Good character for residence visas

To get a residence class visa you must be of good character. If you have a criminal history or could be a risk to New Zealand we can decline your application.

Being of good character

Applicants for all visas must be able to show they are of good character. When you apply you must tell us about issues or activities in your past that may affect how we assess your character when we process your visa application.

Depending on the issue we can:

  • decline your application for residence
  • approve a character waiver — we do this if your issue is minor and means we can still grant you a residence visa if your application meets all our other requirements.

Character issues you must tell us about

You must tell us if you have been involved in criminal or racist activities, or have provided false or misleading information to us in the past.

Issues preventing us giving you a visa

We will decline your application for a residence visa if you have serious character issues. We will not grant you entry permission or a visa if you have been:

  • convicted of an offence and were sentenced to a prison term of 5 years or more
  • convicted in the last 10 years of an offence and were sentenced to a term in prison of 12 months or longer
  • prohibited from entering New Zealand, or
  • removed, excluded or deported from any country, including New Zealand.

We may not grant you a residence visa if we have reason to believe you may be:

  • intending to commit an offence in New Zealand you could be sent to prison for
  • a risk to our security
  • a threat to public order
  • a risk to the public interest.

If you still want to come to New Zealand, your only option is to apply for a special direction. We grant a visa through a special direction only in exceptional circumstances.

Issues we can consider for a character waiver

When we assess your application we consider the information we have about your character. Depending on your circumstances, we may be able to waive our good character requirements.

Depending on how serious your character issue is, we may grant you a character waiver if you have been convicted of an offence:

  • against immigration, citizenship or passport laws in any country
  • that involved violence, prohibited drugs or dishonesty
  • of a sexual nature
  • for dangerous or drunk driving, or driving after taking drugs in the last 5 years
  • that resulted in you being sentenced to prison, or
  • for which you could have been sentenced to 3 months or longer in prison:
    • in any country while you held a temporary New Zealand visa, or
    • while you were in New Zealand after your visa expired.

We can consider a character waiver if you:

  • made a public racist statement
  • have been a member of a racist group.

We can consider a character waiver if you provided false or misleading information, or withheld important information when you:

  • applied for a New Zealand visa, or
  • when you supported someone else’s application for a New Zealand visa.

What to explain when you apply

When you apply, provide:

  • a full explanation of any character issues, and
  • evidence supporting your case.

When we make a decision about a character waiver we aim to be fair and take into account things like:

  • what the nature of the issue is — for example, if you provided false information accidentally or on purpose
  • how long ago the issue occurred
  • the circumstances surrounding the offence or incident
  • your personal circumstances, including your ties to New Zealand and why you are applying for a residence visa.

If we need more information we will contact you.

Character issues can delay processing your application

A decision about your application for residence can be deferred for 6 months if:

  • there is an active arrest warrant for you in any country
  • your residence application is based on a relationship to a person whose New Zealand residence status is under investigation, or
  • you are under investigation, wanted for questioning, or have been charged with an offence which, if you are convicted, would mean we would decline your application or you would need a character waiver.

[Note] If the issue is not resolved within 6 months, we can delay deciding your application for longer.

If we decline your application

If we decline your application because of a character issue and you believe this is unfair, you can request a special direction.

How to request a special direction

Submit your application again. You need to include:

  • the fee for a special direction, and
  • a written request explaining why you want us to consider a special direction.

Fees, decision times and where to apply

We only grant a visa by special direction in exceptional cases. We do not have to consider your request for a special direction or give you any reasons if we do not grant you a visa.