New Zealand’s immigration law is normally intended as a group of rules and regulations applying to migrants, being aimed to balance the country’s national interests with the rights of individuals coming to our shores. For this reason, it is intended as a set of laws mainly directed to regulate the legal status of foreigners and not aimed to affect New Zealanders. Generally speaking, this assumption is correct, and if you are a New Zealander your life is most likely never going to be affected in any way by regulations and restrictions imposed by the Immigration Act. That is, until you fall in love with a foreigner.
The reality is that immigration law imposes quite a number of restrictions and limitations on the possibility of a foreigner obtaining a partnership visa on the basis of their relationship with a New Zealander. Some of these limitations derive from circumstances relating to the New Zealand partners, reducing their ability to support a partnership visa.
New Zealanders can in fact act as supporting partners for a partnership visa only if they meet specific eligibility requirements and, among these, two conditions relating to the fact of having sponsored other partners in the past seem extremely limiting. The first imposes that New Zealand partners must have not sponsored more than one other successful partnership resident visa applicant in the past. The second requirement prescribes that New Zealand sponsoring partners must have never acted as partner in a partnership resident application in the 5 years preceding the application.
The first requirement practically allows a New Zealander to support a resident visa application for a foreigner only twice in his/her lifetime, the likely purpose of this limitation being to contain the number of people that can obtain a resident status thanks to the relationship with the same New Zealander. It is practically aimed to avoid situations where licentious Kiwis might constitute an uncontrolled gateway to a residence status for too many foreigners.
If in principle this purpose seems understandable and aimed to impose nothing more than a serious commitment when supporting a partnership’s residence application, the reality is much more complicated, and this can end up being a very unfair limitation for a New Zealander.
It is important to keep in mind that Kiwis are a population of migrants themselves and that many like to explore the world by travelling, having their iconic overseas experience and/or working abroad for long periods of times. Given this tendency of New Zealanders to explore the world, together with the strong attraction that New Zealand exercises on the many tourists and migrants that consistently approach our shore, it does not come as a surprise that many New Zealanders are in a relationship with a foreigner.
At the same time, it is a fair assumption that most people might have more than two serious relationships in a lifetime and limiting the number of people whose visa a Kiwi can sponsor might result in being quite unfair.
This is especially true considering that the current immigration legislation framework is built in a way that practically limits the duration of a temporary visa for the partners of New Zealanders to no more than two years, after which they are entitled to legally remain in the country on the basis of a more permanent partnership residence visa. Partners of New Zealanders can in fact apply for a temporary visa that is most often issued for the duration of one year and that can be renewed only for another year and only if in the meantime a partnership residence application has been put in place.
The system basically urges Kiwis to support a resident visa for their partners as soon as possible, but then limits the amount of these types of visa they can sponsor to two in a lifetime.
It would probably make more sense for the system to allow a longer duration of the temporary visas for partners of New Zealanders. This would allow Kiwis and their partners to live in New Zealand for longer and to have the opportunity to verify the solidity of their relationship before having to embark in the complexities of a partnership residence application in order to stay together. This would also allow New Zealanders to support partners for a resident visa only when the relationship has reached a higher level of solidity and maturity, making more reasonable the limit of two partnership resident applications per lifetime that can be supported.
We also believe that allowing a longer duration of partnership temporary visas could mitigate the unfairness of the second New Zealand supporting partner’s eligibility requirements: to have never acted as partner in a partnership resident application in the 5 years preceding the application. This means, among other possible implications, that a New Zealander that supports a partnership residence visa cannot support any other type of partnership visa application for 5 years. This could become a great limitation to the possibility of Kiwis to live in New Zealand with their partners, especially considering how people are normally likely to develop feelings for another person within 5 years from the end of another relationship. This is especially true for people being in the right age to create a family and anxious to stabilise their life and have children, but even more for older people, to whom 5 years can be perceived as a very considerable amount of time.
As before, the contradiction of the system is to force New Zealanders and their partner to apply for a residence visa to be together and then, should the relationship not work, impose a quite long ban to the ability of the New Zealander to support another partnership residence visa application.
The reality is that these instructions are based on outdated and old-style interpretation of the way relationships now form and develop. The new world is fast, constantly in movement and changing. People travel, have an extensive virtual and physical interaction platform, and relationship can be formed quickly and easily, but still be very important for the life of people involved.
New Zealanders have the right to share their life with the people they love without abstract and unreasonable limitations, and allowing longer partnership visa durations for their partners would permit this, by letting partners share their lives for longer while still maintaining all the rights and the protection involved with a longer duration temporary visa.
The possible abuse of the system by non-genuine applicants for resident partnership visa could then be avoided by more appropriate measures, like stricter requirements involving the assessment of the partnership’s authenticity at the residence stage, for example by extending the amount of time the partners are required to have been living together.
The unity of the New Zealand families and the social cohesion that this generates is an important asset of our community that must be protected and supported. At the same time the modernisation and modification of the legal framework regarding partnership visas to be made in line with modern life and the needs of modern families is highly desirable.