New Zealand family immigration: spouse and de facto partner visas

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If you are a New Zealand citizen, a lawful permanent resident of New Zealand, a returning resident in possession of a valid returning resident visa for entry into New Zealand, or an eligible Australian citizen permanently residing in New Zealand, and you wish to bring your foreign wifehusband, or partner to New Zealand, you may be eligible to sponsor your immediate family members for a migrant residence class visa which grants the privilege of living and working permanently in New Zealand. The qualifying sponsors and intended immigrants must meet specific visa eligibility requirements as defined by Immigration New Zealand (INZ) and go through a long and complex application process before they can obtain permission to migrate.

In general, New Zealand immigration law differs from those of other English-speaking countries, particularly such popular migration destinations as Australia, EnglandCanada, and the USA. The process of obtaining an immigrant visa for your prospective spouse or de facto partner to come to New Zealand does not work the same way as in other countries. For instance, permanent residents and citizens of the UK and Australia can bring a foreign national to their country on a prospective marriage (fiancee) visa, while US citizens wishing to marry their partner in the US can sponsor them for a K-1 fiancee visa which is specifically designed for the purpose of getting married within six months. In New Zealand, however, an eligible sponsor can only bring a foreign partner or spouse into the country on a residence visa, or in some cases, on a special category work or visitor visa issued under the partnership policy. There is no fiancee visa category in New Zealand migration law. Furthermore, in order to qualify for a residence visa as a spouse or unmarried partner of a New Zealand citizen or legal permanent resident, couple must demonstrate to the satisfaction of the examining INZ officials that they have been living together in a relationship akin to marriage for at least one year immediately preceding the date of filing the residence visa application. This makes the New Zealand family migration process extremely complex and time-consuming, as most couples do not have permanent visas for each others’ countries and are therefore unable to comply with the strict relationship criteria for approval.

The definition of a partnership under New Zealand immigration law is very strict. Immigration officials normally expect to see sufficient documentary evidence to confirm that you have been in an ongoing and committed relationship with your foreign wife, husband, or de facto partner for at least one year prior to sponsorship. This may involve submitting numerous supporting documents to prove that your marriage or partnership is bona fide, and that you entered into your union in good faith, and not to evade New Zealand immigration laws.

If you have not lived together for 12 months yet, but can demonstrate that your relationship is genuine and subsisting, your foreign partner or spouse may qualify for a special category work or visitor visa (it should be noted, however, that a temporary visa application submitted by partners who have never met in person or only spent a short time together ‘face to face’ is unlikely to succeed). You may also request a partnership-based work or visitor visa, if your partner has already applied for a residence visa and wants to travel to New Zealand while their residence application is being processed. All temporary and permanent visa applications must be lodged in the prescribed manner as required by Immigration New Zealand (INZ).

We strongly encourage you to become familiar with some basic eligibility requirements before starting your visa journey. Please feel free to contact us for a free initial consultation. We will help you determine if your foreign wife, husband or partner may qualify for a residence visa in one of the following immigration categories:

Alternatively, contact us for a free initial consultation with a licensed New Zealand immigration adviser.

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