Everything You Need to Know Guide to New Zealand Citizenship
New Zealand is a fantastic place to live, work and raise a family. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the requirements for obtaining New Zealand citizenship whilst also exploring exactly how you can become a New Zealand resident and the pathways you can follow in order to make New Zealand your forever home.
New Zealand is a fantastic place to live, work and raise a family. Known for its natural beauty, welcoming culture, and diverse population New Zealand often ranks at the top of people’s lists of countries they want to visit and ultimately make their home.
When you become a New Zealand citizen, not only do you become part of the rich social and cultural tapestry of the country, you have the right to live, work and travel in and out of New Zealand without restrictions whilst having access to all the same government, social and educational rights and benefits as someone born here.
While becoming a New Zealand citizen is reasonably straightforward, to apply for citizenship, you must first become a resident of New Zealand whilst also meeting specific criteria like time spent in the country, age, language and good character requirements. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the requirements and process needed to become a New Zealand citizen whilst also exploring and explaining how to become a New Zealand resident and the residency visa pathways you can follow to make New Zealand your permanent home.
What is New Zealand Citizenship?
New Zealand citizenship is a legal status that grants individuals the right to live and work in New Zealand permanently. As a citizen of New Zealand, you have the right to vote, access government services, get a New Zealand passport, and enjoy the travel benefits of someone who was born in New Zealand.
What are the benefits of New Zealand Citizenship?
With its bountiful unspoilt landscapes, stunning beaches, kind and friendly communities, great work opportunities and high rating on the OECD Better Life Index New Zealand is a fantastic place to live.
When you become a citizen, you have access to all of these incredible lifestyle benefits whilst enjoying the same government, social and educational benefits as someone born in New Zealand.
The benefits of New Zealand citizenship include:
- The right to vote in national and local elections
- Access to government services, including education and healthcare
- The ability to live and work in New Zealand permanently
- The ability to travel to and from New Zealand without restrictions
- The ability to sponsor family members to come to New Zealand
- The eligibility to hold a New Zealand passport
Citizenship is a step up from residency, and having the ability to vote in national and local elections whilst having full access to government services like education and healthcare is one of the key benefits of gaining citizenship in New Zealand. If you are enrolled to vote in New Zealand, you are also eligible to stand for parliament or local council.
When granted New Zealand citizenship, you can live and work in New Zealand without restrictions whilst also enjoying the convenience of travelling in and out of the country without being subjected to strict New Zealand immigration policies, for example, having to carry proof of permanent residency.
In addition, if you choose to hold a New Zealand passport, you can travel to a wide range of countries, like Australia and the United Kingdom, for a specific time, without needing specialist entry visas.
For those wishing to bring family to New Zealand, becoming a New Zealand citizen gives you the legal rights required to sponsor family members to join you in the country. It also allows you to pass on your citizenship to your children, even if they are born outside New Zealand.
Can I have dual citizenship when I become a New Zealand citizen?
The simple answer is yes. New Zealand allows dual citizenship. Although some countries do not allow you to hold two citizenships at a time, contacting your foreign embassy for further information is always best.
When applying for New Zealand citizenship, you must tell New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs about any other countries you are already a citizen of. If your country allows dual citizenship, you can have both, although some countries require you to get their permission or to surrender their citizenship when you acquire another.
Can I still vote in my home country if I become a New Zealand citizen?
You may still vote in your native country if you become a New Zealand citizen. For those who wish to vote in the elections of their home country, you must register to vote with the local election officials in your home state to receive absentee ballots. You should always check with your country of origin for the requirements on voting.
Am I eligible for New Zealand Citizenship?
Although applying for New Zealand citizenship may seem straightforward, you must first become a New Zealand resident visa holder under the Immigration Act to be eligible for New Zealand citizenship. Whether you have specific skills that are in demand, have the financial means to invest, or have existing family connections in the country, you can find a pathway that suits your circumstances before applying for New Zealand citizenship.
How do I become a New Zealand resident?
There are four main pathways to residency in New Zealand:
- Skilled migrant category
- Green List Visa
- Investing in the New Zealand economy
- Existing family connections
Skilled Migrant Category
The skilled migrant category is one of the most popular ways of gaining residency in New Zealand. To qualify for this category, you must have the right skills and qualifications for jobs deemed in demand by the New Zealand government. The skilled migrant category visa works on a points-based system. Please note that securing a job is essential before pursuing this pathway. To find out more about this visa see our Skilled migrant visa explainer.
Green List Visa
The New Zealand government have also recently announced a new Green List visa category that allows people to live and work in New Zealand while gaining a fast track to residency for those who qualify for a selection of highly skilled, hard-to-fill roles. These roles include but are not limited to, healthcare workers like doctors, nurses and anaesthesiologists, engineering professionals and technology specialists.
To apply for the Green List Visa, you must have a job offer from an accredited employer. You can come to New Zealand on a work visa and apply for residency or directly from offshore. We have written a guide to the Green list visa which goes into more detail about eligibility and the visa criteria.
Investing in the New Zealand economy
Another way to gain residency in New Zealand is by investing in the country’s economy via an Active Investor Plus visa. This pathway has been created to attract high-value investors who will bring growth to New Zealand businesses.
To do this, you must be able to invest a minimum of NZ $5 million but only if you are prepared to make a direct investment in New Zealand businesses. Otherwise, you need to be able to invest $15 million.
In addition to investing in the New Zealand economy, to gain residency, you must also meet certain other criteria, such as being of good character, being in good health, having no outstanding debts and meeting English language requirements.
Existing family connections
If you have family in New Zealand, you may be able to gain residency through this pathway. This category includes parents of children who are already residents in New Zealand, dependent children of New Zealand residents or visa holders, and dependent children of New Zealand citizens.
There are two types of parent categories in which to apply for residency. These include those dependent on sponsorship and those who can apply directly, provided they have $1.5 million of assets, a $60,000 income, and a child in New Zealand.
How long does it take to become a New Zealand resident?
Regardless of category, the general processing time for residency visas granted in New Zealand is 12 to 24 months.
As with all immigration pathways, if you are looking to gain residency and citizenship in New Zealand, you should engage the services of an experienced immigration lawyer, like our team at NZIL, who can assist you and remove the confusion from the application process.
What do I need to become a New Zealand citizen?
If you are a resident who wants to become a New Zealand citizen, you must still meet certain citizenship requirements. These include time spent in New Zealand as a resident, English language skills and good character requirements.
What are the resident requirements for New Zealand citizenship?
In order to be eligible for New Zealand citizenship, you must have lived in New Zealand while holding a resident visa for a least five years, without leaving for extended periods of time and intend to keep living in New Zealand before you are legally entitled to apply for citizenship.
How long do I need to be in New Zealand to become a citizen?
As mentioned, you need to be a New Zealand resident and have been physically present in New Zealand for five years, counting backwards from the day you applied for citizenship.
To meet this requirement, you must:
- Have spent at least 240 days (4 months) in each 12-month period in New Zealand and at least 1,350 days in New Zealand during the five years from your New Zealand citizen application
This timeframe for being away from New Zealand may comprise one long trip or many smaller overseas trips. Children do not have to meet the specific time requirements if at least one parent or guardian is already a New Zealand citizen or if they are applying for citizenship and meet the requirements.
What are the age requirements for New Zealand citizenship?
You must be 16 years old to apply for New Zealand citizenship.
Can my children become New Zealand citizens?
Children who are born in New Zealand automatically become New Zealand citizens if at least one parent is a resident visa holder or a citizen.
If your children were born overseas and are under 16, they must also meet the New Zealand resident criteria of having the right to stay in New Zealand indefinitely and intend to stay in New Zealand once citizenship is granted. 14-15-year-old children must also meet the English language and good character requirements as outlined below.
What are the good character requirements for New Zealand citizenship?
To be eligible for New Zealand citizenship, you must be of good character. This means that you must not have a criminal record, and you must not have been involved in any activities that are harmful to the security or interests of New Zealand. During your New Zealand citizen application, the immigration authorities will conduct a background check to determine if you meet the good character requirements.
What do I need to declare if I want to become a New Zealand citizen?
If you have a criminal record, a history of serious traffic offences or have been an aggressor in family violence or harm incident, this may hinder your chances of becoming a New Zealand citizen.
When making an application for New Zealand citizenship, you will be asked to declare some of the following:
- If you have ever been convicted of a crime
- If you have spent time in prison during the previous seven years or served a sentence over 5-years
- If you have been interviewed, reviewed or had legal action taken against you by the New Zealand government
- If you have ever been declared bankrupt due to fraud
- If you had to return money to the New Zealand government
- If you have had a protection order brought against you
- Have been involved in or convicted of family violence
Every application is different, and in some instances, there are pathways that can help address some of the issues that may affect a person’s chances of becoming a New Zealand citizen. One of the best ways to access your case is to invest in the services of a professional immigration lawyer like those at NZIL, who can give you tailored knowledge and advice for your specific case.
What are the English language requirements for New Zealand citizenship?
To qualify for New Zealand citizenship, applicants must show good command of the English language.
Do I need to speak English to become a New Zealand citizen?
Yes, you need to show good comprehension of the English language. The initial assessment of this is based on the following:
- Your standard of education
- Your job and the role you play in it
- Communication with the Citizenship office via the telephone or face-to-face
Applicants who do not meet the English language requirements may still have their citizenship approved via the English Language Waiver schedule.
How does the New Zealand citizenship application process work?
If you are a New Zealand resident who meets the criteria of time spent in New Zealand and the age, good character and English language requirements, it is essential to have all of the correct information and documents in place before you begin to make the process of applying for New Zealand citizenship as smooth as possible.
The application process for New Zealand citizenship involves several steps, including submitting the application, preparing for the citizenship test and attending the citizenship ceremony.
There are three types of New Zealand citizenship you can apply for:
- Citizenship by birth
- Citizenship by descent
- Citizenship by grant
For people who are New Zealand residents but were born outside of New Zealand or those who were born to parents who were not New Zealand citizens or permanent residents on or after 1 January 2006, citizenship by grant is the most common pathway.
How long does it take to become a New Zealand citizen?
In addition to the citizen eligibility timeframe of being a New Zealand resident for five years, it takes between 3-14 months after you apply for New Zealand citizenship to be approved.
One of the best ways to speed up the application process is to ensure you meet all the citizenship criteria outlined below while also preparing and presenting all the correct documents during the application. Applications that require manual checks may take longer than those that can be automatically checked.
If there are any issues with your citizenship application, a citizenship case officer will contact
What do I need to apply to become a New Zealand citizen?
To ensure an easy and straightforward New Zealand citizen application process, before you fill out the application form, you must ensure you have access to:
- Your full birth certificate or birth record
- Your current passport or travel document (if these documents have expired, you must include your most recent one)
- A passport photograph less than six months old
- Someone who can act as an identity referee or witness (if applying by post or in person)
- The application fee
You may be asked to include other documents in your application.
Instances where you may have to provide additional documents can include if English is not your first language, if you have changed your name or gender identity and if you do not have a passport or birth certificate.
Can I apply for New Zealand citizenship online?
You can apply for New Zealand citizenship online, in person, or via post. If you apply online, you must provide digital copies of all your documents and the details of an identity referee who is a New Zealand citizen and can confirm you are who you say you are. You will also need to verify your identity by completing the online identity check. When completing your application, you will be asked to verify your identity by taking and uploading a selfie photograph and a short video of your face with your computer or mobile phone.
The identity check is voluntary, but if you choose to complete it may not need to visit the citizenship office to verify your identity in person.
If you apply in person or via post, you must provide all the above documents. Your witness must also sign the back of your passport photograph and fill in the witness section of the application form.
How do I submit my application for New Zealand citizenship?
If applying for New Zealand citizenship online, you must have all the documents ready to upload before completing the application form. Before filling in the application, you will be asked to create a RealMe login if you do not already have one.
If you complete your application by post, you must download and fill in the application form and post all your documents and payment to the Department of Internal Affairs.
If you wish to apply in person, you must make an appointment with your local citizenship office which will check your New Zealand citizenship application and accept your payment.
Do I have to attend the New Zealand citizenship ceremony?
If you are over the age of 13, you will be asked to attend a citizenship ceremony.
The ceremony is an integral part of becoming a New Zealand citizen. It is held at a pre-arranged time, usually between 2-5 months after your citizenship is approved and is hosted by your local council.
In order to fulfil your New Zealand citizen requirements, you must attend a ceremony within one year of your citizenship being approved. You can invite friends and family to your ceremony and will be pre-advised on how many guests can attend.
What happens at the New Zealand citizenship ceremony?
The New Zealand citizenship ceremony takes a few hours. During the ceremony, which may include speeches and performances, you will be asked to make an oath or affirmation statement about your allegiance and loyalty to New Zealand. You will be pre-advised on what to say and can pledge in either English or te reo Māori.
Once the ceremony is completed, you will be presented with your New Zealand citizenship certificate. After you have received your citizenship certificate, you now have the ability to apply for a New Zealand passport.
What are the fees for New Zealand citizenship?
The application fee for New Zealand citizenship is a one-off payment that must be paid at the time of application.
How much does it cost for New Zealand citizenship?
As of March 2023, the application fee for New Zealand citizenship is:
- $470.20 per adult aged 16 and over
- $235.10 per child aged 15 and under
Can I pay to fast-track my New Zealand citizenship?
Unfortunately, there are no fast-track pathways to New Zealand citizenship. On very rare occasions, the New Zealand Citizenship Office may be able to look at your application outside of the standard queue order.
A request for urgency may only be considered if you are in a situation out of your control and cannot get travel documents. Cases, where your application may be fast-tracked include:
- You have to travel for a medical emergency for yourself or a sick relative
- You are representing New Zealand in sports or other activities where citizenship is required
- You need citizenship for work or deployment with the New Zealand Defence Force
- For humanitarian reasons
If you meet the criteria above, you must write a letter to the New Zealand Citizenship office explaining why you need urgent citizenship. You must include evidence for your reasons and email the letter and documents to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are there funding options to help me get New Zealand citizenship?
For those who may need financial assistance, there are funding options available. You may be eligible for financial assistance if you are receiving a benefit from Work and Income New Zealand or if you are a refugee or protected person. If you need further information on funding options for New Zealand citizenship, please contact one of our friendly and knowledgeable team at NZIL.
What happens if my application for New Zealand citizenship is declined?
If you fail to meet all of the requirements in order to apply for New Zealand citizenship, there are ways we can help. If you have any questions about your application, documents or the New Zealand resident and citizenship process, don’t hesitate to contact the knowledgeable team at NZIL, we are experts in assisting people to achieve their dream of living and working in New Zealand.
In conclusion, having the ability to live, work and raise a family in New Zealand whilst enjoying all the benefits of being an integral part of the social and cultural fabric of the country and experiencing the freedom and flexibility of free education, healthcare, voting and fuss-free travel is something desired by people across the globe.
As outlined in this comprehensive guide to New Zealand citizenship, applying for New Zealand citizenship is relatively straightforward, providing you meet the requirements outlined above and by the New Zealand citizen office.
While you must ensure you have all the correct documents and application fees in place and can attend a New Zealand citizen ceremony, one of the most important aspects of applying for New Zealand citizenship is ensuring you have followed the correct pathways to residency.
How NZIL can help
At NZIL, we are proud to have used our knowledge and expertise to help thousands of people just like you become New Zealand residents and, ultimately, citizens of this incredible country.
Our friendly and professional team of lawyers are on hand to help you determine the right visa category for your needs whilst also assisting you in preparing the documents and evidence needed to complete your application. Our principal lawyer Aaron Martin and his team are also adept in helping those whose applications have been declined or do not quite meet the required criteria saving you time, money and heartache.
If you have any questions about your pathway to New Zealand residency or New Zealand citizenship and want to ensure your application has the best chance of being accepted, please do not hesitate to contact NZIL today.
Further Suggested Reading:
- Moving as a family from South Africa
- The Labour Government’s Track Record on Immigration
- New Zealand’s Immigration Overhaul: Key Changes for 2023-2024
- The Vicious Cycle: Navigating New Zealand’s Partnership Visa Maze
- The Hidden Pitfall: Why Removing the 90-Day Trial Undermines Accredited Employer Reforms
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