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New Zealand Citizenship


New Zealand Citizenship

New Zealand Citizenship

After the Treaty of Waitangi was signed 1840, when New Zealand became a colony of the British, up until the year 1948 with the passing of the British Nationality and New Zealand Citizenship Act, those people residing in New Zealand were legally subjects of Great Britain. Citizens of New Zealand were still considered British Subjects even after the New Zealand citizenship was created in 1948 until the 1977 Citizenship Act got rid of the “British subject” description on passports. A nation’s citizens have full legal, political, and social obligations and rights within its borders. Non-citizens however do not posses such privileges, no matter how long they have lived in a country.


Almost all children born in New Zealand, no matter what their parents’ nationalities are, they are automatically considered citizens of New Zealand citizens.

More often than not, people who migrate into the country want to take the next step and apply for citizenship, whether to become an official member of the new society in which they find themselves in, or just to enjoy specific privileges that come with the new membership or to escape certain deprivations in their homeland. “Naturalisation” was the term used when referring to this procedure until 1977. Afterwards, it was called, ‘citizenship by grant’.


In the Treaty of Waitangi’s Article 3, the Maori people were given all privileges and rights as subjects of Great Britain.

Their position as British subjects was challenged because of their unconventional or un-British form of land tenure which is communal. The 1865 Native Rights Act confirmed their position as subject of the British government.

But in reality, the Maori rights were subverted in several ways over the following century. Aliens of non-British in the middle of the 19th century were allowed to come in and reside in the sovereign dominion of the Queen.

This included New Zealand but the rights of these people were restricted. The Germans and French complained and it was not until 1844 that these so-called aliens could acquire the status of natural-born subjects of the Queen (at this time, it was Queen Victoria) in NZ through public statements made by the governor which were afterwards strengthened by ordinances.


When New Zealand became autonomous in 1854, these ordinances were replaced by a yearly naturalization event. Authorization of settlements by tribal people was facilitated by the Treaty of Waitangi. It extended the right for people not naturally born into the British system to become British subjects.

Children and married women in the latter part of the nineteenth century had no individual rights as citizens. Women of the Realm who married men who were non-citizens became automatic citizens of whatever nationality the men belonged to, thus losing their own original citizenship. From 1866 onwards, Non-British women who married British subjects became British subjects themselves automatically, even those who married naturalized citizens. Children of naturalized paternity or maternity after 1882 were naturalized automatically, except for the Chinese.

During the early twentieth century, organizations of women all over the world lobbied for women to gain independent nationality. Under the Act of 1923, it is stated in the British Nationality and Status of Aliens that children and wives of men who have had their citizenship revoked are not directly affected by this circumstance and shall retain their citizenship.



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