New Zealand partner migration: de facto partner visa process

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The New Zealand de facto partner visa, otherwise known as the unmarried partner visa, is designed for couples who are not legally married, but who have been in a committed and durable relationship that is classified under New Zealand immigration law as being equivalent to marriage. Since, in most instances, a legally-binding union (e.g. a registered civil or de facto partnership) has not taken place, it is essential to ensure that a residence visa application is complete and shows that both the sponsor and intended immigrant meet the definition of a genuine partnership under New Zealand migration law.

In addition to meeting the basic de facto partner visa eligibility requirements, both the sponsoring New Zealand citizen or permanent resident and their foreign partner must demonstrate that they have been living together in a committed relationship for at least 12 months immediately preceding the date of filing the residence visa application under Immigration New Zealand (INZ) family stream migration programme. In order to make a successful application, satisfactory evidence must be submitted by the applicant and their New Zealand sponsor to establish that they have formed a genuine partnership and have a bona fide intention to continue living together in New Zealand once the partner visa is granted. Inadequate evidence and incomplete applications can quickly raise serious concerns (“red flags”) with the immigration authorities and cause problems or substantial delays in the partner visa application process. A ‘clearly approvable’ residence application lodged in the prescribed manner will be approved by Immigration New Zealand (INZ) much quicker than one with some important documentation missing.

Obviously, only the couples themselves know their intention to live together, but the immigration authorities will try to interpret their intentions based on objective facts, and with the use of some “rules of thumb”. Generally, in assessing a de facto relationship or registered civil partnership, the Immigration New Zealand (INZ) offices, whether onshore or offshore, usually look at evidence of things such as living together on a permanent basis, sharing a household, and important financial and social commitments. Essentially, both partners must have a mutual commitment to a shared life to the exclusion of all others, which means that any previous relationships or domestic partnerships must be terminated. The ‘living together’ requirement is applied fairly tightly. Short periods apart may only be acceptable for valid reasons, such as work commitments or family emergency.

As any other New Zealand visa application, an unmarried partner application can be lodged either onshore or offshore. ‘In country’ residence applications are processed by Immigration New Zealand (INZ) branches in New Zealand, while all offshore applications are dealt with by the New Zealand Embassies, Consulates and High Commissions with jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of normal and legal residence. It should be noted that a pending residence visa application does not allow the applicant to remain in New Zealand. The foreign partner is required to be in New Zealand on a valid visa at all times, up until their de facto partner visa application is decided by INZ. All partner visa applications must be lodged in the prescribed manner as defined by INZ.

If you have not lived together for 12 months yet, but can demonstrate that your relationship is bona fide, it may still be possible to lodge a residence visa application under the partnership policy provided all other criteria are met. Immigration New Zealand (INZ) will accept an application; however, no decision will be made until the 12-month relationship requirement has been fulfilled. In some cases it may be wise to lodge the application in advance based on individual circumstances, e.g. when the couple are about to meet the 12-month cohabitation requirement. Alternatively, the foreign partner may choose to apply for a special category partnership-based work or visitor visa to spend more time with their sponsor in New Zealand before applying for a residence visa to stay in New Zealand on a permanent basis.

New Zealand de facto partner visa rules call for a wide range of documentary evidence to prove your relationship, and these may be items you would not have considered. We know what to include in your partner visa application to satisfy the immigration officials so your loved can join you in New Zealand as quickly as possible. We can assemble your partner visa application package quickly, efficiently, and according to the highest professional standards. We encourage you to contact us for a free initial consultation with a licensed New Zealand immigration adviser to find out if you meet the basic eligibility requirements to sponsor your partner for a residence visa. We provide an initial consultation free of charge, followed by a cost-effective and comprehensive package should you decide to use our professional immigration consultancy services. 

Read next:

New Zealand unmarried partner (de facto) visas: general eligibility requirements

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