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The Department of Internal Affairs

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What is a Civil Union?

The Civil Union Act 2004 provides the criteria, rules and processes for two people to have their relationship solemnised as a civil union (by way of a formal ceremony) and officially registered in New Zealand. A Civil Union may be entered into by couples of the same sex or by couples of different sexes.

Civil unions registered in New Zealand may be legally recognised in other countries, depending on the laws of that country.

In summary:
  • A civil union may be entered into by couples of the same sex or by couples of different sexes.
  • A civil union ceremony may be held before either a Registrar of Civil Unions in a Registry Office or by an appointed Civil Union Celebrant.
  • Consent to enter into a civil union must be obtained if you are 16 to 17 years of age.
  • Couples may change the form of their relationship between civil unions and marriages:
    • Couples who are married to each other, and who wish to continue in a relationship with each other, may change the form of that relationship to a civil union without having to formally dissolve their marriage (which normally involves living apart for 2 years).
    • Two people who are in a civil union with each other, and who wish to continue in a relationship with each other,may change the form of that relationship to a marriage without having to formally dissolve their civil union (which normally involves living apart for 2 years).

Civil Union Ceremony

There are two types of civil union ceremony:
  • A ceremony solemnised by a Registrar of Civil Unions in a Registry Office. Registry Office ceremonies are not open to the public; and
  • A ceremony solemnised by an authorised Civil Union Celebrant at a place other than a Registry Office. There is no legal requirement that a ceremony before a Civil Union celebrant be open to the public.
Registry Office ceremonies take place during normal office hours, but you can have a civil union celebrant perform your civil union ceremony at any time, on any day of the week. For information about locating a Civil Union Celebrant see How to Locate a Civil Union Celebrant.

During the ceremony before a civil union celebrant, and before at least two witnesses, each party must make a clear statement to the other that names both parties and acknowledges that they are freely joining in a civil union with each other.

If having a Registry Office ceremony before a Registrar of Civil Unions, and before at least two witnesses, each party must make a clear statement to the other that names both parties and acknowledges that they are freely joining in a civil union with each other. Please be aware if you are considering having a Registry Office ceremony, that they are standardised to meet the legislative requirements of entering into a civil union, which includes standard statements.
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How to Apply for a Civil Union Licence

When a couple intend to enter into a civil union, they are required to complete the appropriate type of Notice of Intended Civil Union form, which includes a statutory declaration that both parties are free to be joined in civil union and that all the details supplied on the form are correct. If either party is 16 or 17 years of age, consent to enter into a civil union is required.

One of the parties must appear in person before a Registrar of Civil Unions to sign the statutory declaration and pay the required fee.

The Registrar of Civil Unions will issue your Civil Union Licence (normally no sooner than three days after receiving the civil union notice), together with two copies of a document known as a 'Copy of Particulars of Civil Union'. Civil union licences are only available for collection during normal opening hours.

You will need to deliver these three documents to your Civil Union Celebrant before the ceremony.

For further information about entering into a civil union view or print out Civil Union: A guide for couples preparing to enter into a civil union in New Zealand.


If You Ordinarily Live Overseas

If you live overseas and want to enter into a civil union in New Zealand you will need to complete a Notice of Intended Civil Union, where both parties are ordinarily resident outside of New Zealand.
  • Send the notice of intended civil union (with the required fee) to the Registry Office closest to the place where you want to have the civil union, ensuring that it reaches the Registrar of Civil Unions at least a week before you intend to have the ceremony. Contact us for the location details of the Registry Offices.
  • Collect the Civil Union Licence and the two copies of the Copy of Particulars of Civil Union.
  • If a Registrar of Civil Unions is to solemnise the civil union the statutory declaration can be signed before the Registrar immediately prior to the ceremony; otherwise you must sign the statutory declaration when you pick up the licence from the Registrar of Civil Unions.
Alternatively, before sending the notice of intended civil union to New Zealand the statutory declaration can be signed, while you are in your home country, in front of a Commonwealth Representative (i.e. an authorised diplomatic or consular officer of a Commonwealth country.) If it is convenient, you can have the declaration witnessed by a Commonwealth Representative, at our London or Sydney office.

For further information about entering into a civil union view or print out Civil Union: A guide for couples preparing to enter into a civil union in New Zealand.


Consent to Enter into a Civil Union

To enter into a civil union both parties to the civil union must be at least 16 years of age. If either party is 16 or 17 years of age, consent to enter into a civil union is required:
  • You must obtain consent from each of your guardians (usually your parents) unless they cannot be located or are, as a result of incapacity, unable to give consent.
  • If none of your guardians are able to give consent, you must obtain consent from a relative acting in place of a guardian, or from a Family Court Judge.
  • If your parents or guardians refuse consent, you can apply to a Family Court Judge for consent to enter into a civil union.
The completed Consent to Civil Union of a Person aged 16 or 17 must be submitted with the Notice of Intended Civil Union form.
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Changing a Marriage to a Civil Union

A married couple who wish to continue in a relationship with each other may change the form of that relationship to a civil union without being required to formally dissolve their marriage. For them, the process begins with a Notice of Intended Civil Union, change of relationship from marriage form.

One of the parties must appear in person before a Registrar of Civil Unions to sign the statutory declaration and pay the required fee. At this time they will be required to provide evidence of their marriage.

The Registrar will issue your Civil Union Licence (normally no sooner than three days after receiving the notice of indented civil union), together with two copies of a document known as a 'Copy of Particulars of Civil Union'.

You will need to deliver these three documents to your Civil Union Celebrant before the ceremony.

For further information about entering into a civil union view or print out Civil Union: A guide for couples preparing to enter into a civil union in New Zealand.


Entering into a Civil Union Overseas

To determine whether you can enter into a civil union overseas, you will need to:
  • Find out what is required by the laws of the country in which you intend to have the ceremony; and
  • Make the arrangements yourself.
If the country where you are entering into a civil union requires it, Births, Deaths and Marriages can issue a 'Certificate of No Impediment' showing that a search of the registers has found no lawful impediment to the civil union. There is a fee for this service. Please contact us with the details of the country in which you will be entering into a civil union for the relevant fee.

To get a Certificate of No Impediment you will need to fill out the form Application for a Certificate of No Impediment to Marriage or Civil Union form (BDM 189).

If the overseas relationship is one of those listed in the regulations, it will be recognised as a civil union in New Zealand. Certificates from the country where the relationship was registered can be used as proof of the relationship. If the certificate is not in English, some organisations may require you to produce a translation of the certificate.

If you are currently in an overseas relationship that is similar to a civil union but is not one of those recognised in New Zealand, you may wish to enter into a civil union in New Zealand. Prior to doing so you should seek legal advice as to what effect this may have on your current overseas relationship. If you do not wish to enter into a civil union in New Zealand, your overseas relationship may be recognised in New Zealand as a de facto relationship.
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Notice of Intended Civil Union Forms

View or download Notice of Intended Civil Union forms.


Paying for Your Civil Union Licence

Civil union conducted at the Registry Office
If you wish for your civil union to be conducted by a Registrar of Civil Unions at the Registry Office, you must pay a fee of NZ$173.70 when you send in or hand over the completed Notice of Intended Civil Union form. This includes the fee for the civil union licence and the ceremony. Please discuss with the Registrar at the office where you plan to have the civil union ceremony of the date and time for your ceremony. Remember to include contact details (e.g. a telephone number in New Zealand or an address) so that the Registrar can contact you if necessary.

Civil union conducted by a Civil Union Celebrant outside of a Registry Office
If you wish for your civil union to be conducted by a Civil Union Celebrant, you must pay a fee of NZ$122.60 when you send in or hand over the completed Notice of Intended Civil Union form. This includes the fee for the civil union licence but does not include any additional fee the Civil Union Celebrant may charge to cover their expenses. The name of the Civil Union Celebrant must be given on the form in order for your licence to be issued. The celebrant must be approved to conduct civil unions in New Zealand.

How to pay your civil union licence fee
Registry Offices will accept over-the-counter payments by cheque, cash, New Zealand money order or, in most offices, credit card and EFTPOS.

If you are sending the fee by post from outside of New Zealand, payment can be made by way of a bank draft (i.e. a bank cheque, which can be purchased at most banks) in New Zealand dollars . Who you make the cheque payable to depends on the Registry Office where you intend to send your application. Please see 'Cheque payments for a New Zealand Marriage Licence or New Zealand Civil Union Licence' for further information.
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Collecting and Using Your Civil Union Licence

A civil union licence is normally issued no sooner than three calendar days after the Notice of Intended Civil Union is submitted and the fee is paid.

Your civil union licence is valid for three months from the date on which it is issued. During that period you are free to enter into a civil union at the place or places specified on the civil union licence.


If you change your venue before the civil union has taken place you must advise the Registry Office that issued your licence.


At the conclusion of the ceremony you will be handed a signed copy of one of the 'Copy of Particulars of Civil Union'. The other copy will be returned to the issuing Register of Civil Unions by your Civil Union Celebrant.