Partnership Work Visa

Partnership work visa may be the way to go if your partner is an eligible sponsor and you can prove the relationship.
Michael Yoon
Principal Immigration Lawyer
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If you want to learn about Partnership Work Visa, you've come to the right place.

This guide has everything you need to understand the basics of Partnership Work Visa. You'll also find links to useful resources from our blog and video throughout, so you can plan your next steps. If you still have questions, contact Immigration Lawyer NZ.

What is a Partnership Work Visa?

A 'partner work visa' is a broad term that describes a temporary visa based on the relationship with your partner who is able to support your visa.

Such a visa can cover a number of different scenarios. For instance:

  • you may qualify for a work visa if you are the partner of a New Zealander or a resident (also known as "Partner of a New Zealander Work Visa");
  • if your supporting partner is a non-citizen and a non-resident visa holder but instead holds a work visa under visa categories such as an Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV), a Post-Study Work Wisa, a Religious Worker Work Visa, or a Military Work Visa, you might be eligible to apply as well (also known as "Partner of a Worker Work Visa");
  • if you are the partner of a student visa holder pursuing specific tertiary-level courses, you may also be eligible (also known as "Partner of a Student Work Visa").

Various scenarios may arise where you find yourself in different living arrangements – perhaps residing together abroad and planning to return to live in New Zealand as a couple, recently entering into an arranged marriage and seeking to bring your spouse to New Zealand, or living together already in New Zealand.

With the partnership-based work visa, you will be able to work in New Zealand and start earning.

We will explore some of these points in the sections below.

How does it work?

Irrespective of your individual circumstances, a partner work visa offers a distinct advantage in terms of flexibility as it is an "open" work visa. However, it's important to be aware that each of the scenarios described above comes with specific conditions and potential pitfalls you want to watch out for.

For example, if your partner is a New Zealand resident or citizen, your partnership visa will be an "open" work visa with no restrictions. That means INZ will not mind if you are working or not or whether you are running your own business. The downside, though, is that it can be granted for a maximum of 24 months (unless INZ agrees to grant further visas as an exception).

Partners of AEWV will get a work visa with certain restrictions.

In other cases, if your partner is on a student visa, the eligibility criteria for a partnership visa are fairly limited because your partner has to be studying in New Zealand a specific course at the NZQA level immigration has stipulated.

We will provide detailed insights into the common scenarios below to help you navigate this process effectively.

What are the requirements of a Partner Work Visa?

Broadly, you will need to satisfy each of the following requirements:

  • meet general requirements; and
  • meet partnership requirements; and
  • meet sponsor requirements.Let's take a look at each of them in turn.

General

General requirements include paying the correct application fee, using a prescribed Immigration New Zealand form such as INZ 1146, meeting health and character requirements, and being a 'bona fide' (genuine) applicant.

You must be 18 years or older, but if you are 16 or 17, you must have parental consent. You can't be close relatives either.

For partners of New Zealand citizens and residents, if you have lived together for more than 12 months, you can provide a 'limited medical' instead of a 'general medical'. In other cases, you will need to get a 'general medical' done. We have a page that lists INZ-approved panel physicians nearby, which you can refer to.

Partnership

The definition of 'partnership' according to Immigration NZ is one of these three relationships:

  • a legal marriage; or
  • a civil union; or
  • a de facto relationship.

The responsibility to prove the authenticity and stability of the relationship, as well as cohabitation, lies with the applicant. INZ does not automatically accept these requirements solely on the basis of marriage. Even if you've enjoyed a happy marriage for over a decade and have dependent children, INZ will apply the same rigorous standard and request adequate supporting documentation to verify these aspects.

While there is no requirement as to how long you must have been together with your partner, the relevant Immigration instructions require that you must be living together with your partner in a "genuine and stable" relationship. It is, therefore, a two-part test where you have to show that you are living together physically and that your relationship is genuine and stable.

We get asked a lot: what's the minimum period of time a couple needs to have lived together before applying? As a general observation, a couple will need to have been living together for two to three months at a minimum -- and that's only if there is solid evidence to back it up.

There is some risk involved in applying too prematurely, especially if there is not much evidence. We strongly recommend that you get in touch with us or a licenced immigration adviser and get help. The last thing you want is to find yourself and your loved one in a battle with immigration when it could have been avoided if you had sought proper advice from the start.

Immigration NZ, in assessing your application and, in particular, the substance of the partnership, looks at a range of factors, including:

  • how you met and in what circumstances;
  • how the relationship progressed;
  • whether you and your partner are living together and, if so, the length of time;
  • whether you have financial interdependency;
  • whether there is public recognition of the relationship;
  • whether the relationship is committed, exclusive and likely to endure;

Writing a letter to explain the above points should be the first starting point, and we have published an article about how to write a relationship support letter which you might find useful.

As part of the assessment, the Immigration Officer may opt to interview you and your partner or visit your home address without prior notice. They can also conduct an "open search", which essentially means searching the internet for any clues, including your social media profiles. INZ takes these checks to ensure there is credibility, genuineness, and stability in the relationship.

While it might initially appear intrusive and onerous to provide immigration authorities with requested documentation, particularly when it involves sensitive information, it's crucial to recognise that this is an integral part of the application process. Failure to provide the necessary documents might ultimately lead to a heartbreaking outcome.

Eligible sponsor

In addition to the previously mentioned requirements, your partner must support your visa application.

It's crucial to ensure that your supporting partner meets the eligibility criteria as a sponsor. If your partner is a New Zealand citizen or resident, it's essential to note that they should not have previously supported more than one successful resident visa application for former partners. This also includes instances where they obtained their own residence visa by being included as a partner to someone else.

If the date of such a successful residence application was not more than four years ago, then the New Zealander partner cannot support your application. It is a 'stand down' period of sorts, and a five-year stand-down period applies until being allowed to support the next partnership-based residence application.

Your sponsoring partner must meet character requirements. If he/she has had issues before, such as having been convicted for any offences involving domestic violence or of a sexual nature, having been fraudulent with Immigration New Zealand previously, etc., then he/she may not be considered to meet the character requirement and might need to request a character waiver. INZ might ask your partner to provide a police certificate if your partner has lived in any country for more than 12 months in the last 10 years.

For partners of Accredited Employer Work Visas, if your partner works in a role that falls within the Green List or receives a salary double the median wage, you may be eligible for a partnership-based "open" visa with no work restrictions. However, if your partner's employment does not meet these specific criteria but still pays at or above the median wage, you will be granted a visa that allows you to work exclusively for accredited employers at or above the median wage.

If your partner has a student visa, then he/she needs to be studying towards a level 7 or 8 qualifications on the Green list, or a level 7 qualification on the Qualifications Eligible for a Post-Study Work Visa List (Appendix 13), or a level 9 (masters level) or 10 (PhD study) qualification.

In the following circumstances, you will not be eligible for the Partner of a Worker Work Visa:

  • If your partner's visa was issued for six months or less (unless your partner holds a Migrant Exploitation Protection Work Visa);
  • If your partner's visa is a working holiday visa;
  • if your partner holds an AEWV and paid less than median wage (you may be eligible for a Partnership-Based Visitor Visa instead);
  • if your partner is employed by a Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE).

Note: partners of Essential Skills Work Visa were also eligible for a partnership-based work visa, but the category closed in July 2022 and was superseded by the AEWV category.

In addition, you and your partner must plan to stay in New Zealand for the same amount of time. For example, if you are granted a New Zealand visa based on your partnership but then your partner goes to another country, leaving you behind, INZ might question whether you were a genuine applicant to begin with.

Your partner will also need to complete and provide the INZ 1146 form.

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How much does it cost?

If you apply online, the application fee is $860 if your partner is a New Zealand resident or citizen, and $700 if your partner holds a work visa.

There may be other associated costs such as getting your medical and chest-xray done if you have not provided one in the last three years, and getting a police certificate from your home country if it has been more than two years since last supplying one to INZ.

If your partner is a NZ citizen or resident, and have lived together for more than 12 months, you can go for a 'limited medical' which is slightly cheaper than a 'general medical'.

What is the process for a Partner-Based Work Visa?

Step 1: Check your eligibliity

You will firstly want to check if you are eligible or not. Ask your partner questions around sponsor's eligibility to make sure. If you don't have sufficient evidence at this stage and if you are not in a rush, giving yourself sufficient time to gather more evidence will help.

Step 2: Complete the online application

Once you've gathered the necessary documents about your relationship, the living together evidence, and from those who are supporting you, go to Immigration New Zealand website, and start preparing the application.

If you want to apply in paper form, use INZ 1198.

Step 3: Upload required documents

In a partnership application othere might be a lot of photographc evidence supplied. The documents will need to be in PDF files, and the upload file size limit is 10MB. Your passport-sized photograph should be in JPEG format.

Step 4: Payment of fees

Click through each application page to get to the payment screen. INZ allows payment options such as Visa, Mastercard, China UnionPay, Amex, JCB and POLi (internet banking).

Step 5: Submit your visa application

After you've successfully filled out the application and completed the necessary payment, your visa application will be promptly submitted. Immigration New Zealand will provide further guidance if any additional steps are needed.

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To expedite your application, it's crucial to ensure it is error-free and includes sufficient supporting documents for INZ to assess. 

If you're uncertain whether you've met all the requirements accurately, don't hesitate to contact us for a thorough evaluation of your case.

What is the processing time?

A partnership visa application generally follows a timeline of approximately three to six months until a decision is reached. However, it's essential to note that certain circumstances can lead to delays in the process. These situations may involve requests for interviews, INZ conducting verifications, and other related factors.

What does a Partnership-Based Work Visa look like?

When the visa application is approved, the partner of a New Zealander will be granted an open work visa for 12 months if you have lived together for less than 12 month, and 24 months if have lived together for more than 12 months.

In case of the partner of a worker work visa applicant, the visa will issue to the same duration of your supporting partner's existing visa.

Sample partnership work visa in New Zealand
Sample partnership work visa in New Zealand

What is the pathway to residency as a partner?

When it has been more than 12 months of living together, you will be eligible to apply under the partnership-based residence visa, if your partner is an eligible NZ citizen/resident partner. When counting the time, you will need to exclude the time when you were dating (and maintainnig separate homes), holidaying/travelling together, and living as flatmates (using separate rooms).

Frequently asked questions

Yes, you can study up to three months in a 12 months period. Otherwise, you can apply for a variation of conditions to INZ so that the visa condition will allow you to undertake further study.
It is a mandatory requirement that you are living together with your supporting partner. If you've never lived together, your application is likely to be declined.
You need to meet her and progress the relationship to where you start living with her. Then you can consider supporting her partnership visa.
No, getting married is not a mandatory requirement. Even if you are not married, if the relationship is genuine and stable, and if you are living together with your partner, you may be eligible.
It used to be an open work visa without restrictions in the days of Essential Skills Work Visas. Now, under the AEWV category, the main partner has to be working in a role that is on the Green List or earning twice the median wage. If the main partner does not meet those conditions but is earning at or above the median wage, then the supported partner will be able to work only for accredited employers at the median wage or higher. If the main partner earns below the median wage, you will not be able to get a partnership work visa, but instead, you may be eligible for a partnership visitor visa.
No, you do not need to have an offer of employment. You can choose not to work while holding a partnership visa.
It is possible if it is an open work visa with no restrictions (e.g. partner is a NZ citizen or resident, post-study work visa, or religious work visa holder).
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author headshot Michael Yoon
Last modified on 6 April 2024 by
Michael Yoon
Principal Immigration Lawyer
Michael has been working as a lawyer in New Zealand since 2006. Over the years, he has successfully helped thousands of clients to get their desired outcome. Clients find Michael knowledgeable, approachable and professional — a trusted expert.
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