Financial Support

There are two main financial assistance provisions available for asylum seekers  – the Emergency Benefit (EB) and Temporary Additional Support (TAS). You cannot apply for these until after you have applied for asylum. 

You can apply for financial support from Work and Income NZ (WINZ) if you have no other means of support. You also need to have a valid visa, a New Zealand bank account and an Inland Revenue Department (IRD) number, for paying tax. 

Refugees who came to Aotearoa New Zealand as quota refugees are permanent residents when they arrive here, and can apply for the same Work and Income benefits as other permanent residents or citizens. Asylum seekers who are accepted as Convention refugees cannot apply for other WINZ benefits and grants until they become permanent residents.

This page explains the documents you need to open a bank account, get an IRD tax number and apply for an Emergency Benefit, Temporary Additional Support, and possibly a Re-establishment (Special Needs) Grant. There are also other grants that you need to repay. The Asylum Seekers’ Support Trust, Rainbow Path, or other community groups may be able to help you with some of these applications.

Opening a bank account

To open a bank account you will also need to show a passport or other official photo ID, and proof of your address (usually an official letter addressed to you at that address). Rainbow Path can provide advice to trans people who do not have official ID documents with their correct name, gender marker, or photo. After the account is set up, ask the bank for a signed and stamped bank statement from your new account.  You do not need money to open a bank account but if there is no money in the account ask the bank to confirm in writing that the account is ‘ functional’  or  ‘active’.

Getting an IRD number

Asylum seekers need to apply for an IRD number using the IR742 form that says ‘offshore non residents’.

Fill this form in and email it to with scanned copies of these documents: your INZ letter confirming you have applied for refugee status, your visa, ID, overseas tax number if they have one, proof you have an active bank account, proof of address, and proof of your reason for applying (such as a Work and Income letter or a job or contract offer).

The most important part of the form is when you fill out the reason why you are applying for an IRD number. If you are on a visitor visa write “to receive a benefit”. Only write “to work” if you have the right to work in NZ.

IRD aims to process your application within 8-10 working days. They will text, email or post your IRD number to you. It can take 20 working days to arrive if you ask them to post it. 

Emergency Benefit

If you are an asylum seeker, you can apply for an Emergency Benefit (EB) after you have opened a bank account, have a valid visa, and have a letter from Immigration New Zealand (INZ) confirming you have applied for refugee status. As this section of Work and Income’s policy explains, this does not mean you need a work visa – just any valid visa allowing you to be in New Zealand.

The first steps to apply for an Emergency Benefit are to appy online for a client number, complete the Emergency Benefit form and then make an appointment at Work and Income.

Often Work and Income will tell you to fill the Emergency Benefit form out online. But the online form asks for residency status and will close down when you click “non-resident”. If you contact Work and Income, the person you speak to on the phone might recommend that you click “resident” instead so you can complete the form. However, Work and Income has said asylum seekers and Convention refugees who aren’t permanent residents should not do this.

Work and Income has stopped producing the hard copy Emergency Benefit forms. The Asylum Seekers Support Trust and Rainbow Path both have a PDF version that we can email to you or print out for you. Some Work and Income offices may suggest you fill out a Jobseeker Support form instead. Even if you fill out that form they will be assessing you for an emergency benefit. Only permanent residents can apply for Jobseeker Support.

Once you have completed the Emergency Benefit form, phone 0800 559 009 to make an appointment or take the completed Emergency Benefit form to a Work and Income service centre and make an appointment in person.

For the Work and Income appointment you will need the following documents: A Bank Account statement, the INZ letter showing you have a refugee claim in process, your Passport or other official photo ID, a valid visa, and your completed Emeregency Benefit application form. There may be other documents required depending on your personal circumstances.

Ideally, you will also have an IRD number before your Work and Income appointment. However, if you have applied online for it and not received it yet, Work and Income has some discretion to start processing your application and payments without it.

Temporary Additional Support (TAS)

This is an extra amount to help with housing costs, as asylum seekers and Convention refugees who are not permanent residents are not eligible for the usual Accommodation Supplement. You will need a letter from your landlord or a tenancy agreement stating the rent you are paying. If you are paying board (for rent and food), Work and Income will only help pay towards the rent part of your board.

Because you can’t apply for the Accommodation Supplement until you are a permanent resident, in some cases you can get a higher rate of Temporary Additional Support. This is called the “upper limit for certain refugees, protected persons or residence applicants”. This Work and Income website page explains how they calculate this higher rate of Temporary Additional Support.

Quota refugees and Convention refugees who are permanent residents can apply for the Accommodation Supplement instead, to help with housing costs.

Re-Establishment (Special Needs) Grant

Quota refugees and any asylum seekers granted refugee status within one year of arriving in New Zealand can also apply for a Re-Establishment Grant. The maximum grant is $1,200. Asylum seekers cannot apply for this grant if your claim is not decided within the 12 months after your arrival in NZ.

Grants you need to pay back

You can also ask Work and Income for an advance on your Emergency Benefit to pay for high costs such as a bond when you move to a new rental house. This is a recoverable grant which you will have to pay back to Work and Income. You can ask for help with other emergency costs such as dental care or glasses. Usually you will also need to pay back these costs. It is worth asking Work and Income if you can get any help to pay for other emergency costs including food.

There is more Work and Income support available through Special Needs Grants once you are a permanent resident. The Asylum Seekers’ Support Trust may also offer small short-term loans for asylum seekers.

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