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29 August 2021

Border entry for Afghan Nationals

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In light of the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, we have had an increase in inquiries about how New Zealand citizens and residents may be able to sponsor their families to come to New Zealand or otherwise seek assistance.

The starting point for assistance while offshore is for your family member(s) to contact the nearest United Nations Office. This would give them an opportunity to seek assistance from the UN High Commission for Refugees. If refugee status is claimed, this would begin the process of coming to New Zealand as a “quota refugee” and may provide interim support.  

From an immigration perspective, there are difficulties with getting people into New Zealand due to the COVID-19 border restrictions. A person must have a travel exemption to the border restriction to enter New Zealand. This can be applied for through the Immigration New Zealand website. Anyone seeking to enter New Zealand must have a valid passport before their application can proceed.

The reasons that a person can travel to New Zealand are limited. For people fleeing Afghanistan, the “humanitarian” category is likely to be the most relevant category under which to apply. This is a discretionary application; there is no guarantee that it will be granted. There is also a small fee for this application.

If a border exemption is granted, the applicant is next invited to apply for a critical purpose visa to travel to New Zealand. This will allow them to book travel and a spot in Managed Isolation.

Once the applicant arrives in New Zealand, there are many options that become available to them if they wish to remain in New Zealand permanently.

The New Zealand Government did open another residence category for resettlement of Afghan nationals who had assisted New Zealand Defence forces. As of 26 August, this category is now closed.  Further information is available at:

There may be additional options available to you if you came to New Zealand as a refugee, and are now seeking to sponsor your immediate family. This relationship may allow you to sponsor your immediate family member for residence under the Refugee Family Support category.

If you are seeking to bring family members to New Zealand, and arrived as a refugee yourself, we recommend you contact us about the Refugee Family Support category. In other cases, we recommend contacting one of our immigration lawyers to discuss your options.


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