David Cooper is the Director of Client Service for Malcolm Pacific Immigration.

David has worked for Malcolm Pacific for 26 years, and prior to that was involved with creating policy at the Department of Immigration. He sat down with express to discuss the immigration issues affecting our community.

What are the most common difficulties New Zealanders face when attempting to acquire residency for a foreign partner?


The most common difficulty New Zealanders face attempting to gain entry for their foreign partners is being able to spend enough time living together to satisfy Immigration NZ they have a genuine and stable partnership. The rules require a couple must have lived together for 12 months before the foreign partner can qualify for residence.

Partners who come from countries where being out is not acceptable or legal then it can be very hard for them to get the evidence Immigration NZ require to prove the genuineness of the relationship such as mail to show the couple are living at the same address, joint bank accounts, or letters from family and friends recognising the relationship.

Are there any additional complications if the partner is trans?

Quite often the complications are more perception than reality. As far as the NZ government is concerned a trans partner will be treated as any other partner applying for entry; the same rules apply.

However, there can be complications with documents if names have been changed post op but not through a lawful process or birth certificates re issued but errors made. Problems with documents are quite common and this is a major problem as the government is very tough on identity issues. They want absolute assurance of who they are dealing with so getting the documents right is very important to avoid expensive errors once the visa application is already lodged.

Are there any particular immigration rules that may surprise some of our readers?

What many in the GBLT community don’t realise is that there is a restriction on how many foreign partners a New Zealander can bring into NZ. The government only allows a maximum of 2 overseas partners to be sponsored with a break of five years before a second (and last) partner can be sponsored.

What are the most satisfying areas of your job?

One of the most satisfying and interesting areas of work has been working with organisations like Body Positive to effect change in immigration policy where HIV positive partners of New Zealanders have at long last a pathway to live in NZ which simply didn’t exist before.

What is the current situation with HIV+ partners seeking to migrate to NZ?

HIV+ positive partners who have not lived with their NZ partners for 12 months will still face uphill battles getting entry to NZ. In these cases they must still disclose their status and need professional advice to navigate a success pathway.

HIV+ partners who have lived with their partners for 12 months or more will not be tested for HIV and their status will not be a barrier to entry.

Are there any pitfalls readers involved with immigration cases should be careful to avoid?

Giving ‘immigration advice’ is regulated by the Immigration Advisers Act. There is a law governing the provision of immigration advice so the GBLT community needs to know only deal with a licensed immigration adviser. But don’t just rely on the advisers license make sure they check out the person’s experience and knowledge before engaging their services because the immigration process can be a potential minefield.

Article | Oliver Hall.  Photo | Evan Donnelly.