What is a character waiver?
To qualify for a visa in New Zealand, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) requires the applicant to be of good character. One of the most common reasons that clients will seek a character waiver is a prior drunk driving conviction. If you are aged 17 or over, you are required to provide a police certificate with your application. The good character requirement applies to those who are coming in to New Zealand on a visa waiver basis too. Previous convictions, pending convictions, visa issues with other countries and previous false/misleading information issues can trigger the need for a character waiver. Character issues do not go away until it has been resolved with INZ at both the temporary visa level and at the permanent visa level.
As a rule, always disclose your historic charges (even ones that date back a few decades). Overseas clean slate laws do not apply when you apply for a visa in New Zealand. Keeping silent on historic charges could trigger a false/misleading character issue.
It is important to note, that if your previous conviction falls within section 15 and/or 16 of the Immigration Act 2009 then you may need to apply for Ministerial Special Direction. This means that you will have to make detailed submissions to the Minister of Immigration to be granted a special right to enter New Zealand, despite your previous history. Special Directions are at the discretion of the Minister and can take months to process. If you fall within this category, do not leave this until the last minute, contact our team for an initial assessment.
How do character waivers work?
INZ will try to establish if you are of good character. INZ will provide the reasons if they think you are not of good character and will invite you to provide an explanation. This is usually in the form of a Potentially Prejudicial Information (PPI) letter. You will be given an opportunity to justify why INZ should waive the good character requirement and still grant you a visa.
It is important to note that there are also different character triggering thresholds for temporary and permanent visas.
What proof or evidence should I provide?
If you are assessed to be not of good character, you will need to justify why INZ should grant you a character waiver. INZ will look at things such as:
- The seriousness of the offence;
- Whether there is more than one offence;
- The significance of the false, misleading or forged information provided;
- How long ago the relevant event occurred;
- If you have any immediate family lawfully and permanently in New Zealand;
- If you have a strong emotional or physical tie to New Zealand; and
- If your potential contribution to New Zealand will be significant.
It can be quite an overwhelming process. If you require our assistance, get in touch today.