Communtity Law Manual | Immigration | Family violence, vulnerable migrants, and other special visa policies

Family violence, vulnerable migrants, and other special visa policies

Family/domestic violence

If your visa depends on your partner, and your relationship ends due to family/domestic violence, there may still be other visa options for you, as we explain in this section.

Reporting the violence doesn’t mean you won’t be able to get a visa and stay in New Zealand.

Immigration New Zealand has established two special visa categories for migrants who’ve experienced family/domestic violence. You can apply under these categories if your immigration status in New Zealand depends on an abusive partner who is a New Zealand citizen or resident. In these cases, you can be granted a Work Visa for six months, and in some cases you can be granted a Resident Visa. You can’t get a visa under those special categories if your abusive partner is not a New Zealand citizen or resident and only has a Work Visa.

Immigration NZ uses the same wide meaning of family or domestic violence as in the family/domestic violence laws. This includes physical, sexual and psychological violence or abuse. The definition is explained in the “Family violence and elder abuse” chapter of this Manual.

The Immigration New Zealand staff who will deal with your application have special training in dealing with family/domestic violence and its effects. You’ll also be given priority over other residence applications.

Special Work Visas in family/domestic violence cases

INZ Operational Manual: Temporary Entry, WI7

You can be granted a special Temporary Visa (Work Visa) if:

  • you are, or were, in a relationship with a New Zealand citizen or resident
  • you had planned to apply for residence on the basis of this relationship
  • the relationship has now ended because of family/domestic violence against you or your children, and
  • you now need to work to support yourself.

This Work Visa gives you your own visa status, independent of your ex-partner’s status. It also gives you some time to think and plan for the future. The Work Visa will last for six months, but it can be extended to nine months if you apply for residence (see below for information about the special residence category).

You’ll need to provide some evidence that there’s been family/domestic violence. This must be one of the following four things:

  • a final protection order from the Family Court, or
  • a conviction in the New Zealand criminal courts for a family/domestic violence offence against you or your child, or
  • a report from the New Zealand Police that they investigated a complaint from you of family or domestic violence and they’re satisfied that family/domestic violence has happened, or
  • a statutory declaration from you (see below) stating that family/domestic violence has happened, and two statutory declarations by professionals stating that they are satisfied that family/domestic violence has happened.

What is a “statutory declaration”, and how do I make one?

A statutory declaration is simply a written document that you complete in front of an authorised witness, such as a Justice of the Peace (JP) or a lawyer.

Your statutory declaration needs to say that you have experienced family/domestic violence.

The two declarations from professionals need to state that they are satisfied that family/domestic violence has occurred. Immigration NZ has nominated specific professionals as the right people to make these declarations: these are social workers, doctors, nurses, psychologists, counsellors, and experienced Women’s Refuge or Shakti staff.

Special residence category in family/domestic violence cases

INZ Operational Manual: Residence, S4.5

You can be granted a special Resident Visa if:

  • you are, or were, in a relationship with a New Zealand citizen or resident
  • you had planned to apply for residence on the basis of this relationship
  • you’ve now separated from your ex-partner because of family/domestic violence against you or your children
  • you can’t return to your home country because you would have no way of supporting yourself financially, or because you’d be abused or excluded from the community because of social stigma (this could be stigma associated with family/domestic violence, or with being separated or a solo parent, or other associated stigma), and
  • you meet the health and character requirements for residence (see “Residence Class Visas: Living in New Zealand permanently” in this chapter).

Getting a Resident Visa means you can live and work in New Zealand and can eventually apply for citizenship here.

The evidence requirements for the Resident Visa are the same as for the Work Visa (see above), except that you’ll also need to provide evidence of why you can’t return to your own country. If you want, you can apply for the Resident Visa at the same time as you apply for the Work Visa.

Example: Refusal of Resident Visa under family/domestic violence category

Case: [2016] NZIPT 203384

In one case, the Immigration and Protection Tribunal decided that a woman from the United States who was refused a Resident Visa under the family/domestic violence category hadn’t shown that she would suffer abuse or exclusion because of social stigma if she had to return to the US. The Tribunal said that the special residence category for family/domestic violence “is not designed for women from first-world nations with cultures and laws upholding equal opportunity for women, whatever their relationship status.” (But that focus on women from non-western countries doesn’t apply to the special Temporary Visa (Work Visa) category for cases of family/domestic violence: see above.)

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