Drink-driving can get you deported – even if you’re a resident

Did you know that, as a migrant, any minor conviction committed in the first two years of residency (including drink-driving) can get you deported? In fact, legal experts report, the vast majority of all deportation cases are due to drink-driving in the first two years of residency.

Minor offences are those that carry a sentence of up to three months in jail, and include things like negligent driving, wilful damage, disorderly behaviour, and possession of a small amount of cannabis.

It doesn’t even matter what the Court actually gives you. It may be a simple fine – and in most cases, that’s exactly what you would get, because low-level offences are unlikely to lead to imprisonment (especially if it’s your first brush with the law). What matters is what the Court could have done.

So, if the minor offence you committed is punishable with maximum three months in jail, for the purpose of immigration, you no longer meet the ‘character test’. The Courts or the Police will notify Immigration NZ, and you’ll get a letter from INZ warning you that you face the risk of deportation.

It’s important to note that, even if for some reason Immigration NZ doesn’t get notified right away, once you have a conviction on your record, the risk of being deported remains – at least until you get citizenship.

What can you do to keep your residence?

First and foremost, get a lawyer. Not any lawyer – an immigration lawyer. They will look at your case from both an immigration and criminal standpoint. You can then file an Appeal Against Deportation with the Immigration and Protection Tribunal within four weeks of the Notices being received, highlighting the reasons why they shouldn’t deport you.

However, lawyers warn that winning the appeal is no easy feat. Usually, there must be “exceptional humanitarian circumstances” for the decision to be reviewed. And if you fail the appeal and don’t leave on your own accord, things can get pretty nasty. Immigration will track you down at your home or workplace, hand you a Deportation Order and arrest you. You’ll be then put on a flight back home without passing ‘go’.

The bottom line? Behave. If you’re drunk, call an Uber. And if you do get caught, get professional advice right away. Good lawyers aren’t cheap, but you have everything to lose.

Drink-driving limits in New Zealand

Alcohol contributes to around 30 per cent of New Zealand’s fatal road crashes, with 1,100 people having been killed and a further 5,300 injured in drink-driving accidents during the past 10 years.

You must not drive if the amount of alcohol in your breath or blood exceeds the following limits:

  • For drivers aged 20 years and over, 250 micrograms (mcg) of alcohol per litre of breath, or 50 milligrams (mg) per 100 millitres (ml) of blood.
  • For drivers under 20, the alcohol limit is zero.

As a rule of thumb, you should be okay to drive if you don’t have more than two standard drinks – but keep in mind that alcohol tolerance can vary greatly depending on your build and how much you’ve eaten.

Disclaimer: We are not immigration lawyers and this blog post does not provide legal advice. This text was based on research only, so if you need help for your specific case, reach out to a lawyer.