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

You can get an IRD number through an AA office or Post Shop or IRD. You need to apply for an IR742 non resident IRD number. This usually takes 8-10 working days.

You can apply for an urgent IRD number but you need to say why you need it urgently. You can say it is for your a WINZ application for an Emergency Benefit. If you go to an AA shop, an urgent IRD number costs $10 and takes 48 hours to be processed. If you go to an IRD office, it should be free.

To get an IRD number you need these documents: a completed IRD form, a bank account statement, your passport or certificate of identity, the letter from Immigration NZ  showing you have applied for asylum, proof of your address, and any other ID documents that you have. 

Emergency Benefit

If you are an asylum seeker, you can apply for an Emergency Benefit (EB) after you have made your asylum claim. As soon as you have a letter from Immigration New Zealand (INZ) confirming you have applied for refugee status, and have a visa, contact Work and Income (WINZ) to apply for the Emergency Benefit. Phone WINZ on 0800 559 009 to make an appointment.

Often WINZ 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 WINZ, the person you speak to on the phone might recommend that you click “resident” instead so you can complete the form. However, WINZ has said asylum seekers and Convention refugees who aren’t permanent residents should not do this.

WINZ has stopped producing the hard copy Emergency Benefit forms. The Asylum Seekers Support Trust has a PDF version that they can email to you or print out for you. Some WINZ offices will 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.

For the WINZ appointment you will need the following documents: A Bank Account statement, IRD number (official not verbal), the INZ letter showing you have a refugee claim in process, your Passport or other official photo ID), a valid visa, and a completed WINZ application form. There may be other documents required depending  on your personal circumstances. You have 21 days from your first contact with WINZ to provide all these documents.

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), WINZ 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 WINZ website page explains how WINZ calculates 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 WINZ 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 WINZ. 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 WINZ if you can get any help to pay for other emergency costs including food.

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

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