Although it often receives less attention compared to Residence and Temporary Visa categories, acquiring New Zealand citizenship is the final stage in the immigration journey for many. New Zealand citizenship enables the holder to do the following:

  1. Live in New Zealand indefinitely;
  2. Travel overseas on a New Zealand passport;
  3. Stand for Parliament or local government;
  4. Have full economic and social rights;
  5. Represent New Zealand in Sports.

Holding a New Zealand passport is something that can be valuable, see for example an article describing this here. Holders of New Zealand passports can visit 171 countries and territories worldwide without needing to apply for a Visa in advance.    

New Zealand citizenship can be acquired in three different ways.

Citizenship by grant

The key requirements that need to be met in order for person to receive citizenship by grant are:

  1. The person has been living in New Zealand as a resident for at least the last five years;
  2. The person has spent enough time in New Zealand in the last 5 years, which is at least 240 days in each 12-month period at 1,350 days across the 5 years;
  3. The person is able to hold a conversation in English;
  4. The person is of good character;
  5. If granted New Zealand citizenship, the person intends to continue to reside in New Zealand.

Most applications for citizenship are determined by the Department of Internal Affairs under delegated authority. They receive approximately 37,000 applications for citizenship by grant each year. Where one of the requirements for the grant of citizenship is not clearly met, the application is referred to the Minister of Internal Affairs for consideration.  

Where a person receives citizenship by grant, they are issued with a certificate of New Zealand citizenship. The person must also attend a public citizenship ceremony, swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen and swear they will faithfully observe the laws of New Zealand.

An example of something that may indicate poor character include criminal convictions, a pattern of traffic infringements (100 or more demerit points in the two years prior to the application), and information received from the Police about a serious incident or pattern of minor incidents of family violence.

Unless there are exceptional circumstances, a person will not be granted citizenship if at any time they have been sentenced to a term of imprisonment of more than 5 years, within the preceding 7 years the person was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of less than 5 years, or within the preceding 3 years the person was convicted of an offence but was not imprisoned.

Citizenship by birth

A person born in New Zealand before 1 January 2006 is a New Zealand citizen by birth.

A person is born in New Zealand on or after 1 January 2006 is a citizen, but only if when they were born at least 1 of their parents was a New Zealand citizen or had Permanent Residence or Residence status.

People born in New Zealand to those who hold Temporary Visas do not acquire New Zealand citizenship. Instead, they take the most favourable immigration status of either of their two parents. A child born to a parent who holds Temporary Visa will hold a Temporary Visa to the expiry date of the visa held by the parent whose Temporary Visa has the longest unexpired period. A child born to a parent who is unlawfully in New Zealand, ie does not have a Visa, is also unlawfully in New Zealand.

Citizenship by descent

If a person is born overseas and at least 1 of their parents was a New Zealand citizen by grant or birth when the person was born, they are a New Zealand citizen by descent. Persons in this category need to register their citizenship in order to make it official and in order to receive a New Zealand passport.

New Zealand citizens by descent pass New Zealand citizenship to their children if born inside New Zealand but not children born outside New Zealand. Children born outside New Zealand must meet the requirements for citizenship by grant. A New Zealand citizen by descent can apply for New Zealand citizenship by grant if they meet the requirements for this and if it this approved, then children born outside New Zealand can apply for New Zealand citizenship by descent.

Other considerations

New Zealand allows a person to be a citizen of another country in addition to New Zealand. However some other countries do not allow dual citizenship, in which case a person can face a choice regarding which countries’ citizenship status they wish to keep.

A person can be deprived of their citizenship if they have acted in a manner that is contrary to the interests of New Zealand. A person can also be deprived of New Zealand citizenship if it becomes apparent that the citizenship was procured by fraud, false representation, or wilful concealment of relevant information, or by mistake. Once New Zealand citizenship is acquired, a person does not lose citizenship by going to live in another country for a period of time, for example Australia.

Sometimes children are adopted and this can affect their citizenship status. Adopted children born in New Zealand during or after 2006 are New Zealand citizens by birth if, at the time of birth, at least one of the child’s biological or adoptive parents was a New Zealand citizen, Permanent Resident or Resident. Children adopted outside New Zealand during or after 1978 are New Zealand citizens if;

  1. They were adopted before 18 November 1992 or were under 14 years old at the time the adoption was finalised; and
  2. The adoption laws in the country where the adoption took place are compatible with New Zealand law; and
  3. At least one of the child’s adoptive parents was a New Zealand citizen (by birth or grant) at the time of their adoption.  OR


  1. The adoption is an intercountry adoption between countries that have signed up to the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption and the adoption complies with those requirements; and
  2. At least 1 of the child’s adoptive parents was a New Zealand citizen (by birth or grant) at the time of the adoption. 

The Hague Convention is a piece of international law and the list of countries which are signatories, which includes New Zealand, can be found here .