How To Become A New Zealand Citizen: A Guide For Expats

How To Become A New Zealand Citizen

Disclaimer: We are not migration experts. The information below is from our research into options for becoming New Zealand citizens. For professional expert advice, please do contact 

The Emigration Group

You can access their free online assessment to find out if you’re eligible to emigrate. 

New Zealand is a paradise country that has been attracting immigrants every since it was discovered. With its growing fame around the world as a beloved movie backdrop in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit Movies, a greater number of people have been moving there to establish residency and attempt to gain citizenship. In this article, we look at the various types of citizenship and the ways that you can obtain this coveted New Zealand citizenship.

Types of New Zealand Citizenship 

New Zealand offers three means of obtaining citizenship in the country. These are through birth, descent, and grant. If you are born in the country this automatically qualifies for citizenship there. If you are descended from at least one parent with New Zealand citizenship, then you also qualify for it. For everyone else, you must apply for New Zealand citizenship by grant. This classification is for all individuals who moved to New Zealand from any other nation.

How to Become A Citizen: Checking Your Eligibility For Citizenship 

Citizenship Through Birth 

This is the easiest was to be a citizen here. If you were physically born in New Zealand before the first of January in 2006 you are already a citizen. For those who were born in the country after the first of January 2006, you are only citizens if minimally one of your parents is also a citizen or you have attained the status of permanent residence. For those who are citizens of New Zealand by birth, your children who were born outside of the country are able to register as a citizen through descent.

Citizenship Through Descent 

This means of gaining citizenship applies to people who have a New Zealand citizen parent and who were born overseas. Individuals who meet these tests are already citizens through descent and only need to register such citizenship in order to obtain their passport. A limitation to this class of citizenship is that it does not allow you to pass on your citizenship on to your children if they are born outside of the country. For those who are concerned about losing their prior citizenship, you can rest easy. The country of New Zealand permits multiple and dual citizenship, even when other nations may not.

Applying for a Grant of New Zealand Citizenship 

In order to obtain one of these grants of citizenship from New Zealand, you are required to apply to the Department of Internal Affairs and its New Zealand Citizenship Office. They will require that you pay the current application fee (found on their citizenship website) and provide a number of documents with your application as follows:

  • Birth certificate
  • Passport or other documents on which you entered New Zealand
  • Marriage certificate or a divorce order to prove any name changes
  • Interview with an Internal Affairs representative

These applications are not instantaneous. They require typically from five to eight months in processing time. When the decision on citizenship has been made, you will receive a letter alerting you to the application outcome.


Check That You Meet All Requirements Before Applying for New Zealand Citizenship

Requirements of Physical Presence

There are typically three presence tests before you can gain New Zealand citizenship. The majority of people have to meet all of these to qualify.

  1. You have lived as a resident of New Zealand for minimally the past five years. It is alright to have stayed on more than a single kind of permit or visa in this time, so long as you were allowed to stay consecutively for the five years. Australian permanent residents and citizens who resided consecutively the five years in New Zealand may also apply.
  2. You must have resided a sufficient amount of time in the country over the past five years. There is a minimum amount of time that you must have been physically present in the country over those five years. They count backwards five years from the date of your citizenship application. As a warning, if you have stayed outside of the country for over four months in any single year, then you may not meet this necessary requirement. The four months counts for the whole year, not only a single trip.
  3. You must intend to remain living in New Zealand after gaining citizenship. People only living here long enough to gain the citizenship with the intention of leaving will not qualify.


Requirements of Language

In order to qualify for citizenship, you must prove that you can carry on a basic level conversation in English. For those who apply in person, they will check your level of communication at the appointment. If you fail this requirement, the case officer will inform you of your next options.

For those applying by post, you will need to include something with the application that demonstrates you speak basic English. Usually it will be something in writing from school or work proving you capably spoke English in either environment. Case officers who are not convinced with the supporting document on your English level can require that you physically appear to do an interview.


Requirements of Good Character

You will be required to demonstrate that you have good character in order to qualify for citizenship in New Zealand. If you have not had trouble with law enforcement either in New Zealand or another country, then you satisfy this requirement. Traffic offenses are not seriously considered. You should not be disqualified for having speed camera fines and parking tickets.

Citizenship Office representatives will speak with you in the unlikely event that your police check reveals you have the following:

  • A current pattern showing infringements or fines in New Zealand or another country
  • 100 total demerit points or more on your driver’s license.

Investigations, Offenses, and Crimes

You could be denied citizenship in New Zealand if there are pending charges against you in any nation. You might also be denied in the event that you:

  • Went to jail during the past seven years
  • Were convicted of any crime during the past three years
  • Ever received a prison sentence in excess of five years

Requirements for Children

There are children who are not required to meet the exacting adult presence requirements in order to obtain citizenship in New Zealand. For children who are 15 or under, they may not have to have resided the past five years in the country if either one of the two parents already possesses New Zealand citizenship or if their parent who is also applying at this time meets the presence requirements. They would still be required to possess the rights to reside in New Zealand permanently and to mean to stay in the country after receiving citizenship.

For those children who are less than 14 years old, they do not have to prove their good morale character or speak English. They are not required to attend the citizenship ceremony if they do not want to, but they can if they wish.


Samoan Citizen Requirements

There are two time based standards for citizens of Samoa who came to New Zealand with the hope of gaining citizenship. For those who arrived after September 14th of 1982, they must demonstrate that they legally entered the country and had the right to stay permanently. It would require proof of either a resident visa, resident permit, a permanent resident visa, or alternatively an Australian permanent resident visa or citizenship. The standard presence requirements do not apply for this class of applicant.

You would be required to prove that you were in the country on the 14th of September in 1982. This could involve any of the following:

  • Your passport
  • Employer letter confirming you were working
  • School letter confirming you were attending school
  • Other items that prove you were in New Zealand on that date

Privileges and Responsibilities Of A Citizen 

There are certain privileges and responsibilities that come along with New Zealand citizenship. These will be the same as for someone born in the country. You will be required to do the following:

  • Not engage in behavior contrary to New Zealand’s interests
  • Obey all laws of the country
  • Pay taxes
  • Register to vote
  • Behave responsibly at home and abroad

You will also gain all of the following rights and privileges:

  • Live indefinitely in New Zealand
  • Obtain and travel using a New Zealand passport
  • Obtain full educational access
  • Run for local government or parliament office
  • Have complete economic and work rights
  • Gain all rights to represent the country with sports

There are rare cases where people who do not meet one of the citizenship requirements can be granted citizenship directly by the Minister of Internal Affairs. The burden of proving you deserve this citizenship falls on you. Case officers will consider the evidence before deciding whether or not to appeal to the Minister to grant you New Zealand citizenship. It is very hard to gain citizenship when you do not meet all regular requirements though

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