Understanding Character Requirements and Waivers for Immigration New Zealand Visa Applications – What You Need to Know

If you have character issues then securing a NZ Visa can become difficult and complex. That's why knowing about it beforehand makes sense.Read our post to all about it.

All applicants applying for a visa of any type for a stay in New Zealand of any length are required to demonstrate they are of good character. This means that they are a fit and proper person as not being a risk to New Zealand’s social and economic fabric.

Any person making application for a New Zealand visa of any type who fails to meet character requirements, and these requirements are not waived through special consideration, will be denied a visa.

The key points to be aware of are:

  • There are character requirements for all New Zealand visa applications
  • Whether police certificates need to be provided depends on the duration of stay in New Zealand and whether any character issues are disclosed in a visa application
  • Submitted police certificates are valid for 24 months for further applications
  • Good character requirements vary between residence and temporary visa applications
  • In some instances, good character requirements may be waived although for more serious matters a higher-level special direction is required

How Do I Prove My Good Character?

Police Certificates

Applications made to Immigration New Zealand (INZ) for temporary and residence class visas require police or similar certificates to be provided for as part of the application.

We recommend that police certificates from overseas authorities be applied for early in progressions toward lodging any application requiring such certificates, as these certificates can take considerable time to acquire. Valid certificates must be provided for at the time an application is submitted to INZ.

All police certificates must be in English or an official translation is required.

Information on obtaining police certificates can be found on the Immigration New Zealand website: https://www.immigration.govt.nz/new-zealand-visas/apply-for-a-visa/tools-and-information/tools/police-certificates

If police certificates are unavailable due to no instructions for a particular country, or if special circumstances mean it would be “unduly difficult” for a client to obtain one, INZ may choose to accept a statutory declaration from clients who have no criminal convictions. This is entirely at INZ’s discretion.

1. Temporary visa application requirement

The following people need to provide police or similar certificates with their temporary entry class visa applications:

  • Those aged 17 and over applying for temporary entry class visas who intend to stay in New Zealand for 24 months or longer.
  • Other applicants for temporary entry class visas who warrant a character check if the Immigration Officer decides it is necessary. This could be where Immigration New Zealand have concerns with the credibility of the documents provided by an applicant or with character declarations made.

Applicants who meet these criteria will normally be required to provide police certificates from their country/countries of citizenship, and from any country in which they have lived five years or more (whether in one visit or intermittently) since they turned 17 years of age.

However, student visa holders who have been in New Zealand since the age of 17 do not need to provide police certificates until they turn 20. Also, once they have lodged a police certificate with a student visa application, they do not need to provide another police certificate with a student visa application for a further 36 months.

2. Residence application requirement

Residence class visa applicants 17 years of age and over at time of application need to provide a police or similar certificate for their country/countries of citizenship, and any country they have lived more than 12 months in the past 10 years (whether during one visit or intermittently), which is less than six months old. However, INZ has discretion to waive this requirement and accept police certificates which are older than six months in certain rare circumstances. This could be where it would be extremely difficult to acquire a new certificate from the country of issue, and this would need to be evidentially proven.

Also, a police certificate less than 24 months old, and which was lodged with a temporary visa application, can be resubmitted with a partnership category or dependent child category residence visa application only in these circumstances.

3. Partnership applications - supporting partner requirement 

New Zealand permanent residents or citizens supporting any partnership-based applicationmust also meet character eligibility criteria. This will not be met if they have been convicted of any offence involving family violence or of a sexual nature at any time since turning 17 years of age or (for those supporting work or student visa holders) in the seven years prior to the date the partnership application is made, unless a waiver of the good character requirement is granted (note: character waivers are explained later in this article).

Demonstrating a supporting partner meets their character requirement is generally proven through completion of a relevant character declaration section of an INZ supporting partner form.

For temporary visa applications, partners are not required to provide police certificates. However, partner’s supporting residence applications are required to present to INZ a police certificate less than six months old from any country in which they have lived for 12 months or more (whether on one visit or intermittently) in the last ten years. An application can be submitted to INZ without this, and certificate(s) provided at a later stage.

We recommend that if an application for residence under partnership grounds is intended, the supporting partner should consider applying for police certificate(s) early as these can take considerable time to acquire.

INZ, at their discretion, may undertake checks with the New Zealand Police and/or request that the partner obtain an overseas police certificate. This may occur when INZ have information which places doubt on the partner’s ability to meet their good character criteria.

Application form Declarations

All applications for a visa for New Zealand, whether applying offshore or from within New Zealand, require completion of a character declaration.

It is absolutely imperative to ensure the character declaration section of any form is completed truthfully and accurately.

As Advisers, we see many instances where incorrect declarations lead to problems with a current application or later visa applications, whether an innocent error was made (often through misunderstanding the declaration question or genuine oversight) or through attempts to conceal a criminal or visa history (this is at the more serious end of the scale), it is important to be certain of the implications of not getting it right in the first instance.

If you have doubts about an application character declaration please contact us by simply book a consultation

We recommend that if you are in doubt or are not confident about what to declare in an intended application, or, you are worried about what you declared in a currently lodged visa application or past application made, you need to speak with an Adviser from our team promptly. We are able to ensure you make a correct and accurate declaration or seek correction of information already provided to INZ for you.

What if I Have a Criminal Conviction?

It is most important to declare any and all convictions in any dealings with Immigration New Zealand, regardless if you perceive them as minor or significant. It is far better to be upfront than have to deal with issues which are likely to arise in future visa application undertakings.

Commonly, applicant’s fail to declare what they believe is a minor conviction-related matter (like a traffic offence, disorderly behaviour or police warning given) as it occurred many years ago, perhaps when young. This is no excuse for non-declaration.

Being forthcoming will avoid any future issues with your New Zealand visa matters, especially if non-declaration leads to a declined visa application, or, you arrive at the New Zealand border and faced with the prospect of being denied entry due to character issues which have since come to light after the grant of any visa offshore (remember, holding a visa to enter New Zealand is no guarantee of being granted entry permission).

Being forthcoming will avoid any future issues with your New Zealand visa matters, especially if non-declaration leads to a declined visa application, or, you arrive at the New Zealand border and faced with the prospect of being denied entry due to character issues which have since come to light after the grant of any visa offshore (remember, holding a visa to enter New Zealand is no guarantee of being granted entry permission).

If INZ derive you have deliberately concealed matters which it seemed you likely knew existed would impact a visa application, your application will be declined and could bring serious implications by way of impacting future applications for visas for any country (not only New Zealand), deportation or worse criminal charges being laid for providing false and misleading information.

It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to get character declarations right.

Key Points to Be Aware Of

  • If you know you have been convicted by a court in any country of a crime at any time, this must absolutely be declared.
  • If you know you have received a formal warning by Police, at any time in any country, this needs to be declared.
  • If you know or suspect you are facing Police charges in any country (including New Zealand), this must be declared.
  • If you know or suspect you are wanted for questioning by Police in any country (including New Zealand), this must be declared also.
  • If you have been given a suspended sentence by any court jurisdiction in any country at any time, this must be declared.
  • If your conviction was quashed for any reason and at any time, this must be declared.
  • If you have not been able to enter any country prior to your New Zealand visa application, for example declined visa applications (including New Zealand visas) or denied entry upon arrival in any country, this must be declared.

What About Driving Related Offences?

The ONLY driving and traffic related offences which do not need to be declared are: minor speeding offences and parking tickets. ALL other traffic offences must be declared, including those such as dangerous or reckless driving, drink driving, excessive speed, and driving on a suspended licence.

The most common driving related character matters our Advisers see which cause issues in terms of an applicant not declaring them to INZ, is for drinking and driving and unacceptable driving behaviours like dangerous or reckless driving, excessive speed and driving on a suspended licence.

We recommend that if you are unsure about driving related offence matters, you discuss with an Adviser from our team.

I Am Worried About Meeting the Good Character Requirement for My Visa – What Should I Do?

In instances where you feel you may have issues with meeting character requirements, or if INZ have presented you with concerns in this area via a letter, there is the option in certain circumstances of requesting a waiver of the good character normally required for all visa applications.

This involves presenting an explanation of the circumstances of the issue and providing INZ with supporting documentation and evidence in support of your overall situation.

Our Advisers are experts in presenting a strong case in support of favourable character waiver consideration leading to the grant of a visa.

What Is a Character Waiver?

A request for character waiver consideration is generally dealt with during the processing of an application, once it is determined by INZ that all other qualifying criteria is met. It is usually the final stage in the decision making process. A waiver involves demonstrating to INZ that although you would not normally meet the good character requirement for a visa, your circumstances warrant consideration for a waiver to be favourably considered.

Character waivers are considered by an Immigration Officer with a high level of delegated authority, often being a separate person to that who is processing the overall application. This ensures a level of skill is applied and an impartial decision is reached.

Visa applicants who do not meet character requirements for residence or for temporary entry may be considered for a character waiver, but only if their situation does not fall under section 15 or 16 of the Immigration Act 2009.

Sections 15 and 16 of the Immigration Act 2009 pertain to serious character matters at the higher end of the scale, for example, long-term imprisonment, prior deportation from any country including New Zealand, identified security and public interest risks. In which case consideration for a Special Direction is necessary. This is a complex area where professional assistance needs to be sought to ensure full encompassing information is presented for consideration in any visa request because the decision maker does not need to give reasons for refusal to grant a Special Direction request thus no indication of reasons can be considered for advantageous use in a later request.

The criteria for considering a character waiver differs for temporary entry and residence applications. Although similarity exists in both visa areas around the seriousness of an offence, the number of offences and how long ago the event(s) occurred.

Immigration New Zealand are obligated under legal statute to present any issues to an applicant for comment which impact on the good character requirement of any application and offer, where applicable, the opportunity to be considered for a character waiver.

For temporary visa applications, character waivers may be approved taking into account the public interest, significance of the detrimental matter and if the reason for a visa application is “compelling”. More scope exists for favourable consideration in temporary visa related matters than with a residence application.

For residence applications, INZ are required to consider a number of specific factors about the applicant’s circumstances. These factors relate to the offence(s) committed, the applicant’s ties to New Zealand and whether they are likely to make a significant contribution if approved residence.

Our Advisers are experts in identifying areas tailored to your situation which favour well for the grant of a character waiver.

If a character waiver is approved, a visa is also approved. INZ will not consider character waivers if a visa application does not meet immigration instructions on other grounds. For example, if an application under partnership category does not meet the requirement that the applicant is living in a genuine and stable relationship with their New Zealand partner, there is no need to consider a character waiver if the applicant does not meet character requirements.If a character waiver is declined, the visa application will be declined on character grounds.

Reasons for refusal to grant a character waiver will be provided by INZ in all cases. There is no right of appeal therefore a new application will need to be made and the whole time consuming process commenced again, hence it is worth using our professional services to greater the chances of success in the first attempt.

My Application Was Declined on Character Grounds – What Can I Do?

The very first thing to do is speak with an Adviser from Professional Visa Solutions in a consultation. This is an opportunity for us to understand the reasons for refusal, your personal situation and your current visa status – all important factors for us to determine the best course of action.

I Have Been Issued a Deportation Document Based on Character Grounds – What Should I Do?

Any deportation document (namely a Deportation Liability Notice or Deportation Order) presented to you will specify the grounds for deportation and include the section(s) of the Immigration Act 2009 applicable. Grounds for character-related deportation include certain criminal offending, deception on a visa application and security threats, among others.

You have the right to appeal deportation within a specified non-negotiable timeframe. The manner of appeal and timeframe applicable depends on the visa status of the affected person.

It is imperative you seek our professional advice as soon as possible as these serious matters are complex and take dedicated considerable time to deal with.

Summing up

  • Applicants for all visa types must demonstrate they are of good character. This is achieved through providing Police Certificates and application form declarations
  • Having a criminal record may not automatically prohibit the grant of a visa, as a waiver of the good character requirement can be considered in certain circumstances
  • It is important to understand what character matters need to be declared in any application
  • It is important to seek professional advice if you have concerns or are not confident with character-related matters and if you need help understanding when a Police certificate should be provided for

We are here to assist you. The experienced team of Advisers at Professional Visa Solutions are best-suited to handle your needs. Character requirements are a fundamental area applicable to all applications for a New Zealand visa, so it is so important to have us handle this area for you. You will find your anxieties and stresses can be easily relieved through our great advice. So why wait? Contact us today!

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