Three thousand Samoans become Kiwi citizens
More than 3400 Samoans became New Zealand citizens last year, according to figures released by the country’s Department of Internal Affairs on Friday.
A total of 2813 Samoans successfully applied for grants to become Kiwi citizens during the 2019 calendar year, while 656 claimed citizenship by descent.
Samoans were the third-largest cohort of successful applicants for citizenship by grant, coming in behind India and the United Kingdom.
The successful Samoan applicants were among a total of more than 40,000 new foreign born New Zealand citizens welcomed into the country last year.
The figure represents a scaling back of New Zealand’s permanent immigration programme from the previous calendar year by just over 10 per cent.
Jeff Montgomery, the General Manager of Services and Access for the department, said the decline was mostly driven by fewer successful grant applications.
“[This year] we gained 44,413 new foreign-born Kiwis, 13,383 by descent and 31,030 by grant,” he said.
“The trend we’ve seen in 2019 in that the number of people gaining citizenship by grant has fallen over the past few years. In 2018, 35,737 people gained citizenship by grant and in 2017, it was 36,450 people.”
Mr. Montgomery said applicants for citizenship could expect the launch of a new service allowing people to apply for citizenship online in 2020.
“In October, we launched an online application service. It’s currently available to certain adults and we look forward to extending it to most other people soon,” he said.
“Since launching this service, over 1,600 people have applied. Online applications are the way of the future as they make things very easy for those applying.
“Regardless of how people become citizens, they can check their eligibility online from anywhere in the world.”
Obtaining New Zealand citizenship opens several destinations to holders of the country’s passport.
According to rankings released this week by the Henley Index, an annual ranking of the world’s passports according to their usefulness to travellers, New Zealand is the world’s ninth most useful passport.
Kiwis are entitled to access 183 countries without needing to make visa arrangements in advance. The Samoan passport, by contrast, comes in at 41st place and can be used to obtain visas on arrival in 131 countries.
In addition to its foreign-born citizens, 60,000 new Kiwis were born on the country’s soil last year.
Citizenship by descent is granted to those who have a parent born in New Zealand.
People can apply for Kiwi citizenship if they have already immigrated to New Zealand and make a grant application.
Grants are awarded at the discretion of the Government on the basis of a range of eligibility criteria including the amount of time applicants spend in New Zealand, whether they can speak basic English and if they have referees who can attest to their good character.
New Zealand citizenships approved by grant in 2020:
United Kingdom 4413
South Africa 2463
United States of America 620
New Zealand citizenships obtained by descent in 2020:
United Kingdom 1637
United States of America 864