How Are Our Border Closures Affecting Long Distance Relationships?


Planning a future with a non-kiwi partner, who is based overseas has always come with hurdles, but in this COVID era of closed borders and quarantining, these odds can feel insurmountable. Immigration expert, Malcolm Pacific Immigration’s David Cooper advices how to best navigate these challenges.

Over lockdown I got talking to a British guy on my favourite dating up. London-based, Charles, swept me off my feet (virtually). He is keen to move to NZ and after nine-months of chatting twice-a-day, every day, I am confident we could make it work. However, I have recently learned HIV can still be a reason for residency applications to be turned down, and we are both positive. Surely the rules can’t be this archaic?

Long distance love in a COVID-19 world is tough. Until NZ reopens the border getting together physically remains on hold unless you want to risk heading into a COVID-19 crisis in the UK. To apply for partnership residence, you and Charles must have lived together in a genuine and stable relationship for at least 12 months at the time of lodging the application. Anyone applying for residence is required to be of ‘good health’ and sadly being HIV+ can still be a reason for residence applications to be turned down. This is because HIV+ remains on a list of health conditions the government has decided impose significant costs/demands on the NZ health services, even though the cost of HIV medication has fallen rapidly in recent years. A pathway to residence for Charles is not going to be straightforward despite his relationship with you. It is possible to request a medical waiver, when a residence application is being lodged but this is a complex area and does not guarantee an approval. The government has been lobbied to remove HIV+ from the “high cost” list, but we are still waiting.


My partner and I have been in an amazing long-distance relationship for nearly 10 years now. He is based in Sydney and we used to fly across the Tasman every month to see each other. We had no desire to live together and were really happy with the arrangement until the borders closed and now, we are stuck and struggling with the lack of physical intimacy. Our passports have never mattered before but if he had residency here, it would at least mean he could visit. What are our options?

Although it is less than a year since our borders closed there are many tragic stories of family, friends and loved ones separated around the globe. We just took hopping on a plane for granted. If your partner holds an Australian passport there could be a pathway for him to secure NZ residency. It will depend on a number of factors like how much time he spent here and whether he may qualify for a border exemption. Entering NZ as an Australian citizen he would get a Resident Visa on arrival (even with the border closed). This then opens a pathway to secure a Resident Visa with two year travel conditions. Then in two years’ time, a Permanent Resident Visa can be secured. Australian passport holders did not have to worry about any of this before but now it is the time for many people to consider a long term plan for a NZ visa. Of course you can travel to Australia quarantine free (assuming no state lockdown) but returning to NZ does mean a 14 days stint in managed isolation. We are all holding our breath for the travel bubble between the two countries.

In the meantime, give the team at Malcolm Pacific Immigration a call on 0800 800 612 to speak with one of our licensed immigration advisers for a free assessment.