Unlike many other countries, New Zealand recognises same sex de facto and officially registered civil partnerships. For the purpose of Immigration New Zealand (INZ) instructions, ‘partnership’ means a legal marriage or a civil union whether opposite or same sex, or a durable de facto relationship whether between members of the same or opposite sex. To be eligible to apply for a residence visa under the same sex partnership category, a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident sponsor and their foreign partner must meet the general residence visa eligibility requirements and prove to the examining immigration officials that they have been living together in an exclusive, committed relationship for at least one year immediately before making a partner visa application under Immigration New Zealand (INZ) family stream migration programme.
To obtain permission for a foreign partner to migrate to New Zealand under the partnership category, both the applicant and their sponsor must go through the visa application process, which involves completing the INZ application forms and lodging the application in the prescribed manner as defined by Immigration New Zealand (INZ). Essentially, you and your partner must prove that your relationship is genuine and subsisting, and that you have been living together for at least 12 months immediately preceding the date of filing the residence class visa application. If there are serious doubts concerning the legitimacy of your partnership, the examining INZ officials may require you and/or your partner to participate in a personal “face-to-face” or telephone interview to ensure that you have entered into your relationship in good faith, and not to evade New Zealand immigration laws. This can be an embarrassing and nerve-wracking experience, as the officials may ask highly personal questions that only genuine couples would know how to answer. While some may seem quite innocent, answering any partner visa interview questions incorrectly may result in a substantial delay in the processing of your residence visa application.
It is apparent that only partners themselves know their intentions to live together, but the interviewing INZ officers will try to interpret their intentions based on objective facts and the ‘balance of probabilities’. Generally, in assessing a de facto or registered same-sex relationship, the Immigration New Zealand branches usually ask for evidence clearly demonstrating that the couple are in a durable relationship as claimed, such as living together on a permanent basis, sharing important financial and social commitments. This includes financial aspects and duration of the relationship. There is no specific checklist as each New Zealand partner visa application is assessed on its own merits. A strong case presented to Immigration New Zealand (INZ) in a ‘decision ready’ format will be approved much quicker than one with some important information missing.
If your partner is already in New Zealand on a valid visa, such as a work, visitor or student visa, he or she may lodge a residence application from inside the country. Onshore applications are processed by Immigration New Zealand (INZ) branches in New Zealand. Alternatively, if your loved one is currently overseas, they may approach their local New Zealand Embassy, Consulate or High Commission that deals with visa applications in the country of their normal and legal residence. It is important to remember that a pending New Zealand partner visa application does not extend or otherwise adjust the applicant’s visa status in New Zealand. The foreign partner must maintain legal immigration status in New Zealand while their residence application is being processed by Immigration New Zealand. A person unlawfully in New Zealand is liable for deportation.
If you have yet to meet the 12-month cohabitation requirement to qualify for a residence visa under the partnership policy, you may still be eligible to lodge an application with Immigration New Zealand (INZ). However, your application may not be approved prior to the one year relationship requirement being met. The INZ branch will defer making a final decision on your application until you and your partner have lived together for a year. Nonetheless, it may be appropriate to lodge a partner visa application in advance, if you are about to satisfy the relationship criteria for approval, to allow INZ to complete all the necessary administrative processing (e.g. medicals, character checks) so that your residence visa application can be finalised as soon as you meet the partnership requirements.
If your partner is currently overseas and you are trying to figure out how to bring him or her to New Zealand so that you can spend some more time together in person to qualify for a residence visa, you may consider applying for a temporary work or visitor visa under the partnership policy. It should be noted, however, that you will be required to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the INZ officials that your relationship is genuine and subsisting. A temporary visa application submitted by partners who have never met or only spent a short time together in person is unlikely to succeed.
We know how to lodge the New Zealand same sex partner visa application in the prescribed manner, what supporting evidence should be included, and what to expect and how to prepare for a partner visa interview with Immigration New Zealand (INZ). We can help you and your partner through this often stressful and complicated process to ensure that it is as smooth and worry-free as possible for you and your loved one, and that the residence visa is granted without excessive delays and complications.
Please contact us for a free initial consultation with a licensed New Zealand immigration adviser to find out more about the process of sponsoring a foreign partner for a residence visa to live in New Zealand. We offer an initial 15 minute consultation free of charge, followed by a cost-effective and comprehensive package should you decide to use our professional migration services.