Rights in Exile Programme

Refugee Legal Aid Information for Lawyers Representing Refugees Globally

Resettlement to New Zealand

Resettlement to New Zealand

New Zealand currently has a resettlement quota of 750 refugees every year. It comprises the following subcategories:

  • Women-at-Risk: up to 75. This subcategory covers refugee women who are without the support of their traditional family protectors or community and are at risk because of their gender in their country of refuge;

  • Medical/Disabled: up to 75 (including up to 20 places for refugees with HIV/AIDS). Applicants under this category must have a medical condition that cannot be treated in their country of asylum;

  • The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Priority Protection: 600 (including up to 300 places for family reunification and 35 places for emergency cases). It applies to refugees requiring urgent legal or physical protection, for example those who face situations such as refoulement, deportation or arbitrary detention.

Eligibility Criteria

To be considered for resettlement to New Zealand, refugees must:

  • be recognised by the UNHCR as a refugee according to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and its 1967 Protocol;

  • be submitted for resettlement by the UNHCR to the Refugee Quota Branch (RQB) of the Department of Labour in accordance with the UNHCR resettlement guidelines and priorities;

  • fall within the regional and global priorities of the Government of New Zealand (exceptions for emergency and family reunification cases) as set out in the Quota Composition Plan established each year;

  • be assessed as admissible under the RQB policy and procedures; and

  • be otherwise admissible under New Zealand law (see below).

Admissibility for Resettlement

A refugee may be denied resettlement to New Zealand because of past criminal activity (i.e. individuals who have been involved in drug trafficking or acts of persecution or torture) or on security grounds (i.e. individuals who have been involved in terrorist activity, crimes against humanity or who would present a serious security threat).

Waivers of certain grounds of inadmissibility may be available in some cases for humanitarian purposes; for instance, to uphold the principle of unity of the family.

Family Reunification for Resettled Refugees

UNHCR usually submits cases where the family members of refugees resettled in New Zealand are themselves recognised by UNHCR and considered in need of resettlement in accordance with the UNHCR’s resettlement guidelines.

In the case of separated members of the immediate family, the Refugee Quota Branch of the Department of Labor may waive the requirement of a formal UNHCR submission, provided the relationship was originally declared to the RQB. Such cases may include nuclear family members in their country of origin.

Under the Refugee Family Support Category, refugees resident in New Zealand can sponsor family members who do not qualify for residence under any other category of Government residence policy.


Sources: this information has been taken from official documents as well as the New Zealand country chapter in the UNHCR Resettlement Handbook.