Culturally Arranged Marriage Visitor Visas – a move in the right direction, or a joke?- written by Arunima Dhingra

The partnership saga continues and whilst I have held my breath and kept my frustration under control, and channelled it in my submissions to the Ombudsman, I think my patience is running out.

Reading the recent partnership changes announced yesterday made me realise how disconnected the policy makers appear to be from reality. While I have remained positive, the burning candle of positivity inside me is beginning to fizzle out.

The summary of changes state that partners of NZ citizens/residents that had culturally arranged marriages and were declined in the last 7 months or so will be invited to submit new applications – with updated evidence, but without extra fees. These may be considered for a grant of a General Visitor Visa. Those that are not invited will also have to make a new submission and will have to pay the fees again.

What happens to those that didn’t have culturally arranged marriages? What if you met your partner on an online portal and dated for a while and then got married? What if you were in a long-distance courtship and then got married? What happens to those partnerships that are not arranged at all? What happens to those genuine relationships that need to live together to start a life? What happens if you are a partner of a temporary visa holder in NZ?

The changes do not touch on partnerships of work or student visa holders.

The announcements made yesterday state that INZ will reassess the invited applications under the ‘updated’ Culturally Arranged Marriage instructions or, as per INZ’s new guidance on General Visitor Visas. Pointedly, none of these have been released yet, again leaving people wondering what the fate of their “new” partnership is.

I suppose that one pattern remaining consistent of late is poor communication and no consultation. So again, it’s a game of wait and see.

INZ’s current instructions state that for a Culturally Arranged Marriage, your marriage must follow an identified cultural tradition. Identified cultural tradition is defined as “a tradition in a culture where it’s normal for people other than those getting married, to select the couple to be married, and make the marriage arrangements”.

Unless the ‘update’ to this definition is something that reflects our world today and how global citizens form partnerships, I am afraid this change could be a bigger disaster – excluding all those that do not meet the specific requirements of culturally arranged marriages.

To give you some perspective on how poorly the current culturally arranged policy works, here is a table showing the number of Visitor Visas approved under “entry for the purpose of a culturally arranged marriage” in the last few years:

A rapidly decreasing approval rate from 39% in 2014/2015 to 16% in 2018/2019.

I believe that the current partnership instructions are very well set to cover all manner of scenarios if seen through a balanced lens; so, we must continue to voice our opinions on how policy might fairly represent all parties affected.

We hold our breath for further updates to be released and truly hope that these are more balanced that what has been uncovered yesterday…

*Disclaimer : The views above are solely of the writer and do not represent the views of any agency, association or business that the writer may be associated to.


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