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New Zealand citizenship

Citizenship by birth
Citizenship by grant
Citizenship by descent

The Department of Internal Affairs welcomes applications for the grant of New Zealand citizenship and for registration of New Zealand citizenship by descent.

Our citizenship is valuable. While many of the benefits of citizenship are available to permanent residents, there are some benefits that are only available to citizens, including:

  • the right to enter and remain in New Zealand at any time;
  • the right to travel on a New Zealand passport;
  • the right to obtain assistance from New Zealand embassies and consulates when travelling overseas;
  • the ability to stand as a candidate in local and general elections.
  • In addition, some educational scholarships and some public sector jobs are only open to New Zealand citizens, and only citizens can represent New Zealand in some international sport.

    As well as the benefits above, New Zealand citizenship can bring more intangible benefits. For example, many people feel that citizenship is an important part of their identity and gives them a sense that they truly belong to New Zealand.

    Citizenship by birth

    Since 1949 most people born in New Zealand have been New Zealand citizens by birth. Exceptions are people whose parents are foreign diplomats in New Zealand. However, people born in New Zealand on or after 1 January 2006 are only New Zealand citizens if one or both of their parents are New Zealand citizens or permanent residents. For citizenship purposes New Zealand includes the Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau.

    All births in New Zealand must be registered at the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. For people born before 1 January 2006 a birth certificate showing their birth in New Zealand is generally proof that they are citizens by birth. For people born on or after 1 January 2006 their birth record and any birth certificates will show whether they are citizens by birth.

    Citizenship by grant

    Migrants to New Zealand and people born here on or after 1 January 2006 who are not citizens at birth can apply for a grant of citizenship. Citizens by grant enjoy all the same rights and privileges as other New Zealand citizens. Adults must meet a number of requirements before they can obtain a grant of citizenship. Generally, they must have lived in New Zealand for at least 5 years, be of good character, have knowledge of the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship, and of the English language, and intend to continue to live in New Zealand. People with certain criminal convictions may not be able to become New Zealand citizens or may have to wait for a certain period after their conviction before they can become citizens.

    New citizens are generally required to attend a citizenship ceremony to take the oath or affirmation of allegiance. Citizenship ceremonies are important occasions and are generally conducted by local authorities. At the ceremony new citizens make a public commitment to New Zealand by swearing allegiance to the Queen, and receive their citizenship certificates. Once they receive their certificates they are New Zealand citizens.

    Citizenship by descent

    People born outside New Zealand whose parents are New Zealand citizens will be citizens by descent unless their parents are themselves citizens by descent. Citizens by descent who have registered their citizenship enjoy all the same rights and privileges as other New Zealand citizens, with one important exception. The exception is that citizens by descent cannot pass on their citizenship to children born outside New Zealand. Citizens by descent can apply for a grant of citizenship.

    Find out more!

    The Citizenship Office in the Department of Internal Affairs administers citizenship applications. For more information on New Zealand citizenship, application processes, or the requirements for a grant, contact the Citizenship Office on 0800 22 51 51 or visit the website:

    Updated May 2005




    Photo of Kenneth Wong MP, a chinese refuge, with former ACT leader Richard Prebble.

    Kenneth Wong MP, on the right, arrived in New Zealand as a refugee.. He has been a businessman, and because he was 10th on Act's party list, became an MP between general elections when a former ACT MP left a vacancy.


    Photo of a child of pacific island origin.

    A citizen by birth in New Zealand


    At citizenship ceremonies new citizens make a public commitment to New Zealand.