I’m already a permanent resident – is there any benefit to becoming a New Zealand citizen?
If you already have the right to reside in New Zealand permanently (e.g. because you have a permanent residence visa) then you are already eligible to receive publicly funded healthcare, join the New Zealand Police or Defence Force, or vote in a New Zealand general or local election.
However there are some benefits of New Zealand citizenship which are not available to someone who just has New Zealand residency:
- It is a formal declaration of your bond with New Zealand
- As a citizen you have the right to freely enter and live in New Zealand without being subject to New Zealand immigration policies (e.g. you can’t be deported from New Zealand).
- It is harder for the government to revoke New Zealand citizenship than it is to revoke a permanent residency permit,
- You have the right to pass on New Zealand citizenship to your children if they are born overseas.
- You would be entitled to hold a New Zealand passport:
- With a New Zealand passport you’ll be entitled to travel to a wide range of countries without needing to get an entry visa (this is why New Zealand passports – real or fake – are so desirable internationally)
- You’ll be entitled to live and work in Australia under the Special Category Visa.
- Also, some types of rural land in New Zealand may only be owned by a citizen and representing New Zealand in some international sports is only open to citizens.
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How do I become a New Zealand citizen?
There are four ways you can be a New Zealand citizen:
Citizenship by birth in New Zealand
- You are probably a New Zealand citizen already if you’re born before 1 January 2006 in New Zealand (including the Ross Dependency), the Cook Islands, Niue or Tokelau.
- If you are born on or after 1 January 2006 in New Zealand (including the Ross Dependency), the Cook Islands, Niue or Tokelau, then you’re a citizen if at least one of your parents is a New Zealand citizen or entitled to be in New Zealand indefinitely at the time of your birth.
- You can become a New Zealand citizen if you’re legally adopted by a New Zealand citizen.
Citizenship by descent
- You are a New Zealand citizen if you’re born overseas on or after 1 January 1978 to a parent who is a New Zealand citizen by birth or by grant.
Citizenship by grant
If you are not sure whether you are a New Zealand citizen, you can use this online tool to check your citizenship status to the Citizenship Office.
If you want to be granted New Zealand citizenship, you will need to apply to the New Zealand Citizenship Office of the Department of Internal Affairs for a grant of citizenship. This usually involves:
- Paying an application fee
- a birth certificate
- a marriage certificate or a marriage dissolution order
- evidence of any formal name changes
- the documents or passport you used to enter New Zealand
You may be asked to have an interview with an Internal Affairs representative.
The application will normally take approximately four months to assess, and you’ll be sent a letter with your outcome. More about citizenship requirements, as well as the application forms, is available on the govt.nz website.
Note that if you are under 15 years of age, you’ll need to get the consent of both parents (or just one parent if you only have one).
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How long must I have lived in New Zealand before I am eligible for New Zealand citizenship?
To be eligible for New Zealand citizenship by grant, you must have:
- New Zealand residence (i.e. hold a residence permit, a residence visa, or a permanent residence visa issued by Immigration New Zealand, or you are an Australian citizen or permanent resident) and
- had New Zealand residence for the last five years, and
- lived in New Zealand for at least 1350 days - with New Zealand residence - during the five years immediately before your application, and
- lived in New Zealand for at least 240 days - with New Zealand residence - in each of those five years
More information about New Zealand residency is on our Moving to New Zealand page.
If you are from Samoa you don’t have to fulfil the requirement of having lived in New Zealand for five years or more.
So, if you are not from Samoa and have lived in New Zealand for five years but only had New Zealand residence for three years, you would probably not yet be eligible for New Zealand citizenship. Similarly, you would probably not be eligible if you have had New Zealand residence for four years but spent most of that time out of the country.
Other citizenship requirements include proof of good character (you may not be granted citizenship if you have criminal convictions) and being able to demonstrate basic English language ability.
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Can I be a New Zealand citizen and a citizen of another country at the same time?
While New Zealand lets you have dual citizenship, the other country’s regulations might not allow it. So whether you can get a dual citizenship depends on your situation.
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Although I live in New Zealand I am not a citizen. How do I prove this when I apply to renew my overseas passport?
Some countries do not allow their citizens to hold dual citizenship e.g. China. If this applies to you, your country’s passport office may ask for proof that you are not a New Zealand citizen when you apply to have your overseas passport renewed.
You can apply for a Denial of New Zealand Citizenship document from the Department of Internal Affairs Citizenship Office. There is a fee involved.
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Can I renounce my New Zealand citizenship?
You can if you are at least 18 years old, have full mental capacity and are a citizen of another country. You might want to do this if you are becoming a citizen of another country and that country does not allow dual citizenship.
However note that your application might be turned down if you are living in New Zealand or if New Zealand is at war at the time you apply.
More information about how to go about renouncing your New Zealand citizenship is on the govt.nz website.