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How to claim refugee status: The process

Overview

How do I claim refugee status?

Immigration Act 2009, ss 130, 131, 133, 164

All you need to do to claim refugee status is to tell an Immigration Officer (or some other official from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) or the police that you want to be recognised as a refugee. From this point, even if you’ve just made your claim verbally, you can’t be deported from New Zealand until your claim is decided.

However, you’ll need to put your claim in writing so that it can be assessed. And, as soon as possible, you’ll have to give Immigration New Zealand a statement of the grounds for your claim. These specific steps are explained in more detail below.

If another member of your immediate family is also claiming refugee status, you’ll need to tell Immigration NZ this, including if their claim is on different grounds from yours.

What happens after I claim refugee status?

Immigration Act 2009, s 150(3); Immigration (Refugee and Protection Status Processing) Regulations 2010

The Refugee Status Branch at Immigration New Zealand will assign your claim to a Refugee and Protection Officer – an “RPO”. The RPO will try to process and decide your claim within 140 days (roughly 4½ months) after you lodge it.

There are six steps to the claim process after you’ve made your initial claim:

  • you’ll need to fill in a written claim form
  • you’ll need to provide a separate written statement giving the grounds for your claim
  • you’ll be interviewed by a Refugee and Protection Officer
  • they’ll draw up a report that summarises your claim and its grounds, and they’ll give the report to you
  • you can then give them any final information or arguments you want to make in support of your claim
  • the Refugee and Protection Officer will decide your claim and let you know.

What will happen to me while Immigration NZ are deciding my claim?

INZ Operational Manual: Temporary Entry, V3.90

If you had a current visa when you made your claim for refugee status, Immigration New Zealand will usually grant you a new visa if this is needed to maintain your legal immigration status while they’re deciding your claim. Immigration NZ will typically grant you a six-month Work Visa in these cases.

But if you were here illegally – for example if your visa had expired when you claimed refugee status – Immigration NZ might not grant you a visa. You might instead be held at the Māngere Refugee Resettlement Centre or in prison.

Did this answer your question?

Refugees

Where to go for more support

Community Law

www.communitylaw.org.nz

Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice and information.

Immigration New Zealand

www.immigration.govt.nz

Immigration New Zealand is the government organisation that deals with visa applications and other immigration issues. It’s part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

www.immigration.govt.nz/about-us/policy-and-law/how-the-immigration-system-operates

You can read Immigration NZ’s Operational Manual at www.immigration.govt.nz/opsmanual

Immigration and Protection Tribunal

www.justice.govt.nz/Tribunals/immigration/immigration-and-protection

Red Cross Refugee Trauma Recovery

www.redcross.org.nz/what-we-do/in-new-zealand/migration-programmes/refugee-trauma-recovery/

This Refugee Trauma Recovery service provides clinical and therapeutic support to former refugees who have experienced torture and/or trauma. The service is available to children, young people and adults.

Also available as a book

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