Immigration New Zealand has been cracking down on partnership-based visa applications in recent years, meaning that it is harder now than ever before to get a partnership category visa approved. When people don’t seek expert advice before lodging a visitor visa application for their partner, things tend to go wrong and they end up shooting themselves in the foot.
Too often we get New Zealand-based partners coming to us only after receiving a decline decision on their overseas partner’s visitor visa application. Sadly, the reason for the decline is usually all too simple, for example, that they just didn’t provide enough evidence of their relationship to satisfy Immigration New Zealand that they are in a genuine relationship.
This means that we are seeing a lot of people wasting their time, effort and money on applications that were destined to fail from the beginning. With the delays that we are currently seeing with Immigration New Zealand, some couples end up waiting several months for a decision only to be disappointed when it eventually comes back declined. We see so many cases every day and, in most cases, if the couple had just done the application correctly from the start, chances are that it would have been approved instead of declined.
This happens when couples lodge a visitor visa application to try and bring the offshore partner to New Zealand themselves, without seeking prior advice first and without fully understanding what they need to demonstrate in order to get the visa approved.
Most common problem – #1
So, what do you need to demonstrate? Well, one of the most common problems that we see is people not supplying enough evidence of their relationship.
Couples expect immigration officers to just somehow “know” from a few photos and letters that they are in a real relationship, but while you might know from your feelings and talking to your partner every day, what are you doing to demonstrate this to the immigration officer looking at your application?
The thing is that people make the mistake of assuming that it is easy, or that a few photos and a joint bank account statement is sufficient. We are here to tell you that it is not. Immigration officers only have the documents submitted to them to go by; they can’t feel the love between you and your partner, nor have they met either of you, so it is up to you to show them. Tell them the story of your relationship with the evidence.
What we want people to realise is that immigration officers assess applications against a number of criteria relevant to the category of visa that you are applying under. There are many different categories of visitor visas and each has its own criteria that must be met.
Immigration officers usually apply these criteria with rigid adherence. All criteria need to be met and they look at the documents submitted to see if you meet them, so think of your relationship documents as evidence to prove that you meet the criteria – if the immigration officer is satisfied that you meet one of the criteria, but you haven’t submitted enough evidence to prove that you meet the other criteria, your application is likely to be declined.
This is particularly important when the applicant is offshore (i.e. not in New Zealand yet) because Immigration New Zealand won’t give you another opportunity to submit more documents. When the applicant is applying from another country, the immigration officer has no obligation to request more information or tell you about any concerns that they have before declining the application, so you really need to give as much partnership evidence as possible when you lodge the application. Remember, there is a “four-fold test” that applies to partnership category visas:
- ‘Credibility’: the principal applicant and the partner, both separately and together, must be credible in any statements made and evidence presented by them.
- ‘Living together’: the principal applicant and their partner must be living together, unless there are genuine and compelling reasons for any period(s) of separation.
- ‘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 their intentions to maintain a long-term partnership exclusive of others.
- ‘Stable partnership’: the principal applicant and partner must demonstrate that their partnership is likely to endure.
Useful tip: When collecting and organising your relationship evidence, you should focus on these four key criteria and what you can give to prove that your relationship meets each one. The more documents, the better!
Most common problem – #2
Another common problem that we see is people applying under the wrong category.This one really is the worst and it makes us sad for our clients that they didn’t know any better.
As mentioned above, there are numerous categories of visitor visas and people often get them mixed up. Do not get confused between the general category (tourist visa) and partnership category – this is a crucial mistake that many people make when lodging applications online.
The online system has two options: ‘Visitor visa’ and ‘Partner or Child visa’. If you click on ‘Visitor visa’, you will be applying for a tourist visa, which has completely different requirements to the partnership category.
If your partner is eligible to support you for a visa under partnership category, e.g. they are New Zealand citizen or resident, holder of a mid-skilled Essential Skills work visa, or another work or student visa that entitles them to support family under this category, then you should be clicking on ‘Partner or Child visa’ and following the steps from there.
Every relationship is different and everyone’s situation is unique, however it is useful to remember that it is easier to get a visitor visa approved under partnership category than it is under any other category, e.g. general category or culturally arranged marriage category – most applications under these two categories get declined, so don’t even bother with them if you meet the criteria for a visa under partnership category.
There are many other problems that we encounter with this category, however, these two are without a doubt the most common and easy to avoid problems. It is when the supporting partner has previously supported another partner for a visa or has convictions for domestic violence that things get really tricky, and I recommend seeing an immigration adviser or lawyer do the application for you if that is the case.
In all cases, however, the main thing is not to lodge an incomplete or incorrect application with missing or wrong information. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot – if you need help or you don’t feel confident, save yourself from disappointment and come and see us so that we can assist you to understand what’s required before you lodge an application.