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Citizenship timeframes

Check this page regularly for up-to-date citizenship processing times.

The oldest applications now being assessed were submitted in December 2021.

The times given below are estimates only. 

Table 1: Citizenship application timeframes

Application process stages Estimated timeframe
Application allocated to a case officer 2 to 14 months
Outcome of application 1 month to 6 weeks
Allocation to a ceremony 1 to 4 months
Total application process 4 to 19 months

About the current timeframes

Reason for the current timeframes

The Department of Internal Affairs is transitioning from a paper-based citizenship application system to an online system. This means staff have to learn the new online system, and work in both the new and old systems during this period of transition.

COVID-19 restrictions and reduced staffing capacity have also affected citizenship application timeframes.

This has led to a backlog of applications waiting to be assessed by a case officer.

Why some applications get processed faster than others

The time it takes to process an application can differ, depending on:

  • the applicant’s individual circumstances
  • how much of their application we can assess using automated checks.

Our new online system lets us make automated checks to see if an applicant meets certain requirements for citizenship.

As an example of an automated check, the system matches your application with your Immigration New Zealand record. It then uses this information to calculate if you meet the presence requirement.

This means that some applications can now be processed much more quickly than others because they need fewer checks to be made by a case officer, or they are simpler to process and can be worked on by case officers who are more recently trained. Applications that need extra manual checks may take longer.

Your application may need extra manual checks if:

  • you changed your name after you migrated to New Zealand
  • you had a gap in your residency status
  • you did not meet the presence requirement the day you applied for citizenship
  • your photo does not meet the required quality standards
  • we cannot automatically match your data from Immigration New Zealand
  • external checks by other government agencies indicate you might not meet the requirements.

To help us process your application as quickly as possible:

  • apply online, if you can
  • make sure you meet the requirements for citizenship before you apply
  • provide all the necessary documents.

Check you meet the requirements for NZ citizenship

Plans in place to reduce processing times

We brought in a team of temporary staff to process the applications left in the old system, freeing up permanent staff to increase proficiency and speed in the online system.

An increase of staff numbers and extra training in citizenship application processing began in 2021 and is continuing in 2022.

We are continuing to make developments and upgrades to the online system, and we expect this to continue to have a positive impact on reducing processing times.

When processing times will improve

The introduction of automated checks has already significantly reduced average processing times, and we expect this to continue to reduce the backlog of applications.

Unallocated citizenship applications by month

Table 2: Unallocated citizenship applications by month

As at Applications
31 January 2022 29,969
28 February 2022 30,869
31 March 2022 32,066
29 April 2022 30,111
31 May 2022 26,877
30 June 2022 24,494
29 July 2022 22,136
31 August 2022 21,218
30 September 2022 19,367
31 October 2022 18,638
30 November 2022 18,074
23 December 2022 18,185

Table 2 records the number of unallocated citizenship applications as at the last working day of the month where data was available. The most recent figure is the total number of unallocated applications.

The accuracy of any administrative data is subject to human error. This data has been collated to the best of our ability and may have a small variance to any alternative publications.

Urgent applications

Criteria for urgent requests

There is no urgent citizenship service. In rare circumstances we may be able to assess your application out of the standard queue order. However, this does not affect the time required for completing all necessary checks.

A request for urgency is usually only approved if you are in a situation out of your control and unable to get a travel document.

The Citizenship Office will consider whether you need citizenship:

  • to travel for a medical emergency
  • to represent New Zealand
  • for work or deployment
  • for humanitarian reasons.

Medical emergencies

You may meet this criterion if you need to leave the country to:

  • help a sick relative, or
  • get medical treatment you cannot get here.

It must be critical, and there must be no other option.

Representing New Zealand

You may meet this criterion if you:

  • are representing New Zealand in sport or another activity, and
  • need citizenship to take part in an upcoming event.

Employment and deployment

You may meet this criterion if you need citizenship to:

  • start a new job, or
  • join or deploy with the New Zealand Defence Force.

Humanitarian reasons

You may meet this criterion if you are in a position you have no control over for humanitarian reasons.

If you meet one of the above criteria

If you meet one of the above criteria, you must:

  • write a letter explaining why you need urgent citizenship
  • include evidence for your reasons (such as medical, employment or travel documents)
  • email the letter and evidence to

Non-essential requests

Requests for urgent processing are not approved for:

  • financial reasons, such as not wanting to pay for a passport from your home country or a visa from another country
  • a preference to travel on a New Zealand passport
  • any other personal preference.

While your application is in process, make sure your current passport or travel document is valid. If it is due to expire within the next year, you may need to renew it in case of urgent travel. This also includes any relevant visas issued by Immigration New Zealand.

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