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The UNHCR Refugee Quota


What is the UNHCR Refugee Quota?

The UNHCR Refugee Quota is a formal annual quota established by the New Zealand government for resettling refugees who have been identified by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). In July 2020 the annual quota was increased to 1,500. The quota won’t be met in 2021/2022 because of the global impact of COVID-19.

If you’re resettled under the quota, you’ll be granted a Permanent Resident Visa when you arrive in New Zealand. You’ll therefore be entitled to live, work and study here indefinitely.

This quota scheme is different from the scheme in the Immigration Act for refugee status claims. Under the quota scheme, a refugee is accepted before they arrive in New Zealand. Also, there’s no quota for people claiming refugee status: those claims are established on their merits with no limit on how many claims Immigration New Zealand can recognise each year.

Who is eligible under the UNHCR Refugee Quota?

For you to be eligible, UNHCR and Immigration New Zealand must both recognise you as a refugee. You will have to come within the New Zealand government’s regional and global priorities, although there are exceptions for emergencies and family reunification. You must also be otherwise admissible under New Zealand law – for example, you may be excluded if you have a criminal record or are thought to be a security threat (see the chapter: “Immigration” in the section “Accessing the immigration system: Who can apply for a visa and who can’t).

Obtaining a UNHCR referral for resettlement

To get Immigration New Zealand to consider a case under the UNHCR Refugee Quota, you have to fill out a standard form – the UNHCR Resettlement Registration Form. But you must approach the UN High Commissioner for Refugees before you apply to Immigration New Zealand. With some exceptions, Immigration NZ will consider only those cases referred by the UNHCR.

How Immigration New Zealand makes its decision

Immigration New Zealand will decide according to its established policies and guidelines. In some cases, they will consult with other government agencies, such as the Ministry of Health. Immigration NZ’s practice is that a decision as to whether the person is eligible requires agreement between two Immigration Officers. It takes roughly six to eight weeks for Immigration NZ to process the submission and make a decision.

Can I appeal Immigration NZ’s decision?

There is no right of review or appeal if Immigration New Zealand turns someone down for the UNHCR Refugee Quota. However, they may reconsider if the UNHCR provides additional information and a reason that justifies reconsidering the case.

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Where to go for more support

Community Law


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

Immigration New Zealand


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.


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

Immigration and Protection Tribunal


Red Cross 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.

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