If you and your foreign partner are legally married and have been living together in New Zealand or overseas for at least 12 months, you may be eligible to apply for a residence class spouse visa. To qualify for this type of New Zealand resident visa, you and your partner must have entered into a legal marriage that is recognised as valid under New Zealand law. Furthermore, you and your foreign husband or wife must meet all the basic visa eligibility requirements in order to qualify a family migration visa for entry into New Zealand.
Depending on your individual circumstances, your husband or wife may apply for a residence visa either offshore or onshore. Offshore applications are processed by the New Zealand Embassies, Consulates and High Commissions overseas, while onshore applications are dealt with by Immigration New Zealand (INZ) branches with jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of normal residence in New Zealand. It should be noted that a valid marriage certificate alone does not prove that your marriage is genuine and subsisting. The eligibility requirements are more complex than they may initially appear to you. In order to qualify for a residence class spousal visa under the partnership category, you must provide satisfactory evidence that your marriage is bona fide and that you intend to continue living together in New Zealand once the visa is granted.
Generally, you are required to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the examining INZ officials that you have been living together with your partner for at least 12 months prior to the application. There are special provisions in New Zealand immigration law allowing you to lodge the application before you fulfill the 12-month cohabitation requirement; however, your application will be put on hold until you satisfy the criteria for approval. Please note that a pending residence visa application does not regulate your partner’s current immigration status in New Zealand. You partner must possess a valid visa at all times, up until their residence application is finalised.
The examining INZ immigration officials will make a final determination of eligibility based on documentary evidence submitted as part of the initial application, and results of a marriage visa interview which they may choose to conduct at their discretion. The interview is likely to be required if your spousal visa application is not deemed “clearly approvable”, meaning the forms are incomplete or some critical supporting documentation is missing, and/or your case overall raises serious concerns over its legitimacy (“red flags”). Whether to issue the resident visa, decline the application, or request some more information is solely up to the discretion of the interviewing officer. Statements made during the interview will help the INZ examiner reach a decision.
If satisfactory evidence is provided with the initial residence application, a New Zealand marriage visa may be granted without further reference to you or your spouse, and in some cases, without a personal “face-to-face” interview. Nonetheless, the adjudicating consular officials or INZ officers, if applied onshore, may call you and/or your spouse to ensure that all statements made in the application are true and accurate. It is therefore crucially important to lodge the spouse visa application in the prescribed manner as otherwise it may take Immigration New Zealand (INZ) longer to bring your case to a satisfactory resolution. A complete well-presented application will be approved much quicker than one with some critical information missing.
If everything is in order, the marriage visa interview goes well, and both partners have provided sufficient proof that their relationship is genuine, ongoing, and that the marriage was not entered for the sole purpose of circumventing New Zealand immigration law, a residence visa will most likely be granted at this stage. In some cases, however, the INZ officials may need additional time to review all the paperwork submitted with the initial application in order to make a final determination of eligibility and grant a residence class spousal visa.
We invite you to contact us for a free initial consultation with a licensed New Zealand immigration adviser.