How to apply for a benefit
The application process
How do I apply for a benefit or other income support?
To begin the application process, you can:
- apply online if you have a “myMSD” account, and have a client number (if you don’t have a client number you can request one on the Work and Income website), or
- phone Work and Income at 0800 559 009, or
- complete a paper form. You can download these online, pick them up at a Work and Income service centre, or you can call Work and Income and ask them to post them to you.
Once Work and Income have received your application, they’ll arrange an appointment with a case manager at a Work and Income branch for you. Make sure you’re ready for this appointment by preparing all the documents and information you’ll need (see below).
At your appointment, the case manager will make sure you are receiving all your entitlements and and will explain any obligations you might have to meet.
Tip: Write down the date when you first contact Work and Income (whether that is when you first call, start your online application, or go into a branch). This will be known as the ‘date of first contact’ (sometimes called your “application date”). Your application date is important as it might determine when your benefit starts. It’s a good idea to record this date as Work and Income might not.
What documents and information will I need to provide?
When applying for a benefit, you (and your partner, if you have one) will need to provide:
- two forms of ID:
- At least one ID must be government issued (e.g. a birth certificate, driver licence, or passport) that shows your legal name and date of birth. You can use an expired ID if it expired less than two years ago.
- If you can’t provide two forms of government ID, you can provide one government ID and one document that proves your identity such as a tenancy agreement, bank statement, power bill, health record, or a letter from a prominent community member who has known you for at least 12 months (e.g. a doctor, kaumātua, Justice of the Peace, or support worker). The secondary ID must have been issued within the last six months.
- proof of your residency status (e.g. your New Zealand passport, your birth certificate, and/or your citizenship certificate). You’ll need to use the original document. If you are applying online, you may upload a photo of your documents.
- your Inland Revenue (IRD) number. This can be found online on IRD’s website, here (or go to ird.govt.nz and search “Find my IRD number”). You can also find your IRD number by calling Inland Revenue at 0800 227 774, checking your Kiwisaver statement, asking your current or previous employer, or checking a payslip.
- a copy of the birth certificate of any children in your care.
- proof of the bank account that you would like to be paid into. This should show the bank account number, the bank logo, and the name on the account. Screenshots of your bank account can be enough.
- details of your income for the last year (e.g., payslips, an IRD online printout, and/or financial statements).
- details of your assets (e.g., a bank statement showing your current balance).
- details of your costs, particularly your rent or other housing costs. Sometimes Work and Income will ask you for proof of these costs. If you’re renting, bring your tenancy agreement. If you own your home, bring proof of your mortgage repayments and other costs such as rates and house insurance.
If you’ve previously been on a benefit, Work and Income might still have a lot of this information on file.
Tip: You can still apply for a benefit even if you don’t have any government issued ID. You’ll need to bring two supporting IDs (such as a bank statement and a healthcare record). However, you’ll be asked to supply a primary ID within 28 days. To do so, you can get a Special Needs Grant to pay for the cost of getting your birth certificate (or a different form of ID if you weren’t born in New Zealand).
What additional documents and information will I need?
Depending on what benefit you’re applying for, you might also be asked to provide more information. If you’re applying for:
- A main benefit with work obligations, you might need to:
- provide evidence that you’ve been looking for work (e.g., acknowledgements of job applications and/or rejection letters)
- attend an employment interview, and
- accept any offers of “suitable employment” (see: “Key words” for the definition of “suitable employment”).
- Jobseeker Support, you might need to provide a Work Capacity (Medical) Certificate from a health practitioner if you have a health condition or disability that affects your ability to work, and you have to reduce your hours or stop work for a while.
- The Supported Living Payment, you’ll need to provide a Work Capacity (Medical) Certificate from a health practitioner, or equivalent medical evidence (e.g., specialist reports or other medical records).
- Disability Allowance, you’ll need a health practitioner to confirm that you are eligible and that you have specific costs due to your disability. You’ll need to provide proof of these costs (e.g., receipts, invoices, or quotes).
- Hardship assistance, you might be asked to provide proof of the costs of the goods and services you need. Work and Income may not require proof of costs for food, petrol or power bills if they consider the cost is reasonable. However, you will need proof of both the need and the cost for services like dental treatment – in that case, a health practitioner will need to confirm that the treatment is urgent and essential, and provide a breakdown of the cost.
How long do I have to complete my application?
You have 20 working days after the date you first contacted Work and Income (“date of first contact”) to complete your application.
If you don’t complete it in time, your application will lapse and you’ll have to start the whole process again. This might also delay when your benefit will start.
You can ask for an extension if you have a “good and sufficient” reason – for example, if:
- you weren’t able to get a doctor’s appointment in time due to high demand
- you had an unexpected family event, or
- Work and Income didn’t let you know what evidence they need for your application.
When will my benefit start?
Social Security Act 2018, Sched 2 (definitions of “ceased” employment, and “non-entitlement period”), ss 184, 185, 225, 297(1), 432, 438(2)(e), 311, 313, 314, 315, 316, 440 Social Security Regulations 2018, regs 110, 182
Your benefit will start the later of:
- your application date (the date you first contacted Work and Income), or
- when you become entitled to the benefit (see definition of “entitlement date” below) plus an initial stand down period.
The initial stand down period will be either one week or two weeks, depending on:
- your average weekly income (calculated over either six months or a year, whichever results in a lower average weekly payment), and
- how many children you have in your care (if any).
In some circumstances, you’ll have an additional 13 weeks stand down period (“a 13-week non-entitlement period”) (see: “How soon can I get Jobseeker Support after leaving my job?”).
Work and Income might also require you to complete some pre-benefit activities before you receive the benefit, for example:
- providing evidence that you’ve been looking for work (e.g. acknowledgements of job applications or rejection letters), or
- attending job interviews, and accepting any offers of ‘suitable employment’, or
- creating a Job Seeker profile.
Note: The rules are slightly different if you’re a sole parent, if you have a health condition or a disability, or if you’ve lost the financial support of your partner. In that case, and if you apply within 28 days of your entitlement date, your benefit can start the day after your initial stand down period (regardless of when you first contact Work and Income).
What’s my entitlement date?
Your entitlement date is the date that your situation changed and you became eligible for a benefit. For example, this could be the day after:
- your “employment ceased date” (see below), or
- the date your cost started (e.g., your rental cost if you are applying for Accommodation Supplement), or
- the date you separated from your partner, or
- the date you arrived in NZ, or
- the date you were released from prison, or
- the date you finished study.
What’s my “employment ceased date”?
Your “employment ceased date” is the date you officially end your employment. It is not necessarily the date you finished work. Work and Income will also factor in any payments you received when you finished work and count how many days of work that represented.
For example: you have 7 days of annual leave owing to you, and your last day at work is 10 January 2024. If you’re paid out for your 7 days of annual leave, your “employment ceased date” is actually 22 January 2024, 7 working days after your last day.
This will include any accumulated annual leave pay, any pay you were given instead of working out your notice period, and any retirement pay. It doesn’t include redundancy pay.
Tip: Check that Work and Income correctly calculated your employment ceased date, to make sure no mistakes have been made. To get help with this, see: “Where to go for more support” below.