Immigration compliance officers have the power to arrest and detain persons in New Zealand.  Normally, a person will not receive any prior warning that Immigration officers are coming for them.  The process can be intimidating and very stressful for the person and their family.

Immigration’s powers are normally exercised in circumstances where the person has become unlawful and is liable for deportation or is a suspected threat or risk to security.  There are other grounds which could justify arrest and detention but they are not as common. 

In the case of a person who is unlawful in New Zealand it is not uncommon for Immigration to serve a deportation order on the person at the time of the initial arrest. 

Immigration will normally escort that person to a local police station where the person is subject to a four hour limited detention by an Immigration officer.

A person may be detained without a warrant for an additional period not exceeding 96 hours.

During this detention period, an Immigration officer will conduct a humanitarian interview to determine whether there are any grounds which would prevent the person from leaving the country.  If there are no grounds, the Immigration officer will normally arrange for travel documents to facilitate the person’s departure from New Zealand.

In circumstances where Immigration are unable to remove a person within the 96 hour period an application must be made to a District Court Judge seeking a warrant of commitment.  If granted, this allows Immigration to hold a person for a period of up to 28 days.  There are specific criteria which Immigration is required to satisfy to support this application. 

If a District Court Judge issues a warrant of commitment, a person may have grounds to apply to the Court (at the same time or later) for release with or without conditions.  Release conditions are outlined under section 320 of the Immigration Act 2009.

If you or a family member have been arrested and detained by an Immigration officer, we recommend that you seek legal advice as a matter of urgency.  We also recommend that before agreeing to attend a voluntary humanitarian interview with an Immigration officer that you insist upon having a lawyer present.  Statements which are made during these interviews are very important and could make the difference as to whether you have grounds to remain in New Zealand or not.

 Contact the Young Hunter Immigration Team:

Simon Graham, Senior Associate


Christine Le Beau, Senior Solicitor


Adam Curtin, Solicitor