Let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to become a New Zealand citizen and enjoy the heavenly living experience in this country? However, as tempting as it is, many people are put off, assuming that the process is going to be very hard. Here is some firsthand knowledge to guide you toward your dream of becoming a New Zealand citizen.
Obtaining New Zealand citizenship can be achieved through two main pathways: citizenship by descent and citizenship by grant. Among these options, citizenship by descent stands out as the easier and more cost-effective process. On the other hand, the citizenship by grant category encompasses alternative routes to citizenship, including marriage or investment.
In this article, we discuss the details of each pathway to citizenship in New Zealand. You can also read Cost of immigration to New Zealand.
The simplest and fastest route to a Kiwi passport
Becoming a citizen of New Zealand involves a series of steps and requirements that need to be fulfilled. While there may be multiple paths to citizenship, the process typically follows a set of main stages.
Here are some of the simplest and fastest ways to become a New Zealand citizen, along with the main milestones and requirements involved:
The first step towards becoming a New Zealand citizen is obtaining a resident visa. This visa allows individuals to live and work in New Zealand indefinitely.
To be eligible for a resident visa, applicants must fulfill specific obligations, such as having good character, being in good health, and meeting the English language requirements.
The resident visa can be obtained through various channels, including:
- Skilled migrant category
- Family category, or
- Business and investment categories.
Read the latest updates on the Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa.
Before you can obtain Permanent Residence, you have to live in New Zealand as a resident for a certain number of days in the previous years. This step is crucial as it demonstrates the commitment and intention to settle permanently in New Zealand.
To be eligible for permanent residence, applicants must have met the residency requirements, including meeting the criteria for living in New Zealand (having a base here), maintaining tax residence status, and adhering to immigration laws.
One of the main criteria is you need to have spent at least 184 days in New Zealand on a resident visa in each of the 2 years immediately before you apply for permanent residence.
Read more about a resident visa in New Zealand and how to get it in this article.
1. Naturalization (after five years)
After holding permanent residence for a continuous period of 5 years, you become eligible to apply for New Zealand citizenship through naturalization.
Naturalization involves acquiring citizenship by fulfilling certain requirements, such as residing in New Zealand, meeting the character requirements, being of good health, and showing a commitment to New Zealand.
The main requirement is that you need to be in New Zealand for at least 240 days each year, and 1,350 days across the last five years.
The application for naturalization typically requires supporting documents, such as proof of identity, evidence of residence, and references from New Zealand citizens.
Note: If you have been living in Australia, you can apply for a NZ passport too! For this, you need to be an Australian citizen or permanent resident and have lived in New Zealand for at least the last 5 years.
2. Citizenship Application
Once the eligibility criteria for naturalization are met, you can proceed with the citizenship application. The application involves submitting the required forms, supporting documents, and paying the applicable fees. In 2023, the fees are:
- $470.20 for adults aged 16 and over
- $235.10 for children aged 15 and under
The main documents include:
- your full birth certificate or birth record
- your current passport or your travel document
- a passport photo taken less than 6 months ago
Usually, it takes 3 to 14 months to get your application approved. The Department of Internal Affairs is responsible for processing citizenship applications in New Zealand.
3. Citizenship Ceremony
If the citizenship application is approved, you will be invited to attend a citizenship ceremony. This formality is a significant milestone in the citizenship process, where applicants pledge their allegiance to New Zealand and its values. Once there, you will be asked to swear or affirm an oath.
During the ceremony, you receive a citizenship certificate, officially recognizing you as a New Zealand citizen. The citizenship ceremony is a special occasion where applicants can celebrate their new status alongside other fellow citizens.
If you don’t attend the ceremony, you will receive the certificate by courier post.
4. Apply for a Passport
After getting a citizenship certificate, you can officially apply for a New Zealand passport. A passport is an essential document that allows citizens to travel internationally and serves as proof of their New Zealand citizenship.
The passport application process involves submitting supporting documents and paying the applicable fees. The documents you need are:
- a passport photo
- an identity referee or witness
- the standard fee for an adult is $206
Allow up to 5 weeks plus delivery for a standard passport. If you need your passport before then, you can apply for an urgent passport online.
Lastly, becoming a New Zealand citizen requires fulfilling specific steps and requirements. While the process may vary depending on individual circumstances, the outlined steps provide a general overview of the simplest and fastest ways to become a citizen of New Zealand.
You may want to do your research on the official immigration website or seek professional advice from immigration advisors such as New Zealand Shores for accurate and up-to-date information regarding the citizenship process in New Zealand.
Main ways to get New Zealand citizenship
If the process of getting a New Zealand passport is clear, what are the main ways of getting naturalized in this country? There are several ways to obtain New Zealand citizenship, each with its own description, steps, stages, durations, application processes, and requirements.
Keep in mind that specific details and requirements may vary depending on your circumstances, below are the main methods used by individuals seeking New Zealand citizenship.
There are three main ways to get a NZ passport:
- Citizenship by birth
- Citizenship by descent
- Citizenship by grant
1. Citizenship by Birth
The rules of obtaining NZ citizenship by birth have changed. If you were born in New Zealand before 1 January 2006, you are an NZ citizen by birth, but for anyone else, further requirements apply, including:
- At least one of your parents is a New Zealand citizen or had a visa that allowed them to reside in New Zealand indefinitely.
2. Citizenship by Descent
Citizenship by descent is an option for someone who has a parent from New Zealand. This method allows eligible individuals to claim citizenship based on their familial ties to the country.
The steps generally involve gathering the necessary documents to prove the lineage and completing the application process. The duration of the process may vary, but it typically takes several months for the application to be processed and approved.
3. Citizenship by Grant
Citizenship by Grant is another common way to obtain New Zealand citizenship. Most foreigners become NZ citizens through this path.
Citizenship by Grant is available for individuals who have been living in New Zealand on a resident visa for a long enough period. The general requirement is to reside in New Zealand for around 5 years continuously and to have held a resident visa throughout this period. You also must be able to speak English and have a good character.
The application process involves providing evidence of residence, character references, and other supporting documents. The duration of the process can vary, but it usually takes several months for the application to be assessed and granted.
Check out the best Auckland-based Immigration Lawyers to help you with the citizenship application.
Other ways of becoming a NZ citizen include:
1. Citizenship by Marriage or Civil Union
If you are married to or in a civil union with a New Zealand citizen, you may be eligible to apply for citizenship based on this relationship. The process typically involves proving the authenticity and validity of the marriage or civil union, along with meeting the residency requirements.
The duration of the process can vary, but it generally takes several months for the application to be processed and approved. Granted, your relationship is genuine and not entered into solely for the purpose of obtaining citizenship.
2. Citizenship by Grant in Exceptional Circumstances
In exceptional circumstances, individuals who don’t meet the standard requirements for NZ citizenship may still be able to apply for citizenship by grant. This way is available for someone who can demonstrate exceptional circumstances, such as their contributions to New Zealand society, achievements, or their unique personal situation.
For example, you have accomplishments in sports, arts, culture, or scientific fields.
The application process involves providing detailed information and evidence to support the exceptional circumstances claim. The duration of the process can vary, and the application will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
3. Citizenship by Adoption
New Zealand recognizes citizenship by adoption, allowing individuals who have been adopted by New Zealand citizens to obtain citizenship. The process involves completing legal adoption procedures and meeting the necessary criteria set by the New Zealand government.
Adopted individuals must demonstrate that the adoption process was carried out in accordance with New Zealand adoption laws and that they have been living in New Zealand for a specific period. The duration of the process varies based on personal circumstances and the completion of required legal procedures.
4. Citizenship by Ministerial Discretion
In rare cases, the Minister of Internal Affairs has the discretionary power to grant citizenship to individuals who don’t meet the usual criteria but have special circumstances deserving consideration.
This method allows flexibility in considering unique situations that may warrant citizenship. During the application process, you should provide comprehensive information and supporting evidence to justify why you deserve NZ citizenship.
The duration of the process can vary, and applications are carefully reviewed and assessed by the Office of the Minister of Internal Affairs.
Make sure to thoroughly research and understand the specific requirements and processes for each method you apply for New Zealand citizenship.
How long does it take to become a NZ citizen?
Becoming a New Zealand citizen is an exciting journey, but it’s natural to wonder how long the process takes, from the time of moving to New Zealand to obtaining a New Zealand passport. The timeline can vary depending on individual circumstances and the specific pathway to citizenship.
Let’s look at the average length of time it takes to become a New Zealander, considering both the overall process from moving to New Zealand to obtaining citizenship and the duration of the citizenship application process itself.
From moving to New Zealand to obtaining citizenship
On average, it can take approximately 5 to 8 years to become eligible for New Zealand citizenship through the standard pathway of residence and naturalization. This includes the initial period as a resident visa holder, the subsequent acquisition of a permanent residence, and the fulfilment of the five-year residency requirement before applying for citizenship.
If you move to New Zealand straight on a resident visa, you can shorten the process of getting a passport to 5-6 years.
Processing time for citizenship applications
Once the citizenship application is submitted, the processing time can vary. The Department of Internal Affairs is responsible for processing citizenship applications in New Zealand.
On average, it can take around 6 to 9 months for the application to be processed, although this timeline is subject to change and may vary depending on individual circumstances. Note that during the processing period, the authorities conduct background checks, verify the information provided, and assess the applicant’s eligibility based on the requirements.
Citizenship ceremony and passport application
If the citizenship application is approved, the next step is attending a citizenship ceremony. Citizenship ceremonies are usually held several times a year and can be scheduled a few months in advance.
The time between approval and the ceremony can vary depending on the availability of ceremonies in the region. After the ceremony, individuals can apply for a New Zealand passport, which typically takes a few weeks to process and receive.
All the timelines mentioned here are general averages and can be subject to change. Usually, if the government experiences a large number of applications, the processing times will be longer. Also, factors such as the complexity of an individual’s case, the workload of immigration authorities, and any additional checks or requirements can impact the overall duration.
Stay informed by regularly checking the official government websites or seeking professional advice for the most up-to-date information regarding processing times and requirements.
Additionally, you should start planning for citizenship well in advance and ensure all residency and eligibility requirements are met within the specified timeframes. It even makes sense to plan your naturalization pathway before moving to New Zealand.
Maintaining accurate records, keeping track of residency periods, and gathering the necessary supporting documents throughout the process can help streamline the application and reduce potential delays.
Becoming a New Zealander and obtaining citizenship is a significant milestone, offering numerous benefits and opportunities. While the journey may require patience and perseverance, the ultimate reward of becoming a New Zealand citizen and embracing the country’s vibrant culture and way of life is well worth the wait.
Read the latest updates on the Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa.