Refugee and Immigration Legal Advice Service (RILAS)

“How friendly were the RILAS lawyers and how conscious they were all the time that I have a very basic understanding of legal terms and possible actions. I really appreciate the extra effort in explaining everything.” – RILAS client

Our service was first established in 1997 with a focus on refugee family reunification, and since that time we have assisted hundreds of former refugees to reunite with their family members. We specialise in assisting refugees and vulnerable migrants with immigration needs.

At our advice sessions, we provide initial advice on residence, visitor, partnership and dependent child applications, deportations, citizenship, and refugee status applications. We also provide advice to migrants experiencing immigration issues relating to exploitation and domestic violence.

We can provide legal information only in relation to skilled migrant, student and work visas but you can find a lawyer here or an immigration adviser here.

If you want immediate legal information, the relevant section of the Community Law manual may be able to help.

Ongoing assistance

Our staff lawyers and volunteer advocates provide ongoing assistance on our priority areas, including Refugee Quota Family Reunification and Refugee Family Support Category applications. Due to high demand, we have a long waiting list for these applications and strict criteria apply.

Our specialist lawyers can do work preparing Visa applications for women whose relationships have ended due to domestic violence. These are prioritised, and not subject to a waiting list.

We also have specialist employment and immigration lawyers who can help migrants on temporary work visas who are experiencing workplace exploitation, for example where an employer fails to pay staff minimum wage ($20 an hour) or their annual leave entitlements, demands payment for job offers or cash repayments from wages.  These practices are illegal and place people in very vulnerable situations, particularly where they rely on the employer to support their work visa.

Contact us for assistance with any of the above.

We would like to acknowledge our funders and supporters: DLA Piper, Wellington Community Trust, Wellington City Council, COGS Wellington, and COGS Hutt Valley, JR McKenzie, Russell McVeagh, Kensington Swan, Cottrell Law, Wotton Kearney, Digby Livingston Solicitor and the Nikau Foundation.

Please visit us at one of our specialist clinics where we have both Community Law staff lawyers and volunteer lawyers. Interpreting services are available at our advice sessions.

These are held every week at the following times:

  • Tuesday 5.30pm – 7.00pm in our Wellington | Te Whanganui-a-Tara Office, Level 2, 15 Dixon st, Wellington
  • Wednesday 12pm – 2pm in our Lower Hutt | Te Awa Kairangi Office, Level 2, 59 Queens Drive, Lower Hutt

Get in touch with the RILAS Team on (04) 460 4461 or Please also check our outreach clinic timetable for services in your suburb.