In figures recently released by the New Zealand immigration authorities, almost 500 people out of 9,000 were refused a New Zealand marriage visa in the last financial year when they were unable to prove the existence of a stable relationship with the New Zealand citizen or permanent resident. This number does not represent the number of arranged marriages involved in the total of almost ten thousand applicants, as the New Zealand migration officers were happy to grant visas in many of these cases, accepting the fact that this is still a very common practice in some communities, albeit without the compulsion of previous times.
By law, culturally arranged marriages must be given the same weight as romantic ones, but it is a much more difficult job for the immigration officials who have to decide on whether the application for a New Zealand partner visa is based on a genuine marriage in which both parties are determined to make the relationship work in the long term, or whether it is a ‘sham’ marriage, implying that once the immigrant partner is in the country, they do not intend to live with the resident and make the marriage a permanent feature of their lives in New Zealand.
Immigration lawyers have a difficult time explaining the result of a failed application to the couple. One way around the problem is to suggest that the couple live together overseas for a while, to convince the authorities that the application for a New Zealand partner visa is genuine. This can cause very difficult logistical problems as it is more common for the bride to be from a foreign country and the groom to be the resident, often with a job that it would be hard for them to leave for more than a week or so. It is nevertheless very difficult for immigration officials to tell the difference between an arranged marriage in which neither partner has met the other before the wedding, or where there has been no courtship in the accepted sense, and a marriage which has been arranged by a broker for the specific purpose of gaining a legal way into New Zealand.
For couples in the former position who wish to take up family migration to New Zealand under the partnership policy, it is more beneficial if they use a professional immigration service that will make sure that all of the forms are filled out correctly and corroborating evidence is in place before the forms are filed with the authorities. It is more likely to succeed if the forms are not shuttled back and forth and it is certainly much more likely to meet with success if the decision does not have to be appealed against if it goes against the couple.
Documentary evidence in the matter of an application for a New Zealand marriage visa can vary, but includes a wedding video, photographs and signed affidavits from witnesses who can confirm that the marriage has been arranged for a long time – long engagements are typical in genuine cases – and these can be requested by immigration staff when making a final determination of eligibility. The number of spurious cases is not many as a percentage, but cause a lot of extra work for the New Zealand immigration authorities to weed them out.