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NZ citizenship if you are adopted

If you were born and adopted in New Zealand you are likely to be a New Zealand citizen. If you were born or adopted outside New Zealand, you might be a citizen — if not, you may be able to apply to become one.

Your New Zealand citizenship status depends on:

  • where and when you were born
  • where and when you were adopted
  • the citizenship status of your biological parents at the time of your birth
  • the citizenship status of your adoptive parents at the time of your adoption.

Check your situation

Born and adopted in New Zealand (NZ), the Cook Islands, Niue or Tokelau

Born in or before 1977

You are likely to be a New Zealand citizen by birth.

Born between 1978 and 2005

You are automatically a New Zealand citizen by birth.

Exception

You are not a New Zealand citizen if your adoptive parents were diplomats from another country and serving in New Zealand at the time of your birth.

Born in or after 2006

You are a New Zealand citizen by birth if one of the following situations is true for you:

Situation 1: When you were born

At the time of your birth, at least 1 of your biological parents was:

  • a New Zealand citizen, or
  • entitled to live in New Zealand indefinitely.

Situation 2: When you were adopted

At the time of your adoption, at least 1 of your adoptive parents was:

  • a New Zealand citizen, or
  • entitled to live in New Zealand indefinitely. 

A person is ‘entitled to live in New Zealand indefinitely’ if they:

  • hold a New Zealand resident visa or permit, or
  • are an Australian citizen, or
  • hold a current Australian Resident Return Visa.

Born outside NZ and adopted in NZ

Adopted in or before 1948

Contact the Citizenship Office to check your citizenship status.

Adopted between 1949 and 2005, inclusive

You are automatically a New Zealand citizen by birth if, at the time of your adoption, at least 1 of your adoptive parents was a New Zealand citizen.

For your citizenship to be official, you need the certificate confirming you are ‘a citizen otherwise than by descent’. To get your certificate, contact the Citizenship Office below.

Possible exception

If you were born outside New Zealand and adopted in the Cook Islands, Niue or Tokelau, you may not be a New Zealand citizen. For advice on this, contact the Citizenship Office below.

Born before and adopted after 1 January 2006

You are automatically a New Zealand citizen by birth if, at the time of your adoption, at least 1 of your adoptive parents was:

  • a New Zealand citizen, or
  • entitled to live in New Zealand indefinitely.

A person is ‘entitled to live in New Zealand indefinitely’ if they:

  • hold a New Zealand resident visa or permit, or
  • are an Australian citizen, or
  • hold a current Australian Resident Return Visa.

For your citizenship to be official, you need the certificate confirming you are ‘a citizen otherwise than by descent’. To get your certificate, contact the Citizenship Office below.

Born and adopted on or after 1 January 2006

You are automatically a New Zealand citizen by birth if, at the time of your adoption, at least 1 of your adoptive parents was:

  • a New Zealand citizen, or
  • entitled to live in New Zealand indefinitely.

Your birth certificate is the official confirmation that you are New Zealand citizen. To get your certificate, contact Births, Deaths and Marriages.

Born and adopted outside NZ

Adopted in or before 1977

Contact the Citizenship Office below to check your citizenship status.

Adopted in or after 1978

You may be a New Zealand citizen by descent if your situation fits one of the following scenarios:

Scenario 1

  • You were adopted before 18 November 1992, or you were under 14 years old at the time your adoption was finalised.
  • The adoption laws in the country where the adoption took place are compatible with New Zealand law.
  • At least 1 of your adoptive parents was a New Zealand citizen (by birth or by grant) at the time of your adoption.

Scenario 2

  • The adoption is an intercountry adoption between countries that are signed up to the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, and the adoption complies with those requirements.
  • At least 1 of your adoptive parents was a New Zealand citizen (by birth or by grant) at the time of your adoption.

Hague Convention adoptions and NZ citizenship

  • If the Hague Convention applies, the adoption cannot be assessed under scenario 1.
  • Being adopted under the Hague Convention does not guarantee you can get New Zealand citizenship. The place your adoption was finalised and your parents’ citizenship status decide if you can apply for New Zealand citizenship.

Countries that have signed up to the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption

Register as a citizen by descent

If you are a citizen by descent, you may also be eligible to apply for citizenship by grant.

Types of citizenship: grant, birth and descent

If your adoptive parents were not NZ citizens

You can get a New Zealand residency visa if, at the time of your adoption:

  • at least 1 of your biological parents had a New Zealand resident visa or permit, and
  • the adoption is recognised under the Hague Convention, or by the Adoption Act 1955.

To get a residency visa, your adoptive parents need to apply for you as a dependent child.

Information about Dependent Child Resident Visa

More information

Citizenship Office
Freephone: 0800 22 51 51 (New Zealand only)
Phone: +64 4 462 0651 (outside New Zealand)
Email: citizenship@dia.govt.nz
Website: Citizenship contact information

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