Family of refugees: Special visa categories
The Refugee Family Support residence category
Overview of the Refugee Family Support category
If you’ve been accepted by Immigration New Zealand as a refugee and been granted citizenship or residence, the Refugee Family Support residence category allows you to sponsor some of your family for New Zealand residence. The purpose of this is to help with your resettlement by allowing you to sponsor family members who don’t qualify for residence under any of the other New Zealand residence categories.
The first step is for you, the accepted refugee, to apply to be selected as a sponsor under this scheme. If you’re selected, your family member then applies for a Residence Visa within the next 12 months. The sponsored family member has to meet the usual health and character requirements (see: “Health, character, and money”).
Only 300 people are accepted under the Refugee Family Support category each year (and this includes any partners, children, or other family members that the sponsored person brings with them). In recent years, you’ve only been able to sponsor family members under the Refugee Family Support residence category if you come under “Tier 1” of this category, which means that you currently have no immediate family in New Zealand.
If you sponsor a family member under the Refugee Family Support category, you’ll have to make sure they have an adequate place to live for the next two years.
Who can be a sponsor, and who can be sponsored?
You can usually only sponsor family members under the Refugee Family Support residence category if you come under “Tier 1” of this category, which means that you currently have no immediate family in New Zealand.
Tier 1 refugees are given first entry into the queue of 300 available places each year under the Refugee Family Support category, in the order that they register with Immigration New Zealand. Places for Tier 2 refugees (those who do have some immediate family in New Zealand) will only be open if the 300-person limit isn’t completely taken up by Tier 1 applications.
Who can sponsor their family under Tier 1?
If you’ve been accepted as a refugee in New Zealand, you can sponsor one family member for residence if you don’t have any immediate family here.
In general, “immediate family” means partners, parents, and children who are 21 or older. “Immediate family” doesn’t include any children under 21, or any children aged 21, 22, 23 or 24 who are financially dependent on you, or any other relatives who you’re the main carer for.
For example, if you have a 22-year-old daughter living with you in New Zealand who is financially dependent on you, you still qualify to sponsor other family members for residence under Tier 1.
Which family members can you sponsor under Tier 1?
If you’re a Tier 1 refugee, you can sponsor your parents, adult brothers/sisters, adult children, grandparents, aunts/uncles, and nieces/nephews (plus that sponsored person’s partner and/or dependent children).
Who can sponsor their family under Tier 2?
Unlike Tier 1, you can sponsor family members for residence even if you have immediate family in New Zealand (including partners, parents, and non-dependent children aged over 24). But, to be a sponsor under Tier 2, you must also have been a New Zealand citizen or resident for at least three years, and you must have been in New Zealand for at least 184 days (roughly six months) in each of the last three years.
Which family members can you sponsor under Tier 2?
You can sponsor your parents, adult brothers/sisters, and adult children. You can sponsor a grandparent if they are your legal guardian: this means that before you turned 20 both your parents had died, and the grandparent had custody of you and the right to control your upbringing. You can’t sponsor your aunts/uncles or nieces/nephews. If you sponsor someone under Tier 2, you can also sponsor their partner and/or dependent children.
Note: After Immigration New Zealand tells you they’ve registered you as a sponsor for your family, your family must apply for residence within the next 12 months. Their applications won’t be accepted if they’re made later than that.