fee to have their application re-assessed.

If it is found they do meet the criteria, then they will then be reimbursed.

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