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Polyamorous couple denied partnership visa, relationship deemed 'not genuine'

Georgia O'Connor-Harding,
Publish Date
Thu, 21 Apr 2022, 7:13am
Photo / 123RF
Photo / 123RF

Polyamorous couple denied partnership visa, relationship deemed 'not genuine'

Georgia O'Connor-Harding,
Publish Date
Thu, 21 Apr 2022, 7:13am

Polyamorous relationships appear to be falling into a grey area when it comes to granting residency visas.

A couple has told the Herald their partnership visa was denied when it was found their relationship wasn't exclusive.

This is despite being together several years at the time of making the application.  

Polyamorous is when a person has an open intimate or romantic relationship with more than one person at a time, with the consent of all who are involved.

The couple, who is remaining anonymous, said their polyamory was discovered when they gave over all of their chat logs and were deemed "not in a genuine relationship".

A New Zealand resident or citizen is able to sponsor a partner to come into the country through a temporary entry or resident's visa.

As it stands, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) requires anyone applying for a residency for their partner, as needing to demonstrate their relationship is exclusive.

Its national manager Jock Gilray said when a partnership application is made, a couple needs to demonstrate they are living together in a genuine and stable relationship.

They further need to show they've been living together for 12 months.

"When it comes to people being able to obtain visas there's going to have to be guidelines to immigration officers to look at in order to make decisions about these things. That's why we have a standard of living together in a genuine/stable relationship".

But Gilray said while verifiable documentary evidence is gold standard, they will look at any kind of evidence that can be provided.

"There's no requirement for people to provide us with chat logs - they may choose to do so as part of their evidence they're submitting".

Gilray also stands by the guidelines - calling them open and permissive compared to the old partnership requirements.

Before the requirements changed, evidence of a marriage or a de facto relationship needed to be provided.

There is an intention to review the policy with community feedback next year.

But Dee Morgan, who runs QPK Counselling in Auckland, called it "disheartening, although not surprising" relationships are required to be exclusive to meet the criteria.

She said this is despite there being many people in New Zealand and worldwide who are ethically and consensually engaged in non-monogamous or polyamorous dynamics.

Supporting people identifying as polyamorous and consensually non-monogamous, Morgan is also openly polyamorous herself.

"Being sexually or romantically involved with more than one person doesn't mean that those relationships are inherently any less committed or intimate than one where the people involved have chosen sexual exclusivity," she said.

She is supportive of INZ reviewing its policies.

"Polyamory is as valid a relationship style as monogamy is - and while it's not for everyone (any more than monogamy is), being able to ethically and consensually love who you love is important to who we are as human beings."

She points out that if INZ is asking about the validity/genuineness of a specific relationship - then they should focus on that rather than the other connections.

"If they meet the requirements of being together a certain amount of time, living together, then in my opinion their other connections should not be relevant in this situation."

Gilray said INZ doesn't come across polyamorous applications often, but overall approval rates are relatively high.

Since July 1 of last year, out of just over 6600 partnership applications - 6300 have been approved.

He said some of the reasons an application may be declined could have nothing to do with the relationship itself - but could be to do with fraud, a person providing misleading information, a character or health issue.

He said these visas are open to a range of communities and the evidential requirements are not prescriptive -with them willing to accept all kinds of evidence.

Massey University Emeritus Professor Paul Spoonley said he had never heard of polyamorous relationship's consideration for a partnership visa before, and suspects the circumstances are unusual.

"The primary threshold is do you have a stable and long-lasting relationship? Is that going to continue once you are in New Zealand? I think that should be the key question".

Spoonley said it is always the exceptions that are quite challenging - and a polyamorous approach by an applicant may confuse the situation, as it's evidence there isn't a sole relationship.

He said INZ has faced ongoing difficulties in establishing what constitutes a relationship - particularly with applicants involved in arranged marriages.

If the policy is reviewed, Spoonley would like to see issues around cultural practices in relation to partnerships and marriage addressed.

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