Progressing to New Zealand Citizenship from Residency

Gaining permanent residence in New Zealand is a proud achievement for many, with some long-term residents also going on to apply for and obtain New Zealand citizenship. Those who meet all the necessary requirements for naturalisation can generally expect to be able to apply for New Zealand citizenship after living in the country for at least five years.

Who can apply for New Zealand citizenship?

People seeking to become a naturalised citizen of New Zealand are generally expected to meet several eligibility criteria in order for their application to be successful.

The first of these is the Presence in New Zealand requirement:

  • Applicants must have been living as a resident of New Zealand for at least the previous five years when they apply
  • Applicants must have been physically located in New Zealand for at least:
    • 240 days in each 12-month period of the previous five years
    • 1,350 days in total in the previous five years
  • Applicants must intend to remain living in New Zealand after they obtain citizenship

Exceptions to the above rules may be considered if you have been or will be required to spend long periods of time outside of New Zealand while working for a New Zealand-based or international organisation.

Applicants must also meet English language ability requirements in order to successfully apply for New Zealand citizenship:

  • Applicants must be able to have at least a basic conversation in English
  • Applicants for whom English is not their first language must demonstrate when applying that they speak English to an appropriate level:
    • e.g. an academic report, certificate or qualification; an IELTS form; a reference from their employer attesting to their English language ability
  • Applicants may be assessed on their English language ability if invited for an interview by a case officer

As with applications for work, residence and other New Zealand visas, applicants for citizenship must meet good character requirements in order to be successful. For most applicants this is not an issue, and minor motoring offences (e.g. parking tickets, speed camera fines) are generally disregarded unless there is an egregious and repeating pattern of infringements.

Your application for New Zealand citizenship may be refused on good character grounds if:

  • you currently have criminal charges pending against you in New Zealand or elsewhere
  • if you have been convicted of a crime within the last three years
  • if you have spent time in prison within the last seven years
  • if you have ever had a prison sentence of five years or more

You may be required to submit a police records certificate from any other country you have lived in while holding a New Zealand resident visa. If you are unsure if you are required to disclose any information relating to the good character requirement, we advise that you discuss your circumstances with an advisor before submitting your citizenship application.

Children do not need to meet the same requirements as adults in order to obtain New Zealand citizenship. For example, the minimum residence requirement is waived for children providing that at least one parent or legal guardian is either a New Zealand citizen, or is applying for citizenship and meets the residence requirements themselves.

In order to qualify to apply for citizenship, children (15 or younger) must:

  • already have the right to live in New Zealand indefinitely
  • intend to stay in New Zealand after they have acquired citizenship

Children aged 14 or 15 must also:

  • speak English to an acceptable level
  • meet the good character requirements for citizenship

What does New Zealand citizenship offer?

If your application is successful, upon becoming a New Zealand citizen you will be entitled to:

  • live in New Zealand permanently and with no need for visas
  • apply for a New Zealand passport
  • vote in New Zealand elections and plebiscites
  • stand for local government or parliament in New Zealand
  • access to education, economic and social rights in New Zealand
  • represent New Zealand in sport

New Zealand permits its citizens to also hold citizenship of another country (dual or multiple citizenship), though you will be expected to declare all citizenships that you hold when submitting your New Zealand citizenship application.

You should ensure that you are aware of the dual/multiple citizenship rules of all countries you hold citizenship with before applying, as some countries will consider your citizenship to be forfeited if you become a citizen of another country.

How do I apply for New Zealand citizenship?

Once you have gathered all your supporting information, applications for citizenship of New Zealand can be submitted online or on paper.

Citizenship applications cost:

  • NZD $470.20 for adults aged 16 or older
  • NZD $235.10 for children aged 15 or younger

Once your application has been received, it can take between 3 and 14 months to be reviewed and a decision made. If you receive a positive decision, you will need to make an oath or affirmation at a citizenship ceremony within one year (unless exempt) in order to become a New Zealand citizen.

Mohamed Anas Sirajur Raheem

BA (Political Studies), LLB (VUW)

Mohamed is an enrolled Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand, specializing in immigration law.

He is a former New Zealand Immigration Officer (Visa Services) and Border Officer at Auckland International Airport. He has several years of experience working in various Government Departments in New Zealand and has also worked as a Licensed Immigration Adviser at a prominent New Zealand Immigration firm.

His areas of expertise and interest are in the fields of General Skilled Migration, Temporary Work (Long and Short Stay), Business visas, Partner, Parent and Child Visa streams.

Mohamed was inspired to pursue a career in immigration by his own migration experiences. Over the years he has assisted individuals, families, large corporations, Professional sportspeople, and Entertainers (singers, speakers, and actors) to come to New Zealand.

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