Immigration NZ will continue to process visitor visas for partners of culturally arranged marriages despite the suspension of most other temporary visas because of Covid-19.
This assurance was given to South Asian community leaders during an online meeting.
Successful applicants under the category will also be exempt from border restrictions, the community leaders were told at the meeting on October 7.
Unlike other partnership-related visas, applicants need not prove they have been living together to be eligible for a visitor visa under the Culturally Arranged Marriages (CAM) category.
Chairman of the South Asian Community Leaders Group Sunny Kaushal said community representatives were thrilled with the outcome of the meeting.
INZ's acting general manager border and visa operations Stephanie Greathead said the meeting was one of a regular series the agency holds with its stakeholders, including migrant communities, to provide updates and discuss immigration issues.
"INZ has been processing culturally arranged marriage visitor visa applications from offshore for the last 12 months," Greathead said.
"People granted these visas are exempt from border restrictions and are able to travel to New Zealand."
Processing for visitor visas applications made under the CAM category would continue because it was considered a relationship visa.
Under the category rules, if an individual was travelling to NZ to join a partner they may be considered a genuine applicant if other conditions like health and character were met.
An applicant who is already married, or is intending to marry in New Zealand, would be granted a three-month visitor visa.
Other partnership-based visas required a couple to be living together in a genuine and stable partnership before a visa could be granted.
If an applicant is granted a CAM visitor visa, they may be able to apply for a partnership residence visa.
"Substantive evidence must be provided to demonstrate that the marriage follows an identified and recognised cultural tradition."
Successful candidates are given six months to make their first entry to allow them time to secure flights and managed isolation or quarantine in NZ.
Kaushal said the news comes as "a delight for many in the ethnic communities" and brought "some happy news in these stressful times".
He said this was considered as a big achievement by the local leaders from the Indian, Pakistan, Nepal, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lankan communities who have been in regular meetings with INZ since 2019.
Kaushal said culturally arranged marriages were widely practised in South Asia but many here had faced "extreme prejudice" because of them.
"Culturally arranged marriages has been one of the most successful institutions of marriage in the world, with divorce rate less than 4 per cent.
"But many couples here faced discrimination, even with immigration processes, because of them."
Typically, culturally arranged marriages follow identified cultural traditions where marriages are made by people who are not the husband or wife, for example the couples' parents.
The rules up until November 2019 was that the marriage ceremony had to take place in New Zealand for couples to be eligible.
This policy was changed in 2003 to include marriages that had taken place overseas.
In the past five years, there had been 843 applicants for culturally arranged marriages visitor visas, of which 264 were approved. In the 2020/21 year, 157 applications were declined and 92 approved.