Immigration New Zealand’s assessment of partnership cases is old fashioned and narrow minded. Uniting families in New Zealand is becoming a mission. As a result, we see families being separated for a good period of time, leaving their kiwi partners and their children with undue stress and an unforeseeable future.

You might be a New Zealand citizen or resident who, while you were overseas, found yourself a partner from another country. You come to realise that your partner needs a visa to live with you in New Zealand. By doing a simple search on the Immigration New Zealand website you will come to know that as a New Zealander you can support your overseas partner for a:

1. Work Visa based on partnership.

2. Resident Visa based on partnership.

In both types of visa applications, you need to demonstrate that as a couple you are living together in a “genuine and stable” relationship. For a Work Visa you need to provide evidence of living together for at least 4 -6 months; and for a Resident Visa you need to prove that you have lived together for at least 12 months.

As a New Zealander, you might think this a simple process.  The problem is, however, that how you define a genuine relationship and what you can provide to demonstrate your living arrangement is different to what Immigration New Zealand expects in order to process a partnership application.

Partnership Instructions (Policy)

The process of securing a visa for a partner to live in New Zealand is not easy. Is this because of Immigration New Zealand’s narrow-minded assessment and lack of common sense, or are our partnership rules simply outdated and no longer applicable to modern day relationships? Or is it a combination of both?

Let’s take a look at the type of evidence Immigration New Zealand lists in the Immigration Instructions to demonstrate “living together”. This may include, but is not limited to, original or certified copies of documents showing a shared home, such as:

• joint tenancy agreement or rent book or rental receipts

• joint ownership of residential property

• correspondence (including postmarked envelopes) addressed to both principal applicant and partner at the same address.

The examples listed above are a sign that our Immigration policy is old fashioned and Immigration New Zealand’s request for evidence of living together is outdated. For a start, requesting original or certified copies of documents is out of step with the modern experience, what with online bills, social media, shared photos and travelling together.  Nor does the demand for such evidence take into consideration the way that people work, and live their lives, in other countries.

People no longer receive post marked envelopes. Mail is received by email. Invitations to special events are now done on social media or via a text message or Facebook. If it is an older or more mature couple who cannot demonstrate their relationship via social media, they probably live an even simpler life. To show that they live together will be even more difficult. Mature couples would already own or rent a property, they will already have their (separate) bank accounts, and utilities in their (separate) names. When they enter into a relationship, changing accounts to joint names is a hassle and makes no sense. Because this is not how they define their relationship. A genuine relationship is demonstrated by simply leaving a “good morning” or “I love you” note on a cereal box.

Immigration New Zealand’s interview questions are unreasonable. We have come across situations where fathers are being asked about the vaccination dates of their children. In a recent case I heard on the radio, a colleague in the Immigration industry described how a husband did not know the medication list for his wife.

While the interview questions are usually unreasonable, it is not necessarily the immigration officer’s fault. It is mainly because our partnership rules allow for such questions to be asked, and for a subjective decision to be made by the respective officers.

Our partnership instructions require immigration officers to consider four elements when determining the couple are living together in a genuine and stable relationship:

1.Credibility, where the principal applicant and the partner both separately and together, must be credible in any statements made and evidence presented by them,

2. ‘Living together’: the principal applicant and partner must be living together unless there are genuine and compelling reasons for any period(s) of separation.

3. ‘Genuine partnership’: the principal applicant and partner must both be found to be genuine as to their reasons for marrying, entering a civil union or entering into a de facto relationship; and intentions to maintain a long-term and exclusive partnership.

4. ‘Stable partnership’, the principal applicant and their partner must demonstrate that their partnership is likely to endure.

Our partnership rules are very subjective. The decision maker has to determine a couple’s future together on the basis of an individual interpretation of what is genuine, stable and credible. How can a couple demonstrate that their relationship is likely to endure. What is the test for this?

The couple must meet the living together requirements with a Western perspective of joint living arrangements and joint financial interdependence. It is usually migrants from non-Western countries who are travelling to New Zealand to reunite with their partners. How do our immigration rules reflect the living together arrangements for applicants from the Middle East and Asia? For example, where couples live with their parents and their relatives, they face real challenges in producing documents to prove their shared life.

New Zealanders to live offshore

Another issue that many New Zealanders as supporting partners encounter is having to live overseas to meet the living together requirements under partnership rules. The living conditions of the overseas country where their partners live is sometimes unsafe and unstable.

Many couples are not able to demonstrate that they are living together in the other country simply because the conditions there do not permit them to collect such documents. Many countries do not allow joint bank accounts. In the UAE, documents are issued in the husband’s name. Usually letters and statements are sent to a PO Box or the employer’s address.

It is not easy to secure employment and a house in New Zealand. For a New Zealander to resign from his/her job and leave everything behind to live with his/her partner offshore is usually not an easy choice. For many people this might not even be a choice. They might have debts, finances, children from previous partners, so their commitment to New Zealand is far too strong to put aside and live overseas just to meet INZ’s definition of living together.

As part of its Change Programme, INZ has assigned a dedicated team to assess partnership cases, with a view to producing more consistent decisions. From what we have seen, this clearly is not yet being achieved. We are still receiving inconsistent decisions, unrealistic interview questions, and as a result families cannot be reunited and their struggles continue.

What can be done?

Our partnership rules need to be updated to reflect current living arrangements. On the other hand, INZ need to start applying their common sense when it comes to partnership, and not mix the good with the bad. They need to take into consideration the living arrangements of overseas countries.

If you are a New Zealander who wants to bring their partner to this country, the process is not simple and you usually need professional help to get your partnership case across the line. You need to document and keep records of everything you can think of. It can be as simple as an invitation letter you received online or via email or even a text message. You need to detail every step of your relationship. A successful partnership case needs to be as clear cut as possible, with every document explained clearly in a manner that a person on the other side, who knows nothing about your life, can get a good grasp of and will understand why you are providing these documents.

We come across many partnership cases, and as a third party we may be best placed to help you put your case together with the right material that is relevant and persuasive. Critically, by working alongside you, we can tell your story in a way that is compelling and persuasive.

If you require assistance with partnership applications, then get in touch with Laurent Law to discuss your case.