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Obtain New Zealand Citizenship by Descent

Obtain New Zealand Citizenship by Descent

A person is entitled to obtain New Zealand citizenship by descent in the case in which the said person is related to New Zealand citizens. However, not all persons who are related to someone who is a New Zealand citizen or who has obtained New Zealand citizenship can apply through this legal pathway.

If you plan to immigrate from USA to New Zealand for the purpose of obtaining citizenship by descent, please mind that you will have to follow the procedure presented below. You can also apply for citizenship by birth (where applicable) or by grant.

The latter is the citizenship that is available for most foreigners who do not have any connection to New Zealand and they simply relocate here for the purpose of remaining in this country.

How can one qualify for New Zealand citizenship by descent in 2024?

The main requirement, according to the law on immigration in New Zealand, is for the applicant to have a parent who is a New Zealand national. In order to be eligible, the applicant must have had a parent who was a New Zealand national at the moment when the applicant was born.

 Quick Facts  
 When can a person apply for citizenship by descent    A person can obtain New Zealand citizenship by descent if he or she was born overseas and had at least 1 parent who was a New Zealand citizen at the moment of the applicant’s birth.  

 Forms available for citizenship by descent  

There are 2 forms available for applicants:

– Application for New Zealand citizenship by Descent &Passport – Adult (minimum 16 years old);

– Application for New Zealand Citizenship by Descent &Passport – Child (15 years old and under).   

 Application fee  

 There are 3 types of fees, for minors and adults, as follows:

– NZD $204,4 – the procedure to register as a citizen (the same fee for minors and adults);

– NZD $324,4 – obtaining citizenship and obtaining a New Zealand passport (minor applicans);

– NZD $410,4 – obtaining citizenship and obtaining a New Zealand passport (adult applicants). 

Categories of citizenship by descent     The formalities for citizenship by descent are divided between 2 categories of applicants, namely adults and minors.  
 Institution in charge with the application process  

 The Department of Internal Affairs

 Documents required for the application 

 An applicant can obtain New Zealand citizenship by descent by submitting the following documents:

– the birth certificate;

– 2 recent photos;

– change of name documents/adoption documents (where applicable);

– the identity documents of the New Zealand parent. 

 Dual citizenship allowed (yes/no) 

 Yes 

 Law regulating citizenship by descent in New Zealand 

 The Citizenship Act 1977

 How can an application be submitted  

 By post or in person.  

 Certification/authentication required (yes/no)  Yes  
 Documents to be issued after citizenship is granted 

 After a person will obtain New Zealand citizenship by descent, he or she can apply for a New Zealand passport. 

 Costs of New Zealand identity documents  

 The passport costs NZD$120 for minor applicants and NZD$206 for adults. 

Validity of New Zealand identity documents   

 Passports are valid for 5 years or 10 years, depending on the age group of the applicant (above 16 years old/below 16 years old). 

Passport accelerated issuance procedure (yes/no)   

 Yes 

 Law governing the issuance of New Zealand identity documents    The Passports Act 1992

The parent can be a New Zealand national by descent or by grant – the latter defines the legal situation in which a foreigner receives New Zealand citizenship after obtaining NZ permanent residency, without having blood ties with New Zealand persons.

Residence in New Zealand can also be obtained on a permanent basis in the situation in which a person applies for the Dependent Child Residence Visa. This is available for persons who have an age below 24 years old.

The visa grants them the right to permanent residency, the right to study and the right to work (if they meet the age requirements). If the child is a New Zealand descendent, the visa application formality is not necessary.

The applicant can apply for citizenship by descent if he or she was born outside New Zealand, as persons who are born in New Zealand from New Zealand citizens will automatically receive the nationality. Our immigration lawyer in New Zealand has prepared a short list of important aspects you should know in this case:

  • when applying for citizenship, you will need to pay a fee of NZD$ 240,4 (for the citizenship registration);
  • if you want to obtain the New Zealand passport, the application fee for citizenship and passport is of NZD$410,4;
  • the fee for the issuance of the citizenship and the passport for children below 15 years old is of NZD$324,4;
  • a foreigner can be eligible to obtain citizenship by descent if he or she was born outside New Zealand on or after 1 January 1978;
  • starting with 10 December 2001, applicants are no longer required to register their citizenship, but the registration is mandatory when requesting the issuance of a New Zealand passport.

Persons who want to start their citizenship by descent application in 2024 must know that the application can be processed in approximately 50 days (this also includes the passport application formalities).

The current fees for 2024 for the application for citizenship by descent are as follows: $204,40 only for the citizenship application and $410,40 for the citizenship application and the issuance of a passport. These fees are available for persons who have an age of minimum 16 years old when they will apply in 2024.

Our team of immigration lawyers in New Zealand can offer additional information to those who want to start the citizenship application in 2024 (by descent, naturalization, by birth, etc.).

What is the law on citizenship by descent in New Zealand in 2024?

Foreigners interested in the procedures for citizenship in New Zealand or those who live here as permanent residents and who can qualify for citizenship by descent should know that the main rule of law regulating citizenship matters is the Citizenship Act 1977, amended in 2000 and which can be found here.

The act provides the legal framework for any legal matter related to citizenship – who is entitled to obtain it, in what conditions, the right to dual citizenship, legal situations when one can lose the right to New Zealand citizenship and so on.

Please mind that the law states that a person can have dual citizenship as long as the legislation of the other country allows dual citizenship as well. If you want to have a baby born in New Zealand, it is important to know that the child will automatically receive New Zealand citizenship just by being born here and will retain this citizenship until the age when the child can decide which citizenship he or she prefers.

The regulations on how to obtain citizenship in 2024 have not been changed, but we mention that if you received the citizenship in New Zealand, you may be required to participate in a citizenship ceremony.

If you have received the citizenship certificate by courier or mail, this means that you will not be required to perform any additional steps, but the ceremony can be held in specific conditions.

Below, you can watch a short presentation on how to obtain New Zealand citizenship by descent:

If you need information on other aspects concerning citizenship, besides the ones on how to obtain New Zealand citizenship by descent, our immigration lawyer remains at your disposal for in-depth legal advice. Matters concerning citizenship by descent are regulated under Section 7 of the Act.

What are the rules for New Zealand citizenship by birth?


We have clarified that a person can apply for citizenship by descent in New Zealand as long as a person is directly related to a New Zealand citizen. The application can be started regardless if the birth took place in New Zealand or in another country.

For births that occurred on the national territory of a state, it is commonly considered that the child born on a given territory will automatically obtain citizenship of that state, this conception being given by the fact that most of the countries used to apply this rule.

However, in the last decades, countries across the world have modified the legislation on citizenship, imposing certain conditions so that a newborn can obtain the nationality of that country. The same is true for New Zealand, which modified its legislation in 2006.

In other words, all children born prior to 1 January 2006 (when the legislation became applicable) received New Zealand citizenship by birth, regardless of the nationality of the parents, based on the place of birth, which was a direct determinant of citizenship.

Nowadays, for a child born in New Zealand citizenship can be obtained only if one of the parents is a New Zealand citizen, therefore submitting the possibility of acquiring citizenship under the rules for citizenship by descent (as of 1 January 2006).

Therefore, the child can obtain citizenship by descent in New Zealand if one of the parents is a New Zealand citizen. We also mention that the child can obtain citizenship if one of the parents is a New Zealand permanent resident.

As such, if you are considering relocating here for permanent residency in New Zealand, your future child can benefit from this legal status without you being required to apply for citizenship. Additionally, we mention that the same rights are extended to persons who live in Cook Islands, Tokelau and Niue.

What is the procedure for citizenship by descent for children under 16 years?

Persons who are above 16 years old are entitled to represent themselves in the process of obtaining New Zealand citizenship by descent; according to the legislation on immigration in New Zealand, for persons below this age, other procedures will apply, as the approval of the parents is necessary.

When preparing the application for citizenship as a minor under 16 years old, the application form will need to contain the approval of one of the parents, who has New Zealand nationality. If both have citizenship, the child can be represented by either one of the parents.

The law requires that the documents submitted by the applicants (regardless of their age) will be in their original versions (the applicants will receive back their documents once the procedure is completed). For minor children under the age of 16, the following documents have to be submitted:

  1. the birth certificate;
  2. two photos;
  3. all the documents showing the change of name of the child – where applicable;
  4. if the child is adopted, the adoption documents.

The parent representing the child will also have to submit certain documents, such as:

  1. the passport ID number (or another ID number issued by the New Zealand authorities, in the case in which the parent does not have a New Zealand passport);
  2. documents showing the change of name (however, if this event took place in New Zealand, one is not obligated to submit such papers, as the local institutions will be aware of the modifications) – our immigration lawyer in New Zealand can offer more details.

If you need additional information on how to obtain citizenship by descent, we invite you to contact our immigration lawyer in New Zealand, who can represent you in this procedure; our lawyer can also advise you when preparing the set of documents, based on your particular situation.

In the case in which a minor under 16 years old applies for citizenship by descent in 2024 and doesn’t have any living parent to legally represent him or her during the citizenship formalities, the law states that the child must add to the application file the death certificate of either parent who was an Australian national.

What are the rights of a New Zealand citizen?


Whether you obtained citizenship by descent in New Zealand or via other legal options, there will be no distinction between you and another person, who has acquired citizenship in another way. All citizens benefit from the same rights and obligations.

There are differences, however, between citizens and permanent residents, the latter having fewer rights than citizens, but not to an extent that will make any difference in matters concerning employment, property ownership, access to education and health, etc.

Therefore, if you want to migrate to New Zealand, you must know that you do not have to apply for citizenship to enjoy a fruitful life here. However, if you are related to a local national, we advise you to apply for citizenship by descent in New Zealand.

For a person who acquired/was born in New Zealand citizenship has the following advantages:

  1. live in New Zealand on a permanent basis;
  2. have a New Zealand passport and travel across the world without complying with any immigration formalities (outside the ones imposed by the visiting states);
  3. have full access to education, social rights, economic rights, etc;
  4. vote and hold governmental functions.

Any person, including those who obtained citizenship by descent in NZ, has the obligation to respect the local law and not act against New Zealand interests. Our immigration lawyer in New Zealand can present other legal matters concerning citizenship by descent in NZ.

Persons who wanted to relocate to New Zealand for the purpose of becoming a permanent resident or a citizen were still required to comply with certain Covid-19 rules, even in 2023, when most of the countries have lifted all the requirements.

Fortunately, New Zealand lifted all Covid-19 restrictions by mid-2023 (starting with 15 August 2023), and nowadays the country applies only certain recommendations (isolation and wearing a face mask) when visiting a medical institution.

If you are interested in other options for entering the country and remaining for long-term purposes, we can provide details on the investor visa in New Zealand. If you need additional details on citizenship by descent in NZ, do not hesitate to contact our immigration lawyer in New Zealand.