From 1840 until 1 January 1949 most people in New Zealand (including Māori) were British subjects/citizens. Non-British were ‘aliens’. Those excluded from the state’s definition of citizenship were often seen as ‘suspect’, especially in wartime. Through naturalisation aliens could become citizens.
In 1947 New Zealand adopted the British Statute of Westminster (1931) and in 1948 passed a number of acts to institute New Zealand citizenship. From 1 January 1949 people were designated either New Zealand citizens or ‘Aliens’, requiring either New Zealand passports or those of other countries.
In 1977 a review of citizenship and residency removed the term alien from official use. Increasingly the focus has been on citizenship, or residency, or various other more temporary arrangements.
Māori were guaranteed British citizenship by the Treaty of Waitangi, and this was confirmed by the Native Rights Act 1865 (though the act was primarily concerned to bring Māori under British law).
Since New Zealand was from 1840 a British colony, British citizenship applied. Those who were not British were aliens and to become British citizens they needed to go through a process called naturalisation. The only uncertainty over citizenship came with people, not clearly British in ethnic origin, who were born in other British colonies or protectorates.
Apart from Chinese and other Asians migrating to New Zealand, there was little restriction on aliens or naturalisation before the First World War began in 1914. Wartime regulations began tighter control of aliens which continued until the Citizenship Act 1977 removed the term from official use, though it was not until 1986 that all people wishing to enter New Zealand did so as equals.
Passports are the official documents used to show citizenship when travelling. We hold few passport related records useful to family historians as passport applications are normally destroyed. Those that survive are for well-known New Zealanders such as Walter Nash and Keith Holyoake [ACGO 8392 IA 69/2/8 & ACGO 8392 IA 69/2/9]. A file concerning the search for Jean Batten 1986-87 also includes her 1974 passport application [AAAC 6859 W4593/1]. There are other passport applications for notable politicians, sports players and their spouses in series 8333. These can be found by performing a keyword search for 'Passport Files'.
Naturalisation is the process by which a non-citizen becomes a citizen of a country. Most people in New Zealand were British citizens until 1948. Up to then naturalisation gave British citizenship. After the beginning of New Zealand citizenship in 1949, naturalisation gave New Zealand citizenship.
We hold naturalisation records dating from the early 1840s. Later naturalisation records, especially from 1939, are often closely linked to alien records.
After New Zealand adopted the Statute of Westminster in 1947, it had to establish its own citizenship distinct from British citizenship. The British Nationality and New Zealand Citizenship Act and the Aliens Act, both 1948, allowed any alien, except Chinese, to become naturalised New Zealand citizens. The process was simpler for British citizens than for others.
Access to naturalisation files is restricted until 100 years after the birth of the person documented or 40 years after death, whichever is sooner. Permission to access restricted files is to be obtained from:
Director Birth, Deaths, Marriages and Citizenship
Department of Internal Affairs
From 1840 to 1866 there was little formal requirement for naturalisation except residence in New Zealand and an application for British citizenship. An Internal Affairs Department register includes all naturalisations 1840-1866:
Register of Persons Naturalised before 1949 [ACGO 8376 IA52 14/26] - Digitised record
For 1840-1866, references in the register (column 9) are to application files 1844-1853 [eg: 1852/1057] or to statute 1858-1866 [eg: Act… or Vict...].
These naturalisations were made by ordinance 1844-1853 (Ordinances of the Legislative Council) and by Act of Parliament 1858-1866 (Statutes of New Zealand), both published. Correspondence about these applications for naturalisation may be found in Colonial Secretary records:
Internal Affairs Central Filing System Inwards Correspondence [ACGO 8333 IA1] – fully listed on Archway
Inwards Correspondence to the Colonial Secretary [ACFP 8217 NM8 1-63] – fully listed on Archway
Additional information on applications can sometimes be found in correspondence registers:
The Aliens Act 1866 established a new procedure. Applicants submitted a ‘memorial’ or application for naturalisation, usually giving name, age, birthplace, residence, occupation and length of residence in New Zealand. The application was considered by government officials and ratified by the minister.
The Colonial Secretary/Department of Internal Affairs was responsible for naturalisation from 1866, and records for 1866-1913 are to be found in year/number format in the correspondence files of that department [ACGO 8333 IA1] – fully listed on Archway - Digitised records - Year/number file references are found in Column 9 of:
Register of Persons Naturalised before 1949 [ACGO 8376 IA52 14/26] - Digitised record
It may be important to check variant spellings of a surname since many people altered the spelling of their names, or clerks made errors of transcription. Furthermore, the register is not always in strict alphabetical order.
The file number will usually be in a year/number format with the full reference being, for example: IA1 1883/353.
However, files were sometimes moved from one system to a later one when, perhaps, a person requested duplicate naturalisation papers to replace those destroyed in some way.
The filing system was changed in 1913 and naturalisation records are then found in sub series 20 of Internal Affairs correspondence, so that the reference has the format: IA1 20/1/number to 20/17/number. This continued until 1932.
The requirements for naturalisation tended to increase over time. The Aliens Act 1880 required a statutory declaration with name, age, birthplace, residence, occupation and length of residence in New Zealand, a statement of desire to stay in New Zealand, and a statement from a magistrate or Justice of the Peace certifying ‘good repute’. Often the official relied on a police report. If the application was approved, an oath of allegiance was required. After 1914 the name of the ship on which a person arrived was also required on the application.
The filing systems of the Internal Affairs Department relating to naturalisation changed in 1913 and twice more in this period, though all naturalisations from this period should be recorded in:
Register of Persons Naturalised before 1949 [ACGO 8376 IA52 14/26] - Digitised record
From 1913 to 1932 references are in the form: IA1 20/1/number to 20/1/17/number (for example: IA1 20/1/3554 or IA1 20/4/376)
Naturalisation during World War I
Naturalisation virtually ceased in World War I (1914-1918). In some cases, under the Revocation of Naturalisation Act 1917, the citizenship rights of naturalised subjects were revoked or suspended. Later those rights might be restored under a new file number.
The Register of Aliens [AAAC 6159 W1566/1; REPRO 1658], compiled and published by the Department of Statistics in 1917, includes a substantial proportion of people who had previously been naturalised but who, as aliens in origin, were regarded as potentially suspect in wartime. Most did not lose citizenship.
Naturalisation after World War I
Naturalisation after World War I required the same procedures as before, though in time requirements were tightened up. From 1928 applicants for naturalisation needed five years residence out of the previous eight, an official certificate of good repute, and to pass a test in English.
Filing systems changed twice more in the 1930s, but all naturalisations 1919-1948 should be recorded in:
Register of Persons Naturalised before 1949 [ACGO 8376 IA52 14/26] - Digitised record
From 1933 to 1937 file references include the form: IA1 year/158/number (for example: IA 1 1937/158/182). In 1938 a new system began in the form: IA1 115/number (for example: IA 1 115/1679) – [ACGO 8333 IA1 2333 115/1679].
Naturalisation virtually ceased in World War II and the government took powers to suspend or revoke earlier naturalisation as a means of controlling suspected ‘enemy aliens’. See ‘Other Files relating to Naturalisation’ for other references to naturalisation which include the period before World War II, as well as during and after the war [ACGO 8333 IA1, record numbers starting 116, 117 & 118 – see staff for more assistance in locating these files]. After the war, naturalisation procedures continued as before 1939, until the major changes of 1947-1949.
Naturalisation of women and children
From 13 May 1924, children born before the date of their parents’ naturalisation could be included in the parents’ certificate. Before then they were regarded as naturalised if they were living in New Zealand with a naturalised parent.
Before 1935, the wife of a man who was naturalised also became a British subject automatically, so no separate information is available for such women.
The British Nationality and Status of Aliens (in New Zealand) Amendment Act 1934 made it possible for a British woman, on marriage to an alien, to make a declaration of her desire to retain her British nationality. This gave a woman the rights of a British subject within New Zealand, including the right to vote. If the alien husband was naturalised, the wife did not have to go through the whole process, but could acquire full British nationality by declaration before the proper authority.
By the British Nationality and Status of Aliens (in New Zealand) Act 1946 married women were allowed citizenship in their own right and no longer automatically took the citizenship of their husbands as had occurred previously.
Under the British Nationality and New Zealand Citizenship Act and the Aliens Act, both 1948, any alien, except Chinese, could become a naturalised New Zealand citizen. Naturalisation of Chinese people was not allowed from 1908 to 1951.
From 1 January 1949 when New Zealand citizenship was officially established, an ‘alien’ was defined as someone who was not a New Zealand citizen, and not British, British protected, or Irish. People with British nationality who were not New Zealand citizens were not aliens. They could apply for New Zealand citizenship by registration and did not have to go through the full process of naturalisation, though they are entered in the registers of people naturalised from 1949.
In order to become naturalised an alien had to give one year’s notice before applying, have lived in New Zealand for four out of the seven years before applying, or have lived in a NZ trust territory, such as Western Sāmoa, or have been employed by the NZ government for that period.
Registers of Persons granted NZ Citizenship 1949-1981
We hold copies of ‘Registers of Naturalisation’ (produced by the Internal Affairs Department), which are the main index to naturalisation files held in Wellington. When searching these registers it is important to check for variant spellings of a surname.
Register of Persons granted New Zealand Citizenship 1949-1968 (In Register Room) [ACGO 8376 IA52 16/28]
Register of Persons granted New Zealand Citizenship 1969-1977 A-L (In Register Room) [ACGO 8376 IA52 17/29]
Register of Persons granted New Zealand Citizenship 1969-1977 M-Z (In Register Room) [ACGO 8376 IA52 18/30]
Register of Persons granted New Zealand Citizenship 1978-1981 A-L [ACGO 8376 IA52 19/31]
Register of Persons granted New Zealand Citizenship 1978-1981 M-Z [ACGO 8376 IA52 20/32]
Copies in Auckland in series 4495 [AAYQ 4495]
Naturalisation Files (to 1977 only)
From 1938 to 1966 the Registers of Persons Naturalised give references in the format: 115/number, though in the register many numbers do not have the prefix 115. The actual file reference is: IA1 115/number (for example ACGO 8333 IA1 2333 115/1679).
Over the years 1966 and 1967 a new filing system for naturalisation files was phased in. From what was called Register 174 the files are held in a different series: ACGO 8375 IA51.
These files have a different sort of numbering as well, so a file for a naturalisation in 1969 might be, for example, in the register as 186/181, with the actual file reference IA51 R186/P1 (where R = Register and P = Page) on Archway as ACGO 8375 W3465 IA51 147 R186, P1-32
Other files relating to naturalisation
Other sub-series of files relating to naturalisation were also created from 1938 by the Internal Affairs Department, and they contain information about individuals, some from before 1938. Many can be found by name searches on Archway. To find sub series within series 8333 complete an Advanced Search on Archway Public. Under the records tab, more search fields appear. In the 'Former Arch Ref' field enter IA1 and in the 'Record #' field enter the sub series number e.g. 116 to see the files starting with that number.
General files, though with some specific records 1920s-1963 [ACGO 8333 IA1 116]
Naturalisation – copies of letter, to 1953 [ACGO 8333 IA1 117]
Revocation of Naturalisation [ACGO 8333 IA1 118], including: A file with lists of revocations from World War 1 to 1952 [ACGO 8333 IA1 118/2]; Files of 46 individuals whose naturalisation was revoked 1937-1955, usually for living overseas for an extended period [ACGO 8333 IA1 118/…]
Naturalisation – Renunciation of NZ Citizenship 1950-1966 (261 files) [ACGO 8333 IA1 115/1/…]
Naturalisation – Registration of birth of a child 1947-1965 (111 files) [ACGO 8333 IA1 115/2/…]
Naturalisation – Registration of Death of NZ citizens overseas (18 files) [ACGO 8333 IA1 1 115/3/…]
Hungarian Refugees - Naturalisation 1956-1970 (AK) [BCAP 1529 A348 49a 7/0/8]
Letters/Certificates of Naturalisation
Duplicate copies of the actual Letters of Naturalisation or Certificates of Citizenship are held for the period 1867-1979 [8377 IA53 volumes 1-368]. These certificates, which include the name of the naturalised person and the date of naturalisation, are bound in books.
An alien in New Zealand before 1914 was merely someone who did not have British citizenship. Apart from Chinese and to a lesser extent other Asians, there was, for many years, little restriction on aliens. They often contributed significantly to New Zealand life and many became naturalised British citizens.
However, large-scale international warfare, beginning with World War I in 1914, marked a change in attitudes towards aliens, and a change in status for many of them. ‘Enemy’ aliens were regarded with considerable suspicion in wartime. During World War I attention was focused most on people from Germany and Austria-Hungary, the main ‘enemy nations’.
Wartime regulations allowed aliens (non-citizens) to be detained or their activities monitored and restricted. The process of putting into effect various regulations and acts resulted in a considerable volume of records to do with both policy and action towards aliens.
Alien regulation was suspended in 1923, but re-imposed at the outbreak of World War II in 1939. Again, a variety of regulations, acts, and official bodies dealt with aliens and created many records. As in World War I some aliens were interned. The main focus was on people from Germany, Austria and Italy, as well as places conquered by Germany. There were very few Japanese in New Zealand.
After World War II the numbers of those who were aliens in New Zealand was initially increased by the creation of separate New Zealand citizenship on 1 January 1949. Registration of aliens was confirmed by the Aliens Act 1948 and continued until it was repealed by the Citizenship Act 1977.
Aliens in World War 1
After the outbreak of World War I, the government gazetted regulations which allowed aliens to be registered, supervised and detained. All aliens had to report to and register at the nearest police station and might be interned. A variety of agencies collected records about aliens (and alien prisoners of war). Records were moved between government departments and some records overlap with or include items from earlier or other records. Some aliens ended up with more than one file.
An Alien Enemies Commission was established on 8 June 1915, first under the Department of Internal Affairs, and later Justice, to hear objections by aliens to their designated status (such as ‘disloyal’ or ‘enemy’ aliens) and to hear claims by aliens for exemption from internment. Many of the records listed below were under the control of the Alien Enemies Commission at some time.
Register of Aliens 1917 [AAAC 6159/1; REPRO 1658]
This volume was compiled and published by the Department of Statistics in 1917. Details recorded include: name, sex, age, conjugal condition (marital status), birthplace, years in New Zealand, allegiance (BN–British Naturalised, or F–Foreign), occupation, address, file number. The files themselves do not exist.
Personal Files of Enemy Aliens 1914-1922 (687 total) [AAAB 482 W291 /1-70]. These files, which come from other series such as series [AAAB W291 449], are listed on Archway. They refer to those who were interned, either as aliens or as prisoners of war.
Multiple Number Subject Files 1914-1948 [AAAB W291 449/1-5]
Most of the individuals originally listed in this series have been included in AAAB 482 W291 /1-70 and should be accessed through that series, using Archway (about 700 names listed). However, a few individual files remain listed in the original series.
In this series there are also more general files relating to aliens, which may mention individuals, such as:
Tongan Deportees [AAAB 449 W291 2a 29/18]
Police reports on enemy aliens in the Hamilton district [AAAB 449 W291 2h 29/39]
Enemy Aliens in Samoa [AAAB 449 W291 2j 29/49]
Enemy Aliens [Featherston & Somes Island camps [AAAB 449 W291 2k 29/51]
Treatment of prisoners of war on Somes Island [AAAB 449 W291 3a 29/55]
Numerical Subject Files on Aliens 1915-1918 [AAAR 472]
A few general files and 58 files on specific aliens – cases investigated by the Alien Enemies Commission 1915-1918. Often the files on people consist mainly of police reports. Also held are copies of schedules of cases referred to the Alien Enemies Commission, with some notes about decisions [AAAR 490].
Personal and subject files relating to Aliens 1914-1921 [AAAB 478/1a-12z] R 100/40
These include both files on individuals investigated and more general files. The 586 files may be found through name searches on Archway.
Copies of Reports to Alien Enemies Commission 1915
Five individuals only – name search on Archway [AAAB 479]
Various files on Aliens and Prisoners of War
These files were created by the Army Department and include both general and specific files. These files are found in AAYS 8638 sub series 59. To find sub series within series 8638, complete an Advanced Search on Archway. Under the records tab, more search fields appear. In the 'Former Arch Ref' field enter AD1 and in the 'Record #' field enter the sub series number e.g. 59 to see the files starting with that number. There are a few files referring to individuals, and others may have specific details on individuals, for example:
Prisoners from Samoa 1914-1917 [AAYS 8638 AD 1 1027 59/35]
Reparation – Germans for Samoa 1919 [AAYS 8638 AD 1 1027 59/35/1]
Nominal Roll Prisoners of War interned at Motuihi Island [AAYS 8638 AD 1 1027 59/40]
Prisoners of War, Somes Island 1917 [AAYS 8638 AD 1 1027 59/42]
Register of applications by aliens for land 1919-1920 [ACGT 18478 LS36 18/23]. This is a Lands & Survey Department register which records name of applicant, date, nature of application, file number, and decision.
Yugoslav Aliens 1917-1918
During the First World War there was some official doubt about the suitability of ‘Yugoslavs’ for the armed forces or Home Service. The parts of Europe they had come from, such as Dalmatia and Croatia, were within the Empire of Austria-Hungary, an enemy nation. In December 1917 a scheme was begun to investigate, register and supervise ‘Jugo-Slavs’ (as it was often spelt), naturalised or not. John Cullen became Commissioner in charge of the Jugo-Slav Organisation Branch of the Defence Department.
The Branch records include: correspondence with private employers of Yugoslavs; correspondence on and profiles of Yugoslavs in Dargaville and elsewhere; correspondence about notices of service for Yugoslavs, by region. [AAAB 488]
Other relevant files were created by the Justice and Statistics Departments: R 100/40
Enemy Aliens – Jugo Slavs [AAAB 449 W291 3c 29/59]
Jugo Slavs [AAAB 449 W291 4a 29/61]
Registration of Aliens – List of Yugo-Slavs and Austrians registered as aliens 1917-1918 R [ADTO 18998 STATS1 32 24/1/37]
On 24 June 1918 additional war regulations were gazetted which led to the creation of an Alien Service Branch of the Defence Department, which supplanted the Jugo-Slav Organisation Branch. The Alien Service Branch was given the power to direct all enemy aliens, whether naturalised or not, into employment specified by the government. Many enemy aliens had already been interned and the regulations were aimed at the Yugoslav community.
All Yugoslavs of military service age were registered and directed into employment in public works such as railway construction or drainage projects, or into work with other approved employers such as local bodies.
Some Army Department correspondence files 1918-1919 relate to the deployment of Yugoslav labour and the implementation of the additional war regulations [AAYS 8702].
From the Registration of Aliens various lists of aliens were created late in First World War and after by the Census and Statistics Department. Access restrictions apply. Permission requests should be sent to:
The Records Officer,
Statistics New Zealand
Po Box 2922
List of French subjects registered as Aliens 1918-1920 [ADTO 18998 STATS1 32 24/1/31]
List of Italian subjects registered as Aliens 1918-1922 [ADTO 18998 STATS1 32 24/1/32]
List of Turkish subjects registered as Aliens 1918 [ADTO 18998 STATS1 32 24/1/33]
List of Persians registered as Aliens 1918-1922 [ADTO 18998 STATS1 32 24/1/34]
List of Swiss subjects registered as Aliens 1918-1922 [ADTO 18998 STATS1 32 24/1/35]
List of United States subjects registered as Aliens 1918 [ADTO 18998 STATS1 32 24/1/36]
List of public servants registered as Aliens 1918 [ADTO 18998 STATS1 32 24/1/39]
List of Chinese unregistered or without registration of Aliens Certificates in Wellington at 1921 Census [ADTO 18998 STATS1 33 24/1/52]
Aliens in World War II
Regulation of aliens ceased in 1923, but it was resumed under the Aliens Control Emergency Regulations 1939. All aliens over 16 years were required to register. This system of registration continued until 1948 (and a new system until 1977). Some people registered during the war were later re-registered under the new system in 1948 or later, and files of aliens in World War II may be found in post-war records.
Alien files and other records were created during World War II by various government departments/agencies. Most records are held in Wellington. Other archives hold a few local alien records.
In July 1940 an Aliens Tribunal was established to investigate whether aliens should be interned, and if so, at what stage of the war. Records include:
Aliens Tribunal Classification Register 1939-1940 [AAAC 495 W1566 1]
Aliens Tribunal for Western Samoa (both general files and some individual case files) [ADSB 17613]
Individual case files are restricted for 100 years from the date of birth of the person documented in the file. Applications for privileged access to files within the restricted period should be made to the Chief Archivist, Archives New Zealand.
Aliens Authorities and Aliens Appeal Tribunal
In October 1940 the Aliens Tribunal was replaced by regional Aliens Authorities, each a private individual, who were to classify all enemy and certain non-enemy aliens in their districts. The same month an Aliens Appeal Tribunal was established to hear appeals against Authorities’ decisions. Authorities were private individuals, so few records were archived.
What exists includes:
Aliens Authority Index Book 1940-1942 [BBAE 5652 1a] (AK)
Reports on Individual Aliens [AFIV A217 13812] (AK)
Aliens Authority Case Files 1941-1945 (664 files listed on Archway) R100/40 [ABGU W3777 7191]. Permission can be sought from the Chief Archivist, Archives New Zealand.
Indexes by Nationality c1939-1940 [ABGU W3777 7192]: Italian; Czechoslovakian; Russian Nationals; Belgian, French and Luxembourg Nationals; Swiss; Yugoslavian Nationals; Polish; Dutch and Finnish Nationals; Hungarian; German.
By July 1942 some 4000 people were identified for internment if invasion occurred, but only about 180 aliens were interned, mostly on Matiu/Somes Island though also in Pahīatua 1943-1944. Files are held for most aliens either registered or interned.
Index to Alien Registrations [AAAC 959] - Digitised record. Dates of birth recorded in this series may help in gaining access to individual files in series 489 and 493 if date of birth is more than 100 years ago.
Personal files: aliens, enemy aliens and internees c1940-1947, R 100 from date of birth [AAAR 493]
Alien Registration Files created under the regulations of 1939 and not re-registered into the new system established after 1948. Of the 7758 files, 38 held in Auckland, remainder in Wellington [AAAC 489]
Other Departmental Records
Some departmental records include information on individual aliens, internees and prisoners of war; others give context and background.
Files about aliens and foreign Prisoners of War and internment [AAYS 8638 AD1 sub series 336/1, 336/2 & 336/3]. This material includes a general file: Civilian Internees – Interned from Samoa [AAYS 8638 AD1 1379 336/1/37]
ACIE 8798 EA1 sub series 89 covers a range of topics:
General [ACIE 8798 EA1 sub-series 89/1]
Aliens [ACIE 8798 EA1 sub-series 89/2]
Internees [ACIE 8798 EA1 sub-series 89/3]
Prisoners of War in New Zealand [ACIE 8798 EA1 sub-series 89/4]
Female Evacuee Aliens [ACIE 8798 EA1 sub-series 89/5]
Somes Island – internment of enemy aliens 1939-1944 [ADBZ 16163 H1 1456 296]
War (various files)
Prisoner of War Camp–Featherston 1942-46 [WAII 2 (Boxes 22-26)]
Internment Camp – Somes Island 1939-1945 [WAII 2 (Boxes 27-33)]
Registration of aliens continued after the Second World War, initially under the same legislation and regulations as during the war.
In 1947 New Zealand adopted the Statute of Westminster (passed in the British Parliament in 1931) and in 1948 passed the ‘British Nationality and New Zealand Citizenship Act’ and the ‘Aliens Act’, to institute New Zealand citizenship. From 1 January 1949 people were designated either New Zealand citizens, British subjects, Irish citizens or ‘aliens’, requiring either New Zealand passports or those of other countries. Further changes to the registration of aliens were made by the ‘British Nationality and New Zealand Citizenship Amendment Act’ 1959.
The registration of aliens continued until the Citizenship Act 1977 when the term ‘alien’ was discarded and the focus placed on citizenship and residency.
Our Wellington archive holds files for individuals required to register as aliens under the Aliens Act 1948. A separate sequence of files was transferred to our Auckland archive in 2012. Both are found in Series 504 [AAAC 504 for Wellington-held files, and BADW 504 for Auckland-held files, R 100 birth]. Some individuals will have files in both archives.
A card index, in two series, of all those deemed alien 1949-1977, gives access to these alien files:
All those who registered as aliens 1949-1977, but who were no longer recorded as aliens when the term was discarded in 1977 [AAAC 960]
All those still registered as aliens when the term was discarded in 1977 [AAAC 961]
Other Alien Records
Translations of Letters and Documents in European languages 1951-1967 [AAAC 990]. These files appear to have been created and kept by Mr T M Kremic, of the Alien Registration Branch of the Justice Department. Most translations are from Bulgarian or Serbo-Croat, many of legal documents. Some include personal information.
Return of Aliens Convicted of Offences 1953-1959 [AAAB 434]. The Aliens Act 1948 gave police power to take action against aliens who did not report changes of name or address. The action could go as far as arrest and bringing to trial. However, these chronologically arranged files include records of convictions for all offences, not just those under the Aliens Act R100.
Alien Index c1958-c1966 [AAAB 988]. This index appears to record (alphabetically) the names and addresses of aliens working on the Roxburgh and Benmore hydro-electric schemes.
Aliens Index (Hastings) 1961-1966 (names only) [AAMW W3155/15]
Chinese New Zealanders
Although there were some constraints on Asians generally, the only people who were really restricted in terms of citizenship were the Chinese. Legal restrictions affected their migration to and from New Zealand, and their lives in this country from 1881 until 1986.
The main records relating to Chinese are Alien and Naturalisation files, and Immigration records from the Labour Department archives. Many general records of interest to family historians, such as twentieth century immigration records [ADBO 16135 SS1], Notices of Intention to Marry [ADAQ 8937 BDM20], Probates and Coroners Reports, can also provide information on Chinese New Zealanders.
Chinese labourers first arrived in 1866, having been invited by the Otago provincial government to re-work the gold fields of southern New Zealand. They were not assisted immigrants, so there are usually no immigration records. Most Chinese then, and later, came to New Zealand via Australia. In the 1870s, when strong anti-Chinese feeling first appeared in New Zealand, many were still living in Otago, but more than 1000 were also on the West Coast goldfields.
The Chinese Immigrants Act 1881 levied a £10 entry or poll (head) tax on Chinese newcomers and decreed ships were to carry no more than one Chinese for each 10 tons of the ship’s weight. The Customs Department issued poll tax receipts and exemption certificates, but the records are now held under the Labour Department (see next column). Poll tax payment allowed Chinese to land and gain permanent residency, but they remained aliens, except for the few who were naturalised. The latter often spoke English before arrival.
Many further acts restricted Chinese immigration to New Zealand, such as the raising of the poll tax to £100 in 1896. The ability of Chinese to become British citizens in New Zealand through naturalisation was prevented in 1908.
There were three other periods when Chinese were allowed into New Zealand in significant numbers: after World War I 1918-1920, at the beginning of World War II 1939-1940 as refugees, and for a few years after World War II 1948-1951, but otherwise restrictions remained. Many of those who came were ‘students’ or relatives of Chinese already living in New Zealand.
The poll tax was abolished in 1944 and in 1951 the government permitted the naturalisation of Chinese in New Zealand again. However, the number of Chinese immigrants remained relatively small – mostly chain migration of family members – and it was not until 1986 that the immigration status of Chinese and Europeans was made the same.
Chinese migration status records
Some records were destroyed in the Hope Gibbons fire in 1952. The following existing records are specifically concerned with Chinese:
Auckland Registration Certificates (indexed), with photographs and fingerprints, of Chinese people who were required to pay the poll-tax 1902-1918 [BBAO 5575] (AK) - Digitised records.
Labour Department records [ACGV Series 8836, 8837, 8838, 8839, 8840, 8841 8842 and 8843 (Former record groups L24 to 31)] can provide information on Chinese migration. Access may be restricted. The most useful series of records are:
Wellington alien entry and re-entry certificates and registers, sometimes called ‘poll-tax books’ (actually books of butts from Certificates of Entry issued to Chinese people entering New Zealand in Wellington). Thirty five unindexed volumes cover May 1888-December 1930 in chronological order of arrival [ACGV 8836 L24] - Digitised records.
Auckland Re-entry Certificates are held at our Wellington archive for the years 1906-1930, 1932-1934, 1939, searchable by name on Archway [ACGV 8840 L28].
Alien Re-entry Certificate Index Books give access to Auckland Re-entry Certificates above [ACGV 8842 L30].
Alien Re-entry Certificate Registers are linked to the above [8840 & 8842] for 1932-1955, but they also include some information on Wellington departures and arrivals of Chinese 1900-1955 [ACGV 8841 L29].
Chinese migration records in Dunedin
The archives of the Department of Customs, Dunedin District Office, hold alien records which include many Chinese (and some others who were not British). Names can be found on Archway.
Last updated on 03 June 2021