The Department of Internal Affairs

The Department of Internal Affairs

Te Tari Taiwhenua

Building a safe, prosperous and respected nation


Services › Citizenship › New Zealand Citizenship by Descent

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If you were born outside New Zealand on or after 1 January 1978, and one of your parents was a New Zealand citizen otherwise than by descent at the time of your birth, then you may have a claim to New Zealand citizenship by descent. See details below for:

What is a New Zealand Citizen "Otherwise than by Descent"

A person is likely to be a New Zealand citizen "otherwise than by descent" if they:
  • Were born in New Zealand.
  • Were adopted in New Zealand on or after 1 January 1949 by a New Zealand citizen parent.
  • Received the grant of New Zealand citizenship.
  • Were born outside New Zealand on or after 1 January 1978 and one parent was a New Zealand citizen who was on overseas service.
  • Were a British subject who was born before 1 January 1949 and was:
      • ordinarily resident in New Zealand throughout 1948; or
      • naturalised in New Zealand before 1949; or
      • born in Samoa before 1949; or
      • married to a man who automatically became a New Zealand citizen on 1 January 1949.
    A British subject is a citizen of the British Commonwealth. British Subject status was the only citizenship or nationality status available to people born in the British Empire before 1 January 1949.
If you are not sure whether you or your parent(s) are New Zealand citizens otherwise than by descent, or you want more information on citizenship please contact us.


If you are considering having a child using a surrogate mother, or have had a child using a surrogate mother, and wish to register the child as a New Zealand citizen by descent, please first see the Joint Agency Communication on International Surrogacy provided by the Department of Internal Affairs; Child, Youth and Family and the Immigration New Zealand.


New Zealanders are advised not to engage in commercial surrogacy arrangements in Thailand. On 30 July 2015, the ‘Protection of Children Born from Assisted Reproductive Technologies Act’, which places tight restrictions on commercial surrogacy in Thailand, came into effect. The Act severely limits who may engage in a surrogacy arrangement and imposes sanctions for those that do not comply.