It was a simple request: a small fix to a date of birth on an official document.
But Immigration NZ's refusal to make that change, leaving a new immigrant unable to get a driver's licence, WINZ support or a student loan, has landed the department in hot water with the privacy commissioner.
The immigrant, an Ethiopian man, came to New Zealand in 2011 with a certificate which incorrectly stated he was born in 2000.
Because both his parents had died young, there was no accurate record of his birth.
But, after arriving in New Zealand, he began to question his age and medical testing found he was three years older than he originally thought, getting a new birth certificate from Ethiopia dated 1996.
But when he went to Immigration NZ to fix the error, officials declined him twice, saying it would set a dangerous precedent.
Commissioner John Edwards has now referred the case to the director of Human Rights Proceedings, on the grounds it is a breach of the man's privacy.
Mr Edwards said the agency had failed to properly take into the account that refusal would have on the man and had not been flexible enough in their approach.
"In this case, a young adult was being restricted from accessing things he was entitled to in New Zealand, such as a drivers licence, financial assistance from Studylink and WINZ and the adult minimum wage," he said.
"Immigration New Zealand needed to look at these tangible effects of not changing his birth date rather than the theoretical risk of changing it."
The director of Human Rights Proceedings can now take the case to the Human Rights Review tribunal to set a legal precedent for similar cases.