Once you’re settled into New Zealand you may decide you’d like to become a Citizen. As well as demonstrating your commitment to your new country, Citizenship gives you a range of benefits.
They include the right to travel freely overseas and return on a New Zealand passport, full access to economic rights, and full access to educational scholarships and awards that are reserved for New Zealanders.
Routes to citizenship
There are two main routes - Citizenship by Descent and Citizenship by Grant. Both are administrated by the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA).
You may qualify for Citizenship by Descent if you were born overseas but one of your parents was a New Zealand citizen.
But generally, Citizenship by Grant is the way for most migrants. It may pay to note the requirements for children under 16 are slightly different.
Citizenship by Grant
In general terms, the requirements are:
- Intention: you must plan to stay living in New Zealand if you’re granted citizenship.
- Residence: you’ll usually be required to have been living in New Zealand with residence status for five years before you apply. (The option to apply after three years’ residence is no longer available).
- English: you must know English well enough to handle everyday situations like shopping or banking without assistance.
- Good character: if you’ve been convicted of traffic offences, benefit fraud or have any convictions, it may affect your application.
- You need to understand the responsibilities and privileges of New Zealand citizenship.
While the Department of Internal Affairs “reserves the right to interview all applicants”, very few applicants are actually called to one. You will however be required to attend a citizenship ceremony.
To see whether you’re likely to satisfy the requirements for New Zealand Citizenship you can check your eligibility on the Govt.nz website.
To help ensure you send the right documents when you apply, the Department of Internal Affairs has various Guide Sheets. They also have useful information on how to get documents from overseas if you don’t have the originals.
There are English language versions for people from English-speaking countries (including South Africa and Zimbabwe), for people from other African countries, and for people from India. Translated versions are available in Arabic, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Khmer, Korean, Thai and Vietnamese.
To download them, visit the Department of Internal Affairs website.