How to Get New Zealand Citizenship in 2024

Last updated on April 20th, 2024 at 03:41 am

New Zealand (NZ) is famous worldwide for its stunning views and natural beauty. It’s also a welcoming, multicultural country that many people around the world seek to call home.

Continue reading this Remitly guide to learn everything you need to know about becoming a New Zealand citizen, including the rights, benefits, and responsibilities that come along with it.

How to become a New Zealand citizen

Citizenship by birth or descent Individuals born in New Zealand or with a parent who is a New Zealand citizen may automatically acquire citizenship.
Citizenship by grant Individuals who have migrated to New Zealand can apply for citizenship after meeting residency and character requirements.
New Zealand citizenship by investment There may be provisions for obtaining citizenship through significant investment in New Zealand, subject to specific criteria and approval by the government.

Although New Zealand offers visa-free travel for short-term visitors from many countries, you’ll need to apply for a resident visa or citizenship if you want to stay in NZ long-term.

The exception is if you’re an Australian citizen, in which case you can live and work in New Zealand indefinitely without applying for a work visa.

The New Zealand government provides at least three pathways for migrants to pursue NZ citizenship, depending on your eligibility.

Citizenship by birth or descent

New Zealand citizenship: man looking at Auckland's city skyline

Prior to January 1, 2006, New Zealand offered citizenship to all babies who were born in the country. Now, only babies who are born in the country and have at least one parent who was a citizen or permanent resident are eligible for automatic citizenship.

Children who were born to New Zealand parents outside of the country may be eligible for citizenship by descent, but need to register their status to obtain a passport. This costs between $204.40 and $403.40 in New Zealand dollars (NZD), depending on your age.

Citizenship by grant

For migrants without ties to New Zealand, the most direct pathway to becoming a citizen of New Zealand is by grant. This is similar to citizenship by naturalization in the U.S., in which you become eligible after living within the country for a certain amount of time.

According to the Citizenship Act 1977, you’ll need to have lived in New Zealand on any valid resident visa for at least five years. That could be one of the following:

You can visit Immigration New Zealand at immigration.govt.nz to see what other visa options are available. You’ll also have to meet the residence requirements and good character requirements to be eligible.

New Zealand citizenship by investment

Technically, citizenship by investment is a type of citizenship by grant, since you’ll still need to meet the residency requirements and fill out a citizenship application. But the process to get there is a little different.

Instead of coming to New Zealand to live and work, you need to make an investment in NZ stocks, bonds, or property.

The Active Investor Plus visa requires you to make an investment of $15 million NZD, putting it outside the reach of most migrants.

According to Invest New Zealand, it also requires applicants to “spend 117 days in New Zealand across the four-year conditional visa period” before becoming eligible for permanent residency or citizenship.

How to apply for New Zealand citizenship

In addition to living in New Zealand for at least five years, there are a few more eligibility requirements you’ll need to meet. These include:

  • Presence in New Zealand: You’ll need to have spent at least 240 days in New Zealand per year, and 1,350 days in total over the previous five years.
  • English language skills: You may need to demonstrate basic English language proficiency in the form of a school certificate or IELTS exam.
  • Character requirements: Any criminal charges or convictions could impact your eligibility for citizenship. You may need to provide a police check from any other countries you’ve lived in.

You can apply for New Zealand citizenship online or in-person.

At the time of this writing, it costs $470.20 NZD for adults (over 16) and $235.10 NZD for children. You’ll need the following documents:

  • Your birth certificate
  • Your existing passport
  • A passport photo (less than six months old)
  • Your application form

If you’re applying online, you’ll also need a computer or mobile device with a camera as well as an account at RealMe to confirm your identity.

Processing times and citizenship ceremony

Once you’ve submitted your application, you can expect it to take anywhere from 4-19 months for the Department of Internal Affairs to review it.

The amount of time they take will depend on how much of your information can be verified automatically. Any name changes, gaps in residency, or missing documents could delay the process.

If the department determines that you’re eligible for NZ citizenship, they’ll invite you to attend an official citizenship ceremony. If you can’t make it, you can let them know, but you’ll need to attend one within a year of their decision.

You’ll make an oath or affirmation of allegiance and get a citizenship certificate. Then, you can apply for a passport, which costs $199 NZD and takes about two weeks.

Rights and responsibilities of New Zealand citizenship

Man looking at buildings

Becoming a New Zealand citizen can be a lengthy process, but it offers several benefits that aren’t available to all New Zealand residents. These include the right to:

  • Obtain a New Zealand passport
  • Receive social security benefits
  • Access the publicly funded healthcare system
  • Sponsor a family member’s visa application
  • Run for public office

In return, you’ll need to:

  • Register to vote
  • Pay taxes in New Zealand
  • Abide by the laws of New Zealand

However, it’s worth noting that permanent residents have many of the same rights and responsibilities as citizens, and you don’t need to apply for citizenship to access them. The main advantage to citizenship over a permanent resident visa is that you’ll never lose the right to return to New Zealand, and you can apply for an NZ passport.

New Zealand allows for dual citizenship, so you can hold multiple passports, unless your other country of citizenship prohibits it.

New Zealand: A brief overview of the country and its history

New Zealand is a country in the Pacific Ocean made up of two large islands and dozens of smaller ones. The North Island is home to New Zealand’s capital city (Wellington) as well as its largest city (Auckland), while the South Island is less densely populated, with only 1.2 million out of the country’s 5.1 million inhabitants.

While New Zealand shares an official language with Australia—and most New Zealand citizens are free to live and work there—there are plenty of differences between the two countries. Australia is the world’s oldest inhabited continent, while New Zealand’s indigenous population, the Māori, arrived by sea as recently as the 1300s.

The Treaty of Waitangi established a British colony in New Zealand in 1840, and the country has never formally declared independence from Great Britain. New Zealand’s currency still features Queen Elizabeth II, and the NZ citizenship ceremony includes taking an oath of allegiance to “His Majesty King Charles III.”

But New Zealand has taken steps to acknowledge its indigenous history, and te reo Māori, or the Māori language, is one of three official languages of New Zealand, alongside the English language and NZ Sign Language. Some government documents refer to the country as Aotearoa New Zealand to reflect its traditional Māori name.

Woman using her phone while walking

New Zealand citizenship and immigration FAQs

If you still have questions about how to become a New Zealand citizen, read on for answers.

Can a New Zealand citizen have dual citizenship?

Yes, New Zealand citizens can hold dual citizenship in another country or even multiple citizenship in two or more countries.

However, your home country must also permit dual citizenship for you to maintain your foreign citizenship after you receive New Zealand citizenship status.

Sometimes, you may need to go through a separate process in another country to retain your foreign citizenship.

What is a New Zealand resident visa?

A resident visa or resident permit is an immigration document that allows a person to legally live in New Zealand.

With a permanent resident visa, you can even stay in New Zealand permanently if you continue to meet the requirements for the immigration document.

Most New Zealand citizens who obtained their citizenship through naturalization first hold permanent residency in the country with this type of immigration document. You can learn more about resident permits here.

Do I have to get a New Zealand resident visa before applying for New Zealand citizenship?

Yes, in most cases, it is necessary to live in New Zealand under a resident visa for five years before applying for citizenship.

Does the child of two New Zealand citizens automatically receive New Zealand citizenship at birth if born overseas?

No, although a child of two New Zealand citizens is eligible for citizenship, they won’t automatically receive it if they are born outside of the country.

Parents must register them as citizens by descent with the Department of Internal Affairs after birth.

You can learn more about the registration process here.

Do I need an attorney to help me with the New Zealand immigration process?

Hiring an attorney can make navigating the application process you must complete to get New Zealand citizenship easier.

An attorney can also be a good source for obtaining further information on topics such as completing citizenship applications and dealing with the Department of Internal Affairs.

How do I get a New Zealand passport?

To obtain a New Zealand passport, you must be a legal citizen of New Zealand. As a result, the first step to getting one is to complete a citizenship application and go through the naturalization process.

Once you have citizen status, you can apply for a New Zealand passport online.

Information about other requirements is available on the New Zealand passport website, which you can access here.

Where can I find my closest New Zealand citizenship office?

To locate your closest office, visit this website, which provides contact information for all locations.

Do I need to speak English to gain New Zealand citizenship?

Yes, basic mastery of English is necessary to become a citizen of New Zealand. You will need to show proof that you can have a basic conversation in English.

On this page, you’ll find more information about how you can prove your English-speaking abilities.

Do you need to be a New Zealand citizen to open a bank account?

Some financial institutions in New Zealand will allow non-citizens to open accounts. However, you will typically need to prove that you have legal residency status in New Zealand and have a valid foreign passport to open an account.

What does good character mean?

New Zealand’s immigration law requires that a person be of good character to become a New Zealand citizen.

When you apply online or in person for citizenship, an immigration officer will review your background information to determine if you fit this requirement.

A person who previously served time for or was convicted of a criminal offense or failed to pay required taxes, like capital gains tax, may have their New Zealand citizenship application denied.

Will I enjoy visa free travel if I become a New Zealand citizen?

If you’re granted citizenship, you can apply for and obtain a New Zealand passport. Due to agreements with other countries, it is possible to travel to many countries. Consult the immigration websites for any country you plan to visit to determine if a visa is necessary.

Do Samoans get New Zealand citizenship automatically?

No, Western Samoa citizens do not automatically obtain New Zealand citizenship, but they benefit from an expedited immigration process.

Samoans who entered New Zealand after September 14, 1982, and can prove that they entered the country legally, such as with a visa for permanent residents, can apply to become New Zealand citizens without first having to live in the country for five years.

Learn more about this policy by visiting this page.

Get familiar with New Zealand currency

Before relocating to New Zealand, it’s worth getting familiar with the New Zealand dollar, the same currency unit used in the U.S., Australia, and Hong Kong. But the NZ dollar is its own currency with its own exchange rate, so the value of the NZ dollar can go up and down over time compared to other currencies of the world.

If you need to send money to or from New Zealand to friends or family in another country, an international money transfer app like Remitly makes it easy.