To be eligible for a benefit, an individual must be a citizen or permanent resident. Convention refugees are not automatically granted permanent residency, and so are not entitled to the full range of benefits. However, those who hold a temporary entry class visa (such as a work visa) are entitled to the Emergency Benefit.
The Emergency Benefit entitles people to claim money equivalent to job seeker support rates, for up to three months after arrival in New Zealand or until the expiry date of the temporary entry class visa.
Temporary Additional Support is also available in the form of a renewable thirteen week benefit payment. This is designed to alleviate high set-up costs associated with settlement in New Zealand, such as that of purchasing essential household items, accommodation, and health and disability costs.
A Re-Establishment Grant is also available to former asylum seekers whose convention refugee status has been approved, though only if it is applied for within a year of seeking asylum in New Zealand. This one-off grant entitles refugees to $1,200 per family, and if there are more than two children in the family, provides an extra $100 per child. This grant covers household essentials, the cost of transportation as well as access to English language classes.
You will need a bank account to receive income and pay bills in New Zealand. You can go to any bank near your home or workplace to open an account.
Generally, in order to open a bank account you will need to bring with you:
- your passport; and
- a document to prove your address in New Zealand. For example, this could be a tenancy agreement, a bill, or a letter from a government agency.
There are a number of different account options, such as a cheque account for everyday expenses, and a savings account to gain interest. For more information, you can talk to a staff member at the bank you visit.
New Zealand tax residents pay tax to the Government through the Inland Revenue Department (IRD). These taxes are used by the Government to fund services. Any income sourced from New Zealand is taxed. Income you earn from overseas is also taxed in New Zealand when you become a tax resident, with some exceptions.
You will be a tax resident when:
- You are in New Zealand for more than 183 days in any 12 month period; or
- You have a permanent “place of abode” in New Zealand.
You have a permanent place of abode if you have somewhere where you normally live in New Zealand. This may be a home, whether you own it or not.
Your tax residency is likely to start from the first day you are in New Zealand as you are treated as a tax resident from the first day of the 183-day test.
Until you meet these criteria to be a tax resident, you will be classed as a “non-resident”. This means that you must still pay tax if you get income sourced from inside New Zealand and you may have to file two tax returns: one as a resident and one as a non-resident.
If you are a non-resident, you must complete a non-resident income tax return (IR3NR). You do not need to file a non-resident tax return if your only income is either:
- exempt; or
- from interest, dividends, and royalties and the correct amount of tax has been deducted.
For more information about tax residency and to determine your tax residency status, see the IRD website here.
If you will be earning an income in New Zealand, you should apply to Inland Revenue for an IRD number. An IRD number is a tax identification number.
You need an IRD number for any tax-related obligations you have or entitlements you get. Common examples of when you require an IRD number are:
- earning income from a job, benefit, or investment,
- opening a bank account,
- joining KiwiSaver,
- applying for Working for Families and child support,
- student loans,
- filing tax returns, or
- dealing with property in New Zealand.
Your IRD number is unique to you. If you own a company, trust, partnership or another form of business, you will need a different IRD number for each one.
You can also apply for an IRD number for your children.
For more information on applying for an IRD number, visit the IRD website here.
You will also need to register for a personal myIR account. To create your myIR account, register here.
Tax Rates for Individuals
You will pay tax at a rate that is based on your total income for the tax year (1 April to 31 March). New Zealand has gradual tax rates so the tax rate increases as your income increases.
From April 2021, the tax rates are:
For income received up to $14,000 10.5%
For income over $14,000 and up to $48,000 17.5%
For income over $48,000 and up to $70,000 30%
For income over $70,000 and up to $180,000 33%
For income over $180,000 39%
The tax rate for companies is 28% and for trusts is 33%.
You need to make sure you have the correct tax code for each source of income you earn.
Your main source of income is likely to be employment. Your employer will deduct PAYE from your wage or salary based on the tax code you provide them.
Your tax code will depend on your individual situation. For more information on getting the correct tax code, see the IRD website here.
Running a Business in New Zealand
If you run a business in New Zealand you will have to pay tax on the net income (or total income) earned by the business. The tax paid will depend on how the business is structured. Some examples are a company, partnership, trust, or sole trader.
If you run a business in New Zealand, you may have to register for Goods and Services Tax (GST), which is a form of sales tax in New Zealand. GST is charged on the supply of almost all goods and services in New Zealand. GST is currently charged at a rate of 15%. You are required to register for GST when you conduct a taxable activity and your turnover results at least $60,000 in any 12-month period. If your supplies are lower than this threshold then you may choose to register.
A GST registered business has to pay GST to Inland Revenue on all supplies made by the business, but is allowed to claim back the GST on all supplies received by the business.
For more information on GST, you should refer to the IR375 guide here.
KiwiSaver is a voluntary savings scheme. It enables you to save up for retirement or a first home.
KiwiSaver is open to all New Zealand citizens and people entitled to be in New Zealand who are under the age of eligibility for New Zealand superannuation, which is currently 65.
You must be a resident living in New Zealand to be eligible to join.
You can check if you are eligible for KiwiSaver here.
If you are experiencing hardship, you are able to apply to receive your KiwiSaver funds for another use other than for retirement or a first home. For more information on this, see the IRD website here.
Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ)
WINZ provides help to New Zealanders who are struggling financially. Whilst your refugee and protection claim is still being processed, you generally will not qualify for WINZ support as an asylum seeker or as a refugee. This is because some grants are subject to a case-by-case basis. However, in certain circumstances, WINZ might be able to grant you an emergency benefit if you are in need.
You can call WINZ on 0800 559 009 to make an appointment and speak with a case manager at your nearest WINZ office to find out whether you are eligible for emergency support.
WINZ Helpline also offers different language options as set out below:
- Mandarin – 0800 661 001;
- Cantonese – 0800 664 004;
- Hindi – 0800 993 003;
- Farsi – 0800 996 006;
- Khmer – 0800 994 004;
- Punjabi – 0800 995 005.
Currently, these are the only languages offered by WINZ. If your language is not listed here, please refer to Ezispeak. Further details about Ezispeak can be found in the contacts section, which can be found at the bottom of this page.
COVID-19 Financial Support
Everyone, including refugees, is entitled to COVID-19 financial support if affected by the pandemic.
Your eligibility will depend on your circumstances. For more information, click here the New Zealand Now website here.
Community Services Card
The Community Services Card helps low-income individuals and families to afford health care. If you have lodged a refugee and protection claim, you are eligible for a Community Services Card so long as you do not earn above the income limit. The income limit can be found on the WINZ website here.
If you receive the emergency benefit, WINZ will send you a community service card. If not, you will need to apply for one by visiting the WINZ web page here.
Complete the above form and send it along with copies of other documents that prove your identity, to the address listed on the form above. Documents can include your copy of your passport, your refugee claimant visitor visa to New Zealand, and another document such as a power bill or bank account statement.
Documents proving your identity need to be certified. This can be done by either visiting a lawyer, Notary Public, Justice of the Peace, or Registrar of the Court (court registrars can be found in your local courthouse). Directories can be found on the links below:
The Community Services Card will then be sent to you once your application is approved. It’s important to have your card on you at all times. This reduces costs to access healthcare, travel and accommodation for treatment, and appliances to help you at home.
For more information about Community Services Cards, see the WINZ website here.
Student Loans and Allowance for Tertiary Education
If you are a refugee entitled to reside in New Zealand, or someone sponsored to reside in New Zealand as a refugee through a family member, you are entitled to receive student loans and student allowance for tertiary education. This includes university or polytechnic courses.
- A Student Loan can help you to pay for compulsory course fees, course related costs, and living costs. You will eventually need to pay this back as it is a loan.
- A Student Allowance can help you pay for living costs. You do not need to pay this back.
Should your circumstances change while you are on a student allowance, you need to inform Studylink about this. You could risk being in debt if you do not do this.
In order to apply for a student loan/allowance, you will need to ensure that you do the following:
- Ensure you have a RealMe login. You can find more information on getting a RealMe login set up here.
- Ensure the programme you are applying for is eligible to be covered by a student loan and allowance.
- Know the details of the courses you are planning to undertake.
- Sit the eligibility test. This will tell you, based on your results, which benefits, allowances, and loans you may be eligible for. Apply online at the StudyLink website here.
- Once your application has been sent, you will receive an email or letter including details of your application. StudyLink will ask you to send them copies of documents to support your application. Generally, StudyLink will ask for documents that prove your identity and confirm your bank account details, and also may ask for any other documents that confirm your circumstances. For more information on documents, visit the StudyLink website here.
- Login into MyStudyLink. Here, you can check your application status and update your personal details. You can set up your MyStudyLink account here.
- You will then receive a letter confirming if your application has been approved or declined.
For more information on student loans, student allowance or StudyLink, please visit the StudyLink website.
- Inland Revenue Department – the contact page on the IRD website is the best way to contact IRD: https://www.ird.govt.nz/contactus
- Ezispeak – https://www.ezispeak.nz/online-requests
Offers telephone interpretation to over 180 languages. You can use Ezispeak if governmental departments do not offer translation to your language.