The INZ will continue to process visitor visas for culturally arranged marriages despite the suspension of most other temporary offshore visas due to Covid-19. Photo / Supplied
Couples no longer need to prove that they have lived together to be eligible for a visitor visa under the Cultural Arranged Marriages (CAM) category.
Visitors to the category will also be exempt from border restrictions, and Immigration NZ has confirmed that it will continue to process applications in the category despite the suspension of most other temporary offshore visas due to Covid-19.
South Asian Community Leaders Group chairman Sunny Kaushal said INZ confirmed the new rules in an online meeting with community representatives on Thursday, October 7.
âIt’s been a long battle, but it’s great to have new rules and guidelines that reflect a better understanding of the tradition of culturally arranged marriages,â Kaushal said.
Kaushal said the new rules clearly place culturally arranged marriages in its own category, with the exception of other partnership-based visas in general.
Stephanie Greathead, acting director general of border operations and visas at INZ, said the meeting was part of a regular series that the agency is organizing with its stakeholders, including migrant communities, to provide updates. update and discuss immigration issues.
âINZ has processed culturally-arranged marriage visitor visa applications from abroad in the past 12 months,â said Greathead.
“People who have obtained these visas are exempt from border restrictions and can travel to New Zealand.”
The processing of visitor visa applications submitted under the CAM category would continue as it was considered a relationship visa.
Under the new guidelines, if a person were to travel to New Zealand to join a partner, they could be considered a true applicant if other conditions such as health and character were met.
An applicant who is already married or intending to marry in New Zealand would be granted a three-month visitor visa.
âThe changes can offer people who have encountered and experienced
cultural ceremony, but who have not lived together with the possibility of coming to
New Zealand to live together so they can later satisfy the immigration partnership
visa requirements, âthe agency said.
Other partnership-based visas required that a couple live together in a genuine and stable partnership before a visa could be granted.
“If an applicant obtains a CAM visitor visa, he may be able to apply for a partnership
Proof of a cultural marriage, âsaid the INZ.
“Substantial evidence must be provided to demonstrate that the marriage follows an identified and recognized cultural tradition.”
Successful applicants had six months to make their first entry to give them time to secure their flights and manage isolation or quarantine in New Zealand.
Kaushal said the changes are “a delight to many ethnic communities” and have brought “good news in these stressful times”.
He said this was seen as a great achievement by local leaders from the Indian, Pakistani, Nepalese, Afghan, Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan communities who have been meeting regularly with the INZ since 2019.
Kaushal said culturally arranged marriages were widely practiced in South Asia, but many here had faced “extreme prejudice” because of them.
âCulturally arranged marriages have been one of the most successful marriage institutions in the world, with a divorce rate of less than 4 percent,â he said.
âBut many couples here have been discriminated against, even in immigration processes, because of them.
“It’s been a big challenge, but it’s great that INZ now understands the importance of this tradition among Asian communities.”
Kaushal said last Thursday’s meeting resolved this sensitive issue after a long battle.
Typically, culturally arranged marriages follow identified cultural traditions where marriages are entered into by people who are not the husband or wife, for example the parents of the couple.
Until November 2019, the rules called for the wedding ceremony to take place in New Zealand for couples to be eligible. This policy was amended in 2003 to include weddings that took place abroad.
In the past five years, there had been 843 applicants for culturally arranged marriage visitor visas, of which 264 were approved. In the year 2020/21, 157 requests were refused and 92 approved.