How to Get New Zealand Citizenship

New Zealand has become the go-to “bolthole” of many of the global elite, and of Nomad Capitalists

In 2017, news broke that billionaire Peter Thiel had been granted New Zealand citizenship in 2011 after spending only twelve days in the country. News of Thiel’s citizenship caused a small outrage in New Zealand, since skyrocketing prices in the housing market have been blamed on the influx of foreign investors.

But are that many wealthy investors actually moving to New Zealand? And why would investors and entrepreneurs choose a country with such a high tax burden as their refuge?

New Zealand has gained a reputation in recent years as a safe haven for the mega wealthy, or a “bolthole,” as the locals call it. For some, New Zealand provides business freedom, political stability, and safe banking not found in their home country. With its geographic isolation, New Zealand isn’t a member state of the EU and is unlikely to be invaded or subjected to major terror threats anytime soon. In fact, the last terror attack in New Zealand involved French spies and Greenpeace in the 1980s.

For others, the idea of a safe haven is a little more personal; many come to this scenic, laidback country where cows outnumber humans to escape the stress of city life. And they have good reason to choose New Zealand as their refuge. With unspoilt wildlife, scenic mountains, rolling hills, and active volcanoes, the New Zealand landscape is downright mystical. It’s no surprise Peter Jackson chose to film the entirety of the Lord of the Rings trilogy in the Land of the Long White Cloud.

Others come to New Zealand for waterfront property on one of its many pristine beaches. In short, New Zealand is a geographic paradise with an internationally recognized high quality of life and a plethora of business opportunities.

After several years of affluent people asking us about how to obtain New Zealand citizenship, Andrew shared why he thinks the process is unnecessarily complicated for Nomad Capitalists and global citizens:

There are no doubt benefits to being a New Zealand citizen, but you should definitely weigh the investment requirements, physical presence requirements, opportunity costs, and tax consequences of such a move. You should also consider that New Zealand is frequently attempting to raise the bar for those it lets in; we’ll update this article with new information as possible.

Benefits of New Zealand Citizenship

Becoming a Kiwi, as New Zealanders are called, has plenty of other benefits as well, including a great healthcare system and public education. Let’s look a little more closely into what draws investors and their families to New Zealand.

Living in New Zealand

Most people who move to New Zealand will tell you that one of the best things about New Zealand is the people. Kiwis are knowns as some of the friendliest and most laid back people on earth. Immigrants to New Zealand also tend to point to the excellent work-life balance, a strong job market, and geographic diversity as the best features of their new home.

Similar to neighboring Australia, life in New Zealand is characterized by diversity. Sure, you can see people from all over the world in New Zealand and find the indigenous Maori culture strongly represented, but the diversity of wildlife and geography is also one of New Zealand’s most outstanding features. The Bush is world famous for its lush vegetation and animal life that can only be found in NZ, while the Land of the Long White Cloud is also renowned for its well preserved beaches. The work-life balance combined with the focus on enjoying the outstanding natural beauty makes New Zealand an ideal country for raising a family.

Excellent cuisine is also an important aspect of life in New Zealand. With fine weather and some of the world’s best lamb, New Zealand is famous for its barbeques. Along the 14,000 kilometers of coastline, New Zealand is a haven for lovers of seafood and is especially renowned for the Kina sea urchin. For more adventurous types, Maori cuisine, like Hangi, a meat dish slow cooked in an underground oven, can also be tasted in NZ.

New Zealand quality of life

Many millionaires are choosing to move to New Zealand for its perceived high quality of life

Quality of Life

Quality of life can be hard to determine and often comes down to what individuals value. Some would say that New Zealand’s black volcanic sand beaches, world class surfing, and warm weather significantly improve their quality of life. We wouldn’t argue with them, and neither would the 65% of Kiwis who live within five kilometers of the nearest beach.

Life in New Zealand may have its unique charms, but it also ranks well on more traditional measures of life quality. With free education and healthcare for citizens and permanent residents, many immigrants flock to New Zealand to raise their families.

On the OECD Better Life Index, which rates and compares quality of life in OECD countries, New Zealand outranks the US and the UK, but ties with Canada and Australia. New Zealand shows strong performance in the realms of job security, health, and safety. NZ also performs extremely well in more abstract arenas like community and environment. It shouldn’t be surprising then that New Zealand has one of the highest scores for life satisfaction, 9.1/10.

Business Freedom

Of the six major English speaking countries (the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, Ireland, and New Zealand) New Zealand easily leads the pack as the most economically free. In the 2018 edition of the widely respected Index of Economic Freedom, New Zealand ranks as the third most economically free nation on earth, bested only by Singapore and Hong Kong. New Zealand is considered one of the world’s best entrepreneurial environments, giving birth to the nickname “Incubation Nation.”

From 2008 to 2017, New Zealand was led by the civic nationalist New Zealand First party. The 2017 election resulted in a hung-parliament and a government formed between the Labour Party and New Zealand First. The new government has taken a more interventionist stanced and promised “an economy that delivers for everyone.” In New Zealand, this means reducing immigration, placing restrictions on the selling of farmland to foreign investors, and raising the minimum wage. There has been major push back against some of these policies from foreign investors, so it’s unclear which will actually take root in the legal system.

With the popularity of investor and innovation visas, foreign investors have been blamed for rising house prices. As such, the new government has also vowed to ban the sale of residential properties to foreign investors. Foreign billionaires, like American Ric Kayne, have warned that the move would discourage foreign investment, causing unintended economic consequences. It is not yet clear how the new government will affect those hoping to relocate to New Zealand as investors and innovators.

While New Zealand receives strong scores on the Index for trade freedom, government spending, and fiscal health, the tax burden in New Zealand is high. If you’re looking to escape high taxes in the US or the UK, moving to New Zealand may be an “out of the frying pan into the fire” kind of situation, as Andrew likes to say.

If you earn more than NZ$70,000 a year, you’ll fall into the top tax bracket of 33%. At 28%, New Zealand has one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world. While New Zealand does not levy an inheritance, payroll, or capital gains tax, you can expect to pay a 15% sales tax on most goods.

Another potential issue is that New Zealand will expect income tax on your worldwide income, unless you’re from one of New Zealand’s main trading partners. However, you may be eligible for ‘transitional tax resident’ status your first four years of living in New Zealand. Transitional tax resident status would mean the government only expects taxes based on your income in New Zealand.

English Language

New Zealand has two official languages, English and Maori. If you want a place that speaks English, New Zealand certainly fits the bill.

While many investors choose to pursue second citizenship in countries like Montenegro or Armenia, the language barrier can be an issue. Paying to have documents translated can become costly and you may have to hire a lawyer to navigate the legal system for you. Some countries, like Hungary, will require you to pass a language exam before you can be considered for citizenship, while locals will show their resentment if you don’t speak their language.

If you thought dealing with bureaucrats in your native country was bad, just wait until you try to communicate with government officials that hardly speak English. Although New Zealand may have a significant tax burden, immigrating to an English speaking nation will save you plenty of stress and frustration.

Visa-Free Travel

A New Zealand passport ranks as the seventh strongest passport in the world. A Kiwi passport affords you the possibility to enter 182 countries without a visa. The New Zealand passport is, however, beat out by Canadian (185 countries), American (186), British (186), and Australian passports (183). Although most of these countries may be covered under your existing passport, holding two passports allows you much great flexibility when traveling and the ability to technically circumvent certain immigration laws. If you plan on renouncing the citizenship of your birth country, you can rest assured that a New Zealand passport will afford you basically as much ease of travel, including visa free entrance into the Schengen area.

Now, let’s discuss the process to becoming a Kiwi. The first step toward New Zealand citizenship is to first obtain legal residency.

New Zealand citizenship as personal protection

New Zealand citizenship is now seen as a “bolthole” second passport for the global affluent seeking a far-away escape hatch

How to Get Residency in New Zealand

In order to achieve permanent residency in New Zealand, you’ll first need to receive a resident visa. Resident visas are available for skilled workers, family reunification, distinguished talent, investors, and more. The resident visa can allow you to live in New Zealand permanently, however there is a period of two, five, or ten years in which you are allowed to travel freely from New Zealand.

After this initial period has expired you should apply for a permanent resident visa (PRV). To be eligible for permanent residency, you must have lived in New Zealand for at least two years, have met the conditions of your initial visa, and have shown a commitment to New Zealand.

Being a permanent resident of New Zealand isn’t just about ease of travel, you’re actually entitled to a host of other benefits and privileges.

Honestly, the differences between New Zealand citizenship and permanent residency are minimal. Permanent residents are able to vote and enjoy the same access to healthcare, education, and other subsidized programs.

The New Zealand government explains, “Citizenship in New Zealand is superficially similar to permanent residency. Citizens and permanent residents enjoy certain rights and protections, including the right to reside permanently in New Zealand.”

According to New Zealand, the difference between the two is that citizens have a special relationship with the government, “Citizenship recognizes a particular relationship between the citizen and the state, which does not apply in the same way to permanent residents.” Basically, the difference between citizenship and permanent residency comes down to nationalism, not benefits.

You should note, however, that permanent residents are not entitled to a New Zealand passport. If you’re an American considering renouncing your citizenship to avoid having to pay US income tax, you will have to acquire citizenship as a Kiwi before you can do so, otherwise you would become a stateless person.

The permanent residency application definitely favors entrepreneurs and investors. After we go over the general requirements for permanent residency in New Zealand, we’ll delve into the resident visa options for investment and innovation. If you achieve one of these visas, abide by the travel/residency requirements, and deliver on all of the subsequent financial obligations, you will be able to later apply for permanent residency.

General Requirements

Government efficiency is a serious benefit of living in New Zealand over other English speaking nations. Moving through the immigration process tends to be a lot less frustrating than it can be in other areas. The general requirements for permanent residency are also much more straightforward in New Zealand than in many of the other countries popular with investors and innovators.

The general requirements for permanent residency are as follows:

Identity
To receive permanent residency you’ll have to provide proof of your identity through passport sized photos and a passport or certificate of identity.

Character
Before issuing permanent residency, the government will need to assure that you’re of good character. This basically means ensuring that you don’t pose a security threat or a risk to public order or in any way “threaten New Zealand’s international reputation.” Basically, if you’ve never served time in prison and aren’t an internationally recognized anarchist terrorist, you’re probably fine. Additionally, if you’ve been deported from New Zealand, committed a sexual crime, or have publicly made racist statements you may be denied permanent residency.

The immigration office should do their due diligence to figure out if you’re a proud member of the KKK or a known ecoterrorist, but they may ask you for some confirmation regarding your criminal record. After you submit your application, you might receive a request to provide police clearance from any other countries where you have spent a significant amount of time. This will mean obtaining certificates from any and all countries where you have lived certifying that you have a clean record.

Commitment to New Zealand
Commitment to New Zealand is determined along five factors: residency, tax residence status, establishing a base, business ownership, and investments. You only need to meet one of these requirements to show your commitment to New Zealand.

In order to meet the residency requirement, you should have lived in New Zealand for 184 days out of the 365 for the two years before applying. The immigration office will check travel records to ensure your compliance.

If you spend more than 183 days a year in New Zealand, you are considered a tax resident. As a tax resident in New Zealand, you’re expected to pay taxes on your entire world wide income. Doing so qualifies as showing sufficient commitment to New Zealand.

Auckland, New Zealand

New Zealand’s capital city of Auckland offers excellent connectivity to the United States and Asia, including for those arriving by private jet

However, New Zealand has signed Double Tax Agreements (DTA) with 39 other states which prevent dual citizens/residents from being taxed twice on the same income. If you are also a resident or citizen of Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, or the US, you fall under a DTA, as such you may not be considered a tax resident of New Zealand and will not be taxed twice.

If you wish to prove your commitment to New Zealand through your business activity you must have invested at least NZ$1 million or own a 25% share in a profitable business that provides economic benefit to New Zealand. In some cases there may be options open to philanthropists. When Peter Thiel won his citizenship he made a NZ$1 million donation to the Christchurch earthquake relief fund, but more on philanthropy later.

If you choose to prove your commitment to New Zealand through establishing a base in the Land of the Great White Cloud, you can do so through home ownership or consistent employment. Foreign home ownership in New Zealand may soon be banned, so this requirement might be changing in upcoming years.

Resident Visa

Before you apply for permanent residency in New Zealand, you must already hold a resident visa. Each resident visa has more specific requirements which may include investments, English proficiency, and a point system.

Resident visas also have requirements, like business success or maintaining investments, that will have to be fulfilled before you can apply for permanent residency.

Good Health

In order to obtain the initial resident visa you will have to get a chest x-ray and medical exam to prove that you are in good health.

But, what if you’re already an Australian citizen?

New Zealand has a special relationship with Australia when it comes to migration. Generally speaking, Australian citizens do not need to obtain any kind of visa at all in order to live and work in New Zealand. To live in New Zealand as an Australian citizen you just need to hold an Australian passport and prove that you are of good character. Australian permanent residents are also able to live and work freely in New Zealand.

So now that we’ve touched on general requirements for permanent residency, let’s take a look at some of the resident visa programs for investors and entrepreneurs.

For Investors

As one of the most economically free countries on earth, it’s no surprise that investors and entrepreneurs flock to New Zealand. Because the investor program is so popular, New Zealand has made adjustments in recent years to favor those with greater business experience, a higher level of English, and “growth oriented” investments. About 53% of applicants for these visas are rejected and most of the visa are granted to Chinese citizens.

There are currently two different resident visa options for investors. The main difference between the two programs is the amount of money you’re willing to invest.

New Zealand natural beauty

New Zealand is full of natural beauty, but if you want to become a permanent resident, plan to make a serious business investment to get in

Investor 2 Category

The Investor Visa (Investor 2 Category) is for those who are willing to invest NZ$3 million for four years. Additional requirements include English language proficiency and at least three years of business experience. If you are over the age of 65, you are not eligible to apply for this visa. This visa could potentially grant you, your partner, and dependent children (under the age of 24), the right to live in New Zealand permanently.

Applications for this visa are by invite only. You will need to first file an Expression of Interest (EOI) form. While you must include an application fee with you EOI (NZ$620), you do not need to enclose any supporting documents. Your EOI and application fee must be physically mailed into a receiving center in New Zealand.

Although you don’t need to include any legal documents with your EOI, you will have to explain where your funds came from and ensure they were obtained legally. You will only have to submit evidence that your funds were legally obtained when you submit your application. Some countries require that your funds were obtained through your own business efforts, not inherited, but New Zealand permits inherited funds to be used towards your investment.

Your EOI will be analyzed based on a points system specific to the Investor 2 program. You will receive points based on your English ability, age, amount of funds you are willing to invest, years of business experience, and what kind of investment you intend to make. If you earn enough points to be considered for the visa, you’ll be invited to apply.

You must submit your application with all supporting documents within four months of receiving your invitation. Your documents will provide evidence that you meet the basic requirements for the Investor 2 Category visa: health, character, English proficiency, and business experience. You will also need to prove that you are a “fit and proper person” meaning you have not been involved in any serious fraud, financial impropriety, or other offenses involving dishonesty.

Your application will be mailed in to the Business Migration office in New Zealand along with your supporting documents and a fee of NZ$4,745. It usually takes 36 months to process applications. While many apply to this program, only 400 applicants are approved each year.

If your application is approved in principle, you’ll have 12 months to invest the NZ$3 million, While some countries, like Canada, have a government controlled investment fund already set up for you to invest in, for this visa, you will need to find your own investment opportunities. If you already have investments in companies in New Zealand, your investment period begins as soon as your application is approved. While you must have NZ$3 million invested for the entire four year term, you can move your funds around to different forms of acceptable investments. You can learn more about what New Zealand deems acceptable here.

In addition to acceptable investments like government bonds, property, and bonds traded on the New Zealand Debt Securities Market (NZDX), New Zealand also offers a unique option for philanthropists. Through the Investor 2 Category visa you are able to apply philanthropic investments towards your total. If you choose the philanthropic path, your chosen organization will need to be approved by the Business Migration Branch Operations Manager.

It is important to note that the length of your visa does not grant you permanent residency. The initial investment period of four years is also the length of your visa. If 25% of your investment is in growth oriented investments, you may be able to apply for an extension. After your visa expires you can apply for permanent residency if you have met the conditions of your visa, including maintaining your investment for four years and spending an acceptable amount of time in the country.

Investor 1 Category

The Investor 1 Category visa process is much simpler and faster than 2 Category. The main difference between Investor 1 Category, also known as the Investor Plus visa, and 2 Category, is that Investor Plus calls for an investment of NZ$10 million for a three year period. There is also no age restriction, point system, or required English test. As an added benefit, you may be permitted to bring assets, like cars and boats, to New Zealand without paying customs.

Unlike 2 Category, you skip the EOI phase, significantly shortening your waiting time. You can simply download the application online, fill it out, and mail it in with your fee of NZ$4,745 and supporting documents.

If your application is approved, you will have 12 months to make an acceptable investment. Most applications are processed within 24 months, including the 12 month period to make your investments. If you have met all of the requirements of your visa at the end of your three year investment period, you will be eligible for permanent residency.

New Zealand population

There are seven times more sheep than people in New Zealand, and the country is making moves to restrict low-level immigration and real estate investment to keep it that way

For Entrepreneurs

New Zealand’s visa programs for entrepreneurs and investors are honestly pretty innovative. Below, we’re going to detail two visa programs for successful entrepreneurs. Then we’ll explore a unique third option for those with an entrepreneurial spirit, but who may lack the funds or business experience required to apply to the other programs.

Entrepreneur Work Visa

The Entrepreneur Work visa only grants temporary residency, but may be your first step towards acquiring permanent residency. If you are awarded this visa, you will be permitted to live in New Zealand for 12 months to set up a business, then an additional 24 months if you have set up your business correctly. After which you may apply for permanent residency.

In order to apply for this visa you must have NZ$100,000 to invest in your business, whether you plan to launch a startup or purchase an existing business.You will also need to submit a business plan, achieve 120 points, and meet general requirements for English proficiency, health, and character.

The point system for this visa will take into account your level of English proficiency, business experience, investment amount, age, and more. You can calculate your points more precisely here.

Those who have been involved in fraudulent business activity or declared bankruptcy in the past five years are not eligible.

American citizens applying for the Entrepreneur Work Visa are not required to pay a fee. No EOI is required; you can just print out the application and mail it in with your documents. You should find out within 12 months if your application has been accepted.

Entrepreneur Resident Visa

If you have been self-employed in New Zealand for at least six months you may be eligible for the Entrepreneur Resident Visa. You may also apply for this visa if you have owned a business in New Zealand for two years or more on another visa. This visa could potentially allow you to reside in New Zealand indefinitely, while granting the opportunity to continue operating your business.

You should note, if you are applying after being self employed in New Zealand for less than three years, you will have to already hold a Entrepreneur Work Visa, have created three new jobs in New Zealand, and have invested NZ$500,000.

To apply, you will need to meet the basic requirements related to health, character, and English language proficiency. You will also have to prove your business acumen and history of success.

Business requirements include evidence that you have owned a 25% stake for at least 6 months in a business in New Zealand, proof that you have met the goals outlined in your original business plan, business profitability and an annual salary, contribution to economic growth in New Zealand, and a capital investment of at least NZ$500,000

There are additional requirements for businesses less than two years old which can be found in greater detail here.

For this visa, you can apply directly; you do not need to file an EOI. You’ll simply download the form, fill it out, and mail it in to the Business Migration office with your fee (NZ$3,920) and supporting documents. After your application is processed, you’ll likely be contacted by the Business Migration office requesting more information and documents. Assuming you submit documents on time, you application should be processed within 17 months.

Global Impact Visa (GIVs)

The Global Impact visa (GIVs) has been called by New Zealand, “the most entrepreneur friendly visa program” on earth. It is open to both entrepreneurs and investors.

This innovative program is for those making a positive global impact. The program was “designed to attract talented and visionary entrepreneurs, investors and start-up teams with the drive and capabilities to create innovation-based ventures in New Zealand.”

Most entrepreneur or investor visa programs in the world require the applicant to have access to large sums of money. This is not the case with this program. Beyond the general English language, health, and character requirements, the only requirement for this visa is that your entrepreneurial vision or proposed investment presents an innovative solution to a problem of “significance to humanity.” You will even be given a grant of NZ$36,000 to support yourself your first year in New Zealand. Your family will be able to join you.

To apply, you must first apply directly to the Sir Edmund Hillary Fellowship program and be accepted as a fellow. There are two rounds of selection held each year. If you are one of the 100 international fellows accepted each year, you’ll be invited to apply for a GIV.

Your Global Impact visa lasts for three years. After you have completed your fellowship, you are eligible for permanent residency through the support of the Sir Edmund Hillary Fellowship.

You can submit your application online or by mail. Again, Americans do not need to pay an application fee, but citizens of most other countries will need to pay a fee of NZ$393 for an online application. GVI applications are considered a high priority, so they are processed much faster than other investment and innovation visas. You can expect to receive the final decision within four months of applying.

For High-Value Employees

Not just anyone who wants to move to New Zealand to work can do so. New Zealand is very protective of its job market. That means that while skilled workers are welcome to apply for a visa, you really need to be able to provide a skill that is lacking in the New Zealand economy or already have a job offer on the table.

Skilled Migrant Category Resident Visa

This program is for skilled workers able to contribute to economic growth in New Zealand who want to eventually live in New Zealand as permanent residents. For this application, you will need to submit an EOI and receive an invitation based on the points you’ve been awarded. EOIs can be submitted electronically (NZ$530 fee) or on paper (NZ$680 fee).

To be invited to apply, you must reach 160 points. English language ability, history of skilled employment in New Zealand, and qualifications will all be taken into account on this point system. If you are over 55 years of age you are not eligible.

For this visa you should already be working in New Zealand or have a job offer on the table, but you can still apply if you do not. Those in fields experiencing an absolute skill shortage, in certain regions of the country, or within certain pay brackets will be heavily favored.

Should you be invited to apply, you will generally receive your invitation within three weeks. You will then be asked to submit a paper application including a fee of NZ$3,085. Your application must be submitted within four months of receiving the invitation.

Once your application, documents, and fee are submitted you should allow 10 months for your application to be processed. You may be asked to submit further documents or participate in an interview before being approved. You will be able to apply for permanent residency through this visa, assuming you meet all of the qualifications by the end of your term.

Now that you know how to get New Zealand residency, let’s talk about the New Zealand citizenship that may be your ultimate goal. For some people, New Zealand citizenship can be instant, such as through marriage or parentage, but most of us will have to wait awhile.

New Zealand mountains

New Zealand citizenship offers excellent visa-free travel, but you’ll need to pay high taxes there before getting a passport

How to Get New Zealand Citizenship

There are two main pathways to citizenship in New Zealand: citizenship by descent and citizenship by grant. While citizenship by descent is clearly the easier and less costly process, all other routes to citizenship, including through marriage or investment, fall under the citizenship by grant category.

Although citizenship by grant is a more complicated process, it is still significantly more streamlined than most other countries including Canada, the US, and Australia. That being said, with a population of about 4.7 million, New Zealand is definitely not accepting as many new citizens as any of these countries. In 2017, only 36,450 applicants were granted official Kiwi status.

Below, we’re going to delve into the pathways to citizenship and the steps you’ll need to take if your ultimate goal is a New Zealand passport.

New Zealand Citizenship by Marriage

If your partner or spouse is a New Zealand citizen or resident, you may be eligible for permanent residency through a Partner of a New Zealander Resident visa. This visa will allow you to live, study, and work in New Zealand as a permanent resident and eventually a citizen. You can apply from within New Zealand or overseas.

If you meet the general requirements for New Zealand residency and you have been living with your partner for 12 months, you may be eligible for permanent residency.

If you are not married, but want to apply as a de facto partners you must already be living together full time. An immigration official will analyze joint bank accounts, social media, pictures, and more to ascertain whether your partnership is authentic.

Once you have determined your eligibility, you can submit an application online or via mail. Your partner will also need to fill out a form confirming that they sponsor you for the visa process. If you apply online, you’ll have to pay a fee of NZ$1,950 and can expect to receive your decision within 9 months. If accepted, you’ll then be invited to move to New Zealand permanently.

If becoming a citizen is your ultimate goal, you should note that New Zealand does not have a special citizenship process for those marrying a Kiwi. Instead, you’ll have to follow the same naturalization and citizenship process as anyone else. We’ll go deeper into how to get citizenship later on.

New Zealand Citizenship by Descent

New Zealand citizenship by descent is probably the quickest and least expensive path to citizenship and a passport. If you were born outside of New Zealand, but one of your parents was a citizen by birth or grant, you may be entitled to citizenship.

To apply for citizenship by descent, you’ll need to download the application form online and send it in with the fee and original documents. Fees depend on which office you send you application into and whether or not you want to receive a passport at the same time as citizenship. You can also submit your application in person to one of the Department of Internal Affairs offices in New Zealand, Sydney, or London.

It takes 30 working days to process your application, but if you need your passport urgently, you can pay an additional fee to expedite the process to 10 days.

Steps to Citizenship

Unless you’re a world famous billionaire, pretty much everyone is going to have to follow the same steps towards citizenship, regardless of which visa you applied for.

Naturalization

The naturalization period in New Zealand is five years. Any year that you have lived outside of New Zealand for four months or more will not count towards naturalization. Obviously, Peter Thiel was exempted from the naturalization requirements due to “exceptional circumstances.” While this outraged many, the government argued that Thiel’s status would allow him to promote New Zealand’s interests in the international arena.

Citizenship Application

After the naturalization period, you’re welcome to apply for New Zealand citizenship if you intend to live in New Zealand full time. Unless one of your parents is a Kiwi by birth or naturalization, you’ll be applying for “citizenship by grant.”

The requirements to apply for citizenship are pretty simple. In addition to the above mentioned presence/residency requirements, you’ll have to demonstrate that you can hold basic conversation in English. Essentially, New Zealand wants to ensure that you can go grocery shopping and open a bank account without needing assistance.

Like your permanent residency visa, you’ll also need to demonstrate good character. New Zealand will want to see documents ensuring you have never run into trouble with the law in NZ or overseas. If you have more than 100 points on your New Zealand drivers license or have ever served time in prison you might be considered ineligible for citizenship. The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) may also request that you submit police clearance forms from other countries you have lived.

To apply for citizenship you’ll need to download, fill out, and print the application form. After you’ve filled out the application and attached your original documents & passport sized photos, you’ll be required to find a witness to endorse of one of your photos. Your witness must hold a valid New Zealand passport, be over 16, and not be related to you or living with you. If you are applying in person you do not need a witness; your case officer can serve as your witness.

You can also apply by post. In this case you will need to enclose the application fee of NZ$470.20 and have one of your photos endorsed by your witness. Your original documents should be sent back to you within two weeks.

Keep in mind, citizens of Western Samoa have a different application process and do not need to meet the presence or character requirements.

Being Approved for Citizenship

As you can see, the application process for citizenship to New Zealand is much easier than many other countries. Most people will not be called in for an interview after submitting their application, although the DIA does reserve the right to request an interview. Unlike the US, Canada, and Australia, New Zealand will not require you to take a citizenship test. The only step you’ll have to follow through on after submitting your application is the citizenship ceremony, assuming your application is accepted.

The application process in New Zealand is also much faster than most other countries; 90% of applications are processed within 6 to 8 weeks.

New Zealand does allow dual citizenship, so you will not have to renounce your other citizenship when you become a Kiwi (unless you’re a US citizen and want to do so), unless your country of origin does not permit dual citizenship.

If your application is rejected you will be told why and will be allowed to apply again, but you will not be offered a refund of the application fee.

Citizenship Ceremony

The final step in the citizenship process is attending a citizenship ceremony. Citizenship ceremonies are coordinated through local offices, not the Citizenship Office, so you will receive a separate letter about your citizenship ceremony a few months after your application is approved.

While Peter Thiel was able to hold a private citizenship ceremony in Santa Monica, you’ll probably have to wait to be assigned a public ceremony in NZ to attend. A letter will be sent to you in the mail detailing where and when your ceremony will be held and how many guests you’re allowed to bring. It will also include the oath you must read aloud.

Citizenship ceremonies usually take a few hours, so you’ll need to carve out a significant chunk of your day for the ceremony. If you are unable to attend, you can contact the Citizenship Office to let them know you need to reschedule. They may offer you another date, but you must attend a ceremony within a year of being approved or your offer a citizenship will be revoked.

During the ceremony there may be speeches given and a performance of the national anthem, “God Defend New Zealand.” You will them make your oath, pledging allegiance to the state of New Zealand and the Queen of England.

At the ceremony you’ll also receive your citizenship certificate, which you’ll need if you intend to apply for a New Zealand passport.

How to Get a New Zealand Passport

Although it may take a few months before you attend a citizenship ceremony, you won’t be able to apply for a passport until after the ceremony.

To apply for a passport online, you’ll first use the information on your citizenship certificate to make a RealMe account, which essentially just verifies your identity.

Once you make your account, you’ll get an email or SMS with your application number and further instructions. If you take the text message or email with you to the PostShop when you have your passport pictures taken within 14 days, your photos will be free. The PostShop, or participating store, will send your photos directly to the DIA. Within five days, you’ll be contacted confirming that your identity has been verified and you can proceed with the passport application process.

Once your RealMe account has been verified, all you will need to apply online is a digital copy of your passport photos, mobile phone, and a credit card to pay the NZ$180 fee. You may also need to submit the information of a referee. You can expect your passport application to be processed within 10 working days.

If you would rather apply by paper, you can download the application form and mail it in with all required documents and your fee. The paper application may be more costly depending on which country you are applying from.

If your application is approved, you should receive an email confirming that your application was successful and that your passport has been mailed out to you.

How to Get Citizenship in New Zealand: a Summary

For most people, any immigration process is going to be long, costly, and riddled with bureaucratic annoyances. The good news is that New Zealand’s process is greatly simplified and applications are processed much more quickly than in most other nations.

Obviously, the best options here is to apply for citizenship by descent or to strike a deal directly with the government based on your international fame and status, but sadly, neither of these options are going to be available for most people.

To summarize, the steps to citizenship for those applying as investors, entrepreneurs, and skilled workers are as follows:

  • Resident Visa (you must fulfill all obligations)
  • Permanent Residency
  • Naturalization (after five years)
  • Citizenship Application
  • Citizenship Ceremony
  • Apply for a Passport
  • As you can see, steps that make drag out the process in other countries like citizenship exams, language tests, and interviews are eliminated from the process in New Zealand, saving you time and money. And that’s what the Nomad Capitalist lifestyle is all about, saving you time and money, while maximizing your ability to travel.

    Andrea Pockovic

    Andrea Pockovic

    Andrea is Nomad Capitalist's Operations Manager, where she co-manages our ongoing research and development efforts. Her work has taken her throughout the world helping Andrew to find the best people with whom to execute new tax, passport, and investment opportunities.
    Andrea Pockovic
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