Getting Married on a Tourist Visa - Australia and New Zealand

Australia

Under Australian immigration law, a tourist visa is numbered Subclass 676; this is a temporary visa allowing a stay in Australia of up to three, six or twelve months. Applicants can apply from both outside and in Australia. Some tourists are eligible to lodge an online application for an e676 Tourist visa. Someone armed with an Australian tourist visa cannot engage in any paid work or course of study longer than three months in the country. According to the Australian government immigration website1, “To be eligible for this visa you must have a genuine intention to visit Australia as a tourist, for recreation or to visit your family and friends”. Thus if you wish to stay on the right side of law, marriage should ideally not form part of your plans when visiting Australia as a tourist.

Australia as wedding destination

Alternately overseas couples might be planning for a foreign wedding and may have chosen as their wedding destination. This may be possible on a tourist visa since there is no residency qualification required to marry here. The only requirement is that you are free to marry, eighteen years of age or above. Both Bride and Groom have to sign a Notice of Intended Marriage in front of a proper witness (celebrant, JP, police officer are the usual three) and lodge it with their chosen celebrant at least one month and one day before the wedding. As part of lodging the NIM, the couple will be required to prove their age, identity, nationality and address with correct documents. Additionally the couple would have to sign Statutory Declarations that they are legally free to marry and that you are giving your consent to your marriage freely. In the end, the couple Make legal vows using the words required by the Marriage Act and Sign the marriage papers at the end of the ceremony.

However before a couple decides to get married in Australia, it is advisable to talk to their local authorities to confirm such a wedding would be valid in the home country. Some European countries require the Marriage Certificate to have an Apostille stamp and the couple should make arrangements for their marriage certificate to be stamped so while in Australia. Also it is important to remember that there can only be one legal marriage, any further ceremony has to be a re-affirmation of vows ceremony.

Foreign partner marrying an Australian citizen or permanent resident

Despite a tourist visa being strictly devised for purposes of recreation and sight-seeing, there is still some possibility of a person visiting Australia on a tourist visa, falling in love and wishing to get married rightaway to the Australian partner. While such a marriage would not be invalid, attempts to stay on after getting married on a tourist visa may run into rough weather. For one, the tourist visa may have Condition 8503 stamped on it – this means the visa cannot have anymore extensions and the visitor cannot apply for one while in Australia. In this case, the visitor will have to go back, whether or not he/she got married on their trip here.

If you are indeed interested in traveling to Australia for the purpose of getting married to an Australian citizen or a permanent resident and staying on in the country, a far safer option would be to apply for ‘FiancĂ© visa’ or Prospective Partnership Visa2. This visa must be applied “offshore”, this means you must be outside Australia at the time you lodge your application and you must also be outside Australia at the time the visa is granted. Once you married within this time limit – then you apply for Subclass 820/801 while you are in Australia.  This will be an “onshore” application and you will be provided with a bridging visa so that you can continue staying in Australia with your partner while your application is being assessed by DIAC. Once the visa is granted, you will be holding a temporary visa, Subclass 820 visa for approximately two years.  Then DIAC will assess the status of your relationship – whether the relationship is still “genuine and ongoing”.  If DIAC is satisfied, then you will be granted with a permanent residency visa, a Subclass 801 visa.



New Zealand

Like its bigger neighbor Australia, New Zealand shares many of the laws regarding immigration and visas as well as requirements for marriages and weddings. A tourist visa is given to those arriving in New Zealand for the purpose of holidaying, sightseeing, family and social visits, amateur sport, business consultation, medical treatment and guest of Government visits. For issuing a tourist visa, immigration officials will see ensure that the applicant is not working and has not worked in New Zealand, has not held a student visa, is not sponsored  and has enough funds to provide for your maintenance and accommodation costs. Having spent nine months in New Zealand, ‘genuine tourists’ may apply for another three months’ stay, if they require more time to complete their travel but their maximum stay would be a period of 12 months3.

Can you get married on a tourist visa?

Like in Australian immigration laws, there is no explicit bar on getting married on a tourist visa but at the same time, this contradicts the genuine purpose of a tourist visa. However unlike Australia, New Zealand has a special visitor category for culturally-arranged marriage4. This visa allows a foreign nation to stay in the country for three months, during which time he/she must get married. The intended partner must be in New Zealand for the time the foreign national is in New Zealand and must complete a Form for Supporting Partnership-Based Temporary Entry Applications (INZ 1146) PDF. Also New Zealand-based partner must meet the character requirement for partners supporting ‘partnership-based temporary entry applications’.  There should be no legal obstacle to the marriage and the foreign partner needs to prove that it follows an accepted cultural tradition.

How to get married for overseas couples

Overseas couples who wish to come to New Zealand may do so on tourist visas, though it is best to get legal advice from professionals in order to avoid visa hassles. Before planning a New Zealand wedding, they should check with the authorities in their home country to see if there are any special steps they must take or rules that apply when they marry in New Zealand. Other than this, getting married in New Zealand is a fairly simple process. There are no residency requirements and everyone is free to marry as long as they are single and above eighteen years of age – if sixteen and seventeen, written parental consent may be required. In New Zealand you must be married by an appointed marriage celebrant. This may be a Registrar of Marriages, an independent marriage celebrant, a minister of a church or a person connected with an approved organisation. The process starts with getting a licence for which you will need to complete a Notice of Intended Marriage application form. If either of you have been married or in a civil union before, and the marriage or civil union has been dissolved, you may be asked to produce evidence of the dissolution when you give notice to the Registrar. In case you or your partner are widowed, you do not have to produce evidence of their death, but you will have to give the date of death on the Notice of Intended Marriage. Finally you and your partner will need to sign a formal statutory declaration confirming that that there is no lawful impediment to the marriage, that the details given are true, that the bride and groom are not within the "prohibited degrees of relationship" and that consent has been given.

If you wish to come to New Zealand on a visitor visa, get married to a New Zealand citizen and stay on in the country, you can apply for a change in visa status. Unlike countries like UK and US, you can apply for a residence class visa in New Zealand while here on a visitor visa5. You may be eligible for residence status if you‘re in a genuine and stable relationship with a New Zealand citizen or resident. Even then, you may need to meet a number of conditions to have your residence application approved under the Family Partnership Category.  For instance you must be in a genuine and stable relationship and have lived together for a minimum of twelve months. You must also meet the partnership requirements, be in good health , be of good character and have the support of your New Zealand partner.

Thus in New Zealand it is possible to arrive in the country as a general visitor and get married and even stay on. However the tourist visa is officially for tourism and recreational purposes and a switch from one visa category to another could mean further rounds of applications and paperwork.

References:

  1. Australian Government - Department of Immigration and Citizenship - Tourist Visa (Subclass 676)
     
  2. Australian Government - Department of Immigration and Citizenship - Prospective Marriage Visa (Subclass 300)
     
  3. Immigration New Zealand - Genuine visitor/tourist
     
  4. Immigration New Zealand - Special visitor categories
     
  5. Immigration New Zealand - Becoming a resident