We have been approached by a few clients recently who have expressed a wish to give up (“renounce”) their New Zealand citizenship.

Why would someone want to renounce their New Zealand citizenship?

Wanting to renounce New Zealand citizenship can seem counter-intuitive, given most people (and certainly the staff here at Laurent Law) spend so much time and effort trying to acquire legal rights for people to be in New Zealand.

It typically arises where a person is a citizen of both New Zealand and another country, but that other country does not allow nationality of more than one country (“dual citizenship”). New Zealand allows dual citizenship, but many countries do not. This can force a choice of which citizenship to keep and which to renounce. The choice can be influenced by the legal rights a person retains in New Zealand and the other country, after giving up the nationality of either country.

For example, someone may retain very limited legal rights in their other country (which might be where they were born) if they do not keep citizenship of that other country.

What happens if I renounce my New Zealand citizenship?

Section 75 of New Zealand’s Immigration Act 2009 specifically deals with what happens when someone renounces their New Zealand citizenship. This states;

The person is deemed, from the date of renouncing, his of her citizenship, to hold a resident Visa;

(a) permitting the person to stay in New Zealand; and

(b) subject to any conditions specific in residence instructions certified for the purpose of this section at the time the person renounced of was deprived of his or her citizenship.

Section 75 is not clear whether someone who gives up citizenship gets a Permanent Residence or Residence Visa – see here a earlier blog describing the differences between these types of Residence Visas. However, they do at least end up with a Residence Visa, which allows them to remain in New Zealand indefinitely, work, study and have access to services such as publicly funded healthcare and education.

A person must be a New Zealand citizen in order to hold a New Zealand passport. This means that if someone renounces New Zealand citizenship in favour of keeping the citizenship of another country, they will need to travel on the passport of that other country with a New Zealand Residence Visa endorsed. There can be some desirable features of holding a New Zealand passport as described in the article here. For example, it gives “visa free” access to visit 185 countries – the 7th highest in the world.

What are some countries that do not allow dual citizenship and what are some countries that do?

Countries that do not allow dual citizenship include:

  • It appears that under Chinese law, if a person obtains citizenship of a country other than China, they automatically lose their Chinese citizenship
  • In Singapore, a person can maintain dual citizenship until the age of 21, after which they must make a decision on which nationality to keep
  • In Indonesia, someone can have dual citizenship until the age of 18, after which they must choose which to keep
  • Japan
  • Malaysia
  • India

Countries that do allow dual citizenship include:

  • New Zealand
  • Australia
  • United States
  • Canada
  • United Kingdom
  • France
  • Denmark
  • Sweden
  • Finland
  • The Philippines

How do I renounce my New Zealand citizenship?

Section 15 (1) of New Zealand’s Citizenship Act 1977 states:

A New Zealand citizen who has attained the age of 18 years and is of full capacity and who is recognised by the law of another country as a citizen of that country may, at any time, make a declaration of renunciation of his New Zealand citizenship in the prescribed manner.

A person is of “full capacity” if they are not of unsound mind, e.g.. suffering from some form of mental illness or impediment which prevents them from making informed decisions.

Making a declaration in the “prescribed manner” refers to the process set down by the New Zealand Citizenship Office, which is part of the Department of Internal Affairs (“DIA”). The DIA is separate to Immigration New Zealand (“INZ”) which is part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

The information here describes the process for renouncing New Zealand citizenship. The Citizenship Office must be contacted to provide the required application and declaration forms. The applicant must provide their New Zealand passport, New Zealand citizenship certificate if they have one, and pay a fee of NZD$398.60. Someone renouncing citizenship must be at least 18 years of age.

Importantly, they must also provide proof that they are a citizen of another country. This requirement follows from New Zealand’s obligations and commitments under international law, such as the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, the purpose of which is to avoid situations where a person is not a citizen of any country.

The applicant must also provide a statement from INZ as to what their immigration status will be after they renounce New Zealand citizenship. As described above, they are normally entitled to a Resident Visa per s 75 of the Immigration Act 2009.

Section 15(3) of the Citizenship Act 1977 states that a request to renounce New Zealand citizenship can be declined if:

  • the person renouncing their citizenship is resident in New Zealand, or
  • a state of war exists between New Zealand and any other country.

While New Zealand has not been at war with another country for many years, nevertheless the power to decline renunciation of New Zealand citizenship for this reason remains.

The only way to reacquire New Zealand citizenship, once it has been renounced, is to meet the requirements for Citizenship by Grant, discussed in an earlier blog. This includes holding Residence status for at least 5 years before the application can be made. Therefore someone should be certain, before giving up New Zealand citizenship, that doing so fits their circumstances and is really what they want to do.

The order of tasks for someone wanting to renounce New Zealand citizenship would be:

  1. Check and confirm that they hold citizenship of another country;
  2. Get written confirmation from INZ what visa they will get after they lose New Zealand citizenship;
  3. Obtain the required forms, complete and provide these to the Citizenship Office.

Usually the process of renouncing New Zealand citizenship is something a person can manage on their own. However Laurent Law is happy to provide advice or guidance on the process if necessary. Please contact us if assistance is required.