“Help, I’m going to be deported! I have to leave the country tomorrow!”

We often hear a variation of this theme down the phone line. Someone calls up because Immigration Officers have turned up at their doorstep, they have been taken into custody, they have had a visa declined, or they get a letter from Immigration New Zealand telling them that they have to leave New Zealand. Any number of things can happen that trigger deportation liability, so no two situations are ever completely the same. We have seen a very noticeable increase in the number of people coming to us who are threatened with deportation – why is this the case?

With Australia’s increasing hard line on immigrants having an impact on New Zealand (both for people who have been deported from Australia trying to get a visa for New Zealand and for the increasingly hard line we are seeing from Immigration New Zealand (INZ) possibly as a result) it is becoming more and more common for us to see people who are getting visas declined and then subsequently getting threatened with removal from the country. If you are in New Zealand and already hold a visa, criminal convictions can be another trigger for deportation liability later on down the track – especially when you go to apply for your Permanent Resident Visa (PRV).

Whatever the cause of your potential deportation liability, it is a scary situation to be in and is something that we don’t like seeing any person to have to go through. However, if something like this does happen to you, what happens? Here is my take on three very frequently asked questions:

1: Do I have to leave New Zealand straight away?

In many cases, the answer is no. If you have a visa declined or you are here unlawfully, INZ’s letters can make it seem as though you must leave straight away or you will be whisked away by Police in the middle of the night. This is often not the case. Most people, depending on when their visa was declined or whatever scenario you find yourself in, have appeal rights which prevent INZ from taking deportation action immediately. However, it is vital that if you believe there is a chance you might be deported that you contact us straight away. Time is of the essence, especially as many appeal rights have strict deadlines for submission.

  1. What are my chances of being able to stay in New Zealand?

It largely depends on why you are liable for deportation. In general, the stronger the connections you have with New Zealand, the better your chances of staying. If you have family here, particularly if they are New Zealand citizens and residents, this can work in your favour. In the case of criminal convictions, the severity of the offence and the offending has a corresponding impact on your chances of staying – for example, a person convicted of common assault might have a better chance of fighting deportation than someone who is convicted of murder. However, every case is different and there are many things that can work in your favour. We know what works and what doesn’t and can give you advice on how realistic your chances of staying are.

  1. If I am deported, will I ever be able to come back to New Zealand?

In a limited number of cases; yes, you might be able to come back one day. However, in general, if you are deported from New Zealand then you might be best to forget ever trying to come back. There are statutory bans on re-entry into New Zealand if you have been deported (often either two or five years) if you have been here unlawfully. However, some more serious causes of deportation liability (like serious criminal convictions, or immigration fraud) can lead to a permanent ban. You are far better off trying to fight against deportation at the outset, rather than trying to get back to New Zealand once you are already gone.

Get advice ASAP

If there is one thing to take away from all of this – if you, a friend or a family member find yourselves in trouble and think you might be deported, contact us immediately. In many cases we can overcome the odds and help keep you in New Zealand. However, leaving things too late can mean you lose any chance you have of staying.

Fighting deportation is a very stressful, long, time consuming and expensive process. However, it is much better to get go out and get good advice, to give yourself the best chance of staying in New Zealand.