Immigration New Zealand has apologised after an officer wrongly questioned the validity of a woman's New Zealand citizenship because she chose to retain her Chinese passport.

The INZ officer last week questioned the validity of the citizenship document in an email to an immigration adviser.

He claimed the NZ citizenship may not be valid because "Chinese authorities don't allow for dual citizenship".

"The New Zealand citizenship...may not be valid given your client's partner was a holder of a Chinese passport...and this should not be possible as Chinese authorities don't allow for dual citizenship," the INZ staff wrote.

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The NZ citizen was a de facto partner of an applicant and was supporting her partner's application for a residence visa under the partnership category that was submitted online.

Immigration adviser Tuariki Delamere has filed a complaint against INZ to the Internal Affairs Minister. Photo / Jason Oxenham.
Immigration adviser Tuariki Delamere has filed a complaint against INZ to the Internal Affairs Minister. Photo / Jason Oxenham.

Although China does not allow dual citizenship, it is legal for a New Zealand citizen to hold dual or even multiple citizenship.

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The adviser, Harris Gu from TDA Immigration, wrote to INZ seeking clarification asking whether the agency could interfere with the rights of a New Zealand citizen due to her having a dual-citizenship status with a country where it was forbidden.

INZ visa operations manager Kara Eskerie said in an email response to Gu that the letter sent by the officer was "potentially prejudicial".

"As you have mentioned if we had concerns about the New Zealand citizenship of the supporting partner, we should have undertaken verification with DIA [Dept of Internal Affairs]," Eskerie said.

"I apologise for any inconvenience caused by this...the initial concerns that were held in regards to the sponsoring partner's citizenship will not be pursued further based on this."

INZ says in general terms it did not have a problem with dual citizenship. Photo / File.
INZ says in general terms it did not have a problem with dual citizenship. Photo / File.

TDA director Tuariki Delamere said INZ questioning the validity of a NZ citizenship issued by the DIA was "shocking and disconcerting".

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The laws of another country, in this case China, should have no bearing on how INZ officers make their visa decisions, Delamere said.

"By questioning our client's NZ citizenship, this case officer quoted Chinese law to support his refusal to accept the legitimacy of a New Zealand passport and a certificate of New Zealand citizenship," he said.

Delamere said he had filed a complaint to Minister of Internal Affairs Tracey Martin.

"It is important that all of INZ are made aware that they cannot get away with making illegal threats against New Zealand citizens," Delamere added.

Gu said he was satisfied for his clients that INZ had acknowledged its mistake and apologised.

Jeannie Melville, the agency's assistant general manager, said INZ generally did not have a problem with dual citizenship.

"Obtaining or retaining citizenship of another country does not have the effect of automatically depriving a person of New Zealand citizenship," Melville said.

Countries that forbid dual citizenship include China, Singapore, Malaysia, India, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Slovakia.