Claiming Refugee Status To Stay In New Zealand

May 31, 2022

Refugee or protected person status is a legal status as detailed below:

A refugee is a person who meets the definition of a refugee provided in Article 1A of the Refugee Convention, as amended by the 1967 Protocol.

A protected person is someone whose deportation from New Zealand would violate the CAT or Articles 6 and 7 of the ICCPR.

New Zealand Is A Signatory To:

    • 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees
    • 1984 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
    • 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

If you fear returning to your own country, you can ask New Zealand to recognize you as a refugee or protected person. For those reasons, New Zealand has signed an international convention that supports the right of people to seek asylum.

You can make a refugee and protection claim in person or in writing and it can be made by a person in New Zealand.

What’s The Process For Claiming Refugee Status In New Zealand Through RSU (Refugee status unit)?

Claims may be made by signifying an intention to claim –

    • Police officer
    • Immigration officer
    • Refugee and protection officer (RPO)
    • or a representative of the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment

A claim must be later confirmed in writing by completing a Confirmation of Claim form.

The Next 6 Steps Are Important To Follow For The Claim Process:

    1. Complete a Confirmation of Claim form;
    2. Submit a written statement;
    3. Attend an interview with an RPO;
    4. Receive a report about your claim;
    5. Make final submissions in support of your claim; and
    6. Receive the decision.

If you have lodged a claim for refugee or protection status in New Zealand, you are known as a refugee and protection claimant.

What Are Some Tips For Client Engagement And Management With The Claim Process?

    • Once you have a lawyer, you can apply for legal aid to help for the costs, of having a lawyer or an interpreter (if required) NOT all lawyers do legal aid work.
    • You will be issued a unique client number, make sure to write that down this number and keep it somewhere safe.
    • It is very important that you make sure to attend any applicable interviews.
    • Ensure that you submit legitimate identity documents you have including passports and police clearances.
    • Identity certificates, birth certificates, marriage certificates, school certificates or military service documents may also be helpful to support your claim.

The RPO Will Interview You About Your Claim Approximately Four (4) Weeks After You Have Lodged Your Claim

    • It is vital that any information you do provide is true and correct, be honest and always remember to back your explanations up with evidence.
    • You will want to be prepared to answer the following questions in their entirety – Who is your family and where is your home country? Why do you fear returning to your home country? Why are you claiming asylum in New Zealand?
    • Providing incorrect information or concealing relevant information is a criminal offence.

What’s The Process For Bringing A Claim Through The Immigration Tribunal?

If you are in detention, the Tribunal must receive your appeal no more than 5 working days after the Refugee Status Branch sent their decision.

If you are not in detention, the Tribunal must receive your appeal no more than 10 working days after the Refugee Status Branch sent its decision.

    • It costs nothing to make a Refugee or Protected Person Appeal.
    • At the time you send the Tribunal your appeal form, you do not need to send anything else.
    • We will receive a copy of the Refugee Status Branch file, and we will send a copy to you.
    • You must look after this file because you will need to bring it to the hearing.
    • Once the date of the hearing has been set, the Tribunal will ask you to send any evidence and submissions you want it to consider when it decides your appeal.

Your Appeal Will Have A Better Chance Of Succeeding If All Supporting Documents You Send Are Accurate, Relevant And Complete

They should be:

    1. originals or certified copies;
    2. in English or accompanied by an English translation by a recognised translator;
    3.  signed, if the document contains a statement from a named person. You must send two copies of all documents

You must send two copies of all documents. It is not the Tribunal’s job to tell you which documents to send.

You Can Represent Yourself If You Want

If you choose to have a representative, that person must be:

    • a lawyer; or
    • a licensed immigration adviser (they must be licensed with the New Zealand Immigration Advisers Authority: this includes advisers outside New Zealand); or
    • someone who is not a licensed immigration adviser but is allowed to represent you under section 11 of the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act 2007.

They can be:

    • a person who provides informal immigration advice only sometimes and is not paid for it (such as a family member); or
    • current members of the New Zealand Parliament and their staff; or foreign diplomats and consular staff; or
    • government employees whose employment agreement allows them to give immigration advice; or
    • staff of community law centres or Citizens Advice Bureau.

You cannot include another person in your appeal. Each person must fill out a separate appeal form.

In most cases, you will have to speak. The Tribunal will decide your appeal at an oral hearing which you and your representative (if you have one) must come to.

If you do not come to the hearing and you do not have a reasonable excuse, the Tribunal will decide your appeal “on the papers”. This means that it makes its decision using only the written information and evidence you and the Refugee Status Branch provide.

What Can The Tribunal Decide? 

After the hearing, the Tribunal will decide either to:

    1. recognize you as a refugee or protected person, or
    2. refuse to recognize you as a refugee or protected person.

Claims that are declined may generally be appealed to the tribunal. You will be told what rights you have to appeal the RPO’s decision and the time limits for this.

If you lodge an appeal a copy of your INZ file, including all information provided by you and your representative to RSB in support of your claim, will be sent to the tribunal. If you lodge an appeal, you cannot be deported from New Zealand until the appeal has been determined.

Mother and son refugee waiting and hoping for a better future with the help of Refugee & Immigration Legal Services

Refugee & Immigration

It is not straightforward to obtain refugee and protected-person status and there are several key criteria that you must fit to receive asylum. Our team are passionate about helping refugees find asylum in New Zealand.

Learn more

Dixon & Co Lawyers, legal blog author Lucy Tothill
About the author

Lucy Tothill


Lucy grew up in Christchurch and moved to Auckland to complete her Bachelor of Arts (Ancient History) and Bachelor of Laws (Honours) at the University of Auckland in 2019. She was admitted as a barrister and solicitor in the Auckland High Court in June 2020.


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