Can I get my partner a Visa if we have not lived together or have only lived together for a short period of time? What if we met online?
A New Zealand citizen or resident can support their applicant overseas partner for a Visitor or Work Visa if they are living together in a genuine and stable partnership. Immigration instructions do not specify a time period for an applicant to have been living together in a genuine and stable partnership with their New Zealand partner in order for a partnership Visitor Visa or partnership Work Visa to be approved. However in practice, the time required living together in a genuine and stable partnership to achieve an approval of such an application is at least 3 – 4 months.
A New Zealand citizen or resident can support their partner for a Residence Visa if they have been living together in a genuine and stable partnership for at least 12 months.
In all cases, the onus of demonstrating that an applicant and their New Zealand partner are living together in a genuine and stable partnership lies with the applicant and their New Zealand partner. This must be demonstrated in document form, because partnership applications are considered on the papers at least in the first instance. Sometimes an immigration officer will invite an applicant and their New Zealand partner to an interview in person, but this is after an initial assessment on the papers has been carried out.
Requirement for partnership to be genuine and stable
According to immigration instructions, a partnership is “genuine and stable” if an immigration officer is satisfied that;
- It is genuine, because it has been entered into with the intention of being maintained on a long-term and exclusive basis; and
- Is stable, because it is likely to endure
Evidence that a partnership is genuine and stable can include supporting letters from friends and family, evidence of financial interdependence, being married, having children, photos together. However no single type of evidence is determinative, all evidence will all be taken into account in an overall assessment of whether a partnership is genuine and stable.
Relevance of applicant and New Zealand partner living together
Evidence that an applicant and their New Zealand partner are living together can include joint ownership of residential property, joint tenancy agreement, correspondence addressed to both parties at the same address.
An interesting scenario arises where the applicant has not lived together with their New Zealand citizen or resident partner, or has not lived together with them for very long. Or, the applicant and their New Zealand partner may not be able to provide any or much evidence of living together in a genuine and stable partnership. These situations do not neatly meet the requirement in immigration instructions that the applicant and their New Zealand partner are “living together in a genuine and stable partnership”.
If the applicant is in New Zealand already on a Temporary Visa, a lack of living together usually needs to be rectified by ensuring the applicant and the New Zealand partner start living together and soon. If the applicant and the New Zealand partner are serious about their partnership, then this should not present a problem.
However the situation when not much living together has occurred or not much evidence of this can be produced can also arise where the applicant is overseas. Sometimes they may have never been to New Zealand. For example, consider the situation where the applicant and the New Zealand partner have met through an online dating website. They may have communicated frequently or recently married, but this is not enough to meet the requirement of living together.
INZ direction on how to deal with this situation
INZ has released an “advice to staff” which deals with this situation. Advice to staff dated 5 June 2015 explains that where the requirement for living together is not met, immigration officers should consider whether or not to exercise their discretion to issue a general Visitor Visa for the purpose of a family visit;
If the couple cannot demonstrate they meet one or more of the partnership requirements, including living together, Immigration Officers should refrain from granting visas as exceptions to instructions (ETIs) as this undermines the integrity of partnership instructions. Instead, if a couple appear to be genuine and credible but cannot demonstrate they meet living together requirements, officer should consider whether or not to exercise their discretion to issue a general visitor visa for the purpose of a family visit.
A further advice to staff dated 10 May 2019 states;
A number of applicants have been applying for temporary visas when they have not met part of instruction(s) … – specifically, they have not lived together – and have been requesting a General Visitor Visa to allow them to establish their relationship in New Zealand. While a General Visitor Visa can be granted to partners of NZ citizens/residents at INZs discretion, this should only be done when it has been established that the relationship is genuine and stable and that the applicants entered the relationship with the intention that it would be on a long term basis. A General Visitor Visa should not be the automatic default position when an applicant cannot demonstrate part of partnership instructions are met, as this risks appearing to create a de facto policy and would go against the intent of instructions. Each case needs to be assessed on its merits.
Grant of General Visitor Visa possible
Strong evidence of the relationship being genuine stable and as much evidence of any limited living together needs to be provided, in order to achieve the grant of a General Visitor Visa , in reliance on this advice to staff. Bona fides – whether the applicant is genuine in their intentions for coming to New Zealand – will likely be considered as part of the General Visitor Visa assessment by INZ. Bona fides will not be established if an immigration officer is not satisfied an applicant will return to their home country should the relationship dissolve.
If the relationship is formative in nature and there has been little or no living together, a good outcome would be the grant of a Visitor Visa for say 6 or 9 months. An applicant may use the time they have in New Zealand on the General Visitor Visa to build have sufficient evidence of living together in a genuine and stable partnership to lodge a further partnership application, possibly Residence once 12 months is living together in a genuine and stable partnership is established.
It is not crucial that the applicant and their New Zealand partner are living together in a genuine and stable partnership at the time the application is lodged. Periods of separation between an applicant and a New Zealand partner are acceptable, however evidence of communications while separated should be provided to INZ.
Note that applicants from a Visa waiver country can enter New Zealand for 3 month without needing to apply for a Visa first (they do however need to apply for a NZ electronic travel authority). However if the intention is to remain in New Zealand with their partner and go on to apply for further partnership Visa, it is generally not recommended to make use of the 3 month Visa. Instead, the applicant should remain in their home country and apply for a Visa from there, the existence of the partnership and the probable intention to apply for a further partnership Visa once in New Zealand explained. The reason for this relates to the issue of bona fides – an applicant may not be seen as a genuine visitor for 3 months on arrival in New Zealand on a Visa waiver if they have a partner in New Zealand they will be staying with.
If the relationship has been in existence for a number of years and there has been some living together, maybe the couple are married and have a child together, it may be possible to convince INZ to grant a 12 month Work Visa at the initial stage. Often Laurent Law will present an application for a Work Visa of this nature as also being for a Visitor Visa as a fallback option, if INZ is not prepared to grant the Work Visa.
Contact us here at Laurent Law to help with you partnership application, where you and your partner may not have lived together for very long or at all and we will see what we can do to assist.