Partnership applications: the requirement to be living together

The Lawyers at Laurent Law are frequently asked to assist with bringing a partner to New Zealand. Now the New Zealand border is gradually re-opening, many family members including partners of New Zealanders are able to be reunited in New Zealand.

I have previously prepared a short video on Partnership Visas, which you can find here.

This new written blog focusses on the requirement to be “living together”. This can be a “catch-22” for many people because;

  • an overseas partner cannot get a Partnership Visa unless they are living together with a NZ citizen or resident; but
  • an overseas partner cannot live together in NZ with a NZ citizen or resident unless they can get a Visa

Partnership Visa applications are sometimes straightforward but often they can be more complicated.

The key requirement for Partnership Visas = living together

The key requirement in all applications for Visas based on partnership, is that the applicant is living together in a genuine and stable partnership.

Immigration New Zealand is strict about the requirement for a couple to be living together, so that if a couple are not or have never lived together, our advice is likely to be that the overseas partner’s Visa will be declined.

If a couple has never lived together, our advice if they want to get a Visa for New Zealand, is that the couple must start living together.

What does “living together” mean?

Living together means sharing the same home. However, Immigration Instructions make clear it does not include;

  • time spent in each other’s home while still maintaining individual residences
  • shared accommodation during holidays together
  • flatmate arrangements

Sometimes the line between what is and is not living together can be difficult to draw.

Citizens of Visa-waiver countries: starting to live together

Visa waiver countries are those where a national of that country can travel to New Zealand to visit without first having to apply for a Visa. They tend to be those that are similar to New Zealand. They include most of Europe, North America and parts of Asia.

From 2 May 2022, the border reopened to allow Visa-waiver people to come back. In the case of couples who have never lived together, for overseas partners who are citizens of Visa waiver countries, living together can be facilitated by coming to New Zealand and being granted a 3 month Visitor Visa on arrival. For instance, they may be a young couple that met overseas while travelling, Another method for those aged under 30 from certain countries is to apply for a Working Holiday Visa.

Once the couple have lived together for close to 3 months, they can file a Partner Work Visa application. Once that application has been filed, the overseas partner will get an Interim Visa until a decision on the Partner Work Visa is made.

If the couple has not lived together before, the first Partner Work Visa will only be granted for up to 12 months. An application for a second Partnership Work Visa is likely to be required in order to establish the 12 months living together required before a Partnership Residence application can be filed.

In many situations, if an overseas partner wants to come to NZ and apply for further Partnership Visas once in NZ, it can be safer to file an application from overseas for say, a 9-month Visitor Visa. This will not only give a longer period of time to live together before the Partner Work Visa need to be filed, but it can prevent difficult conversations with border officials on arrival about what the true purpose was for visiting New Zealand. If it becomes apparent on arrival that a visitor’s real intention is not to visit but to live together with a New Zealand citizen or resident, they risk being denied a 3 month Visitor Visa and refused entry permission for not being a “bona fide” applicant.

Citizens of non-Visa Waiver countries: starting to live together

This is the most difficult category of person to get a Partner Visa for, because;

  • initial living together in New Zealand cannot be facilitated by the grant of a 3-month Visitor Visa on arrival
  • Immigration New Zealand will often hold concerns about an applicant’s “bona fides”. This is due to the fact non-Visa waiver countries tend to be less desirable places to live compared to New Zealand and Immigration New Zealand can be concerned an applicant will overstay their Visa and not return to their home country if further Visa applications once in New Zealand are declined.

To be in New Zealand, citizens of non-Visa waiver countries must prepare and file a Visitor Visa application from overseas. If a couple has never lived together, a good outcome is a 9 month Visitor Visa. The couple can then live together in New Zealand and file further Partnership Visas.

To satisfy Immigration New Zealand of an non-visa waiver applicant’s bona fides, additional documents and forms are needed, which make the process more complicated and time consuming. The applications are difficult but not always impossible. In recent years, we have successfully assisted applicants from countries such as Papua New Guinea, South Africa and Iran.

In some cases it may be too difficult to get the overseas partner a Visa to start living together with the NZ citizen or resident in NZ. In these situations, the NZ citizen or resident may need to go to the overseas country to live together with their partner there, before applying for a Partner Visa. This may mean giving up employment to New Zealand and going to live in a country that is not safe. Clients must be committed to the process.

Couples who have lived together overseas (visa waiver or non-visa waiver countries)

In some situations, the couple may have lived together overseas. If they have already lived together for 12 months overseas (e.g. the couple may be more mature in their years), a Partner Work Visa may be granted for 24 months. This makes applying for Residence easier, as a second Partner Work Visa will not be required while a Residence application is in process.

If a couple have lived together overseas for more than 5 years, an application directly for Permanent Residence may be possible. There are some differences between Residence and Permanent Residence, which I have written about previously here.

Conclusion

Because a couple must be living together in order to be granted a Partnership Visa, there can be multiple steps, in getting the overseas partner from holding just a Visitor Visa, to a Work Visa, then to Residence.

Periods of not living together (periods of separation) within a longer period of living together can be acceptable to INZ, provided there are “compelling reasons” for the period of separation. Reasons for any periods of separation need to be clearly explained as part of an application, to ensure the application has the best chance of success.

It is not always straightforward. Please feel welcome to contact us to find out if we can help.

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