Indian national Vishal Sheth came to New Zealand as an international student in 2006 and fell in love with the place.
On December 11 this year the 37-year-old supermarket manager became a New Zealand citizen and says “this is home”.
New data obtained by the Herald from the Department of Internal Affairs reveals that people born in India top the list of new citizens living in Auckland.
Of the 18,543 people who have been granted citizenship in Auckland, Indians made up 2885, ahead of Samoa (2033), Fiji (1910) and the United Kingdom (1669).
There are a total of 36,084 new citizens in the 12 months from Nov 1, 2017 to Oct 31, 2018, but the department says a breakdown of the national figure will not be available until at least mid-January.
Massey University immigration expert Professor Paul Spoonley said China and India are the two top source countries for most immigration visa categories in recent years.
“Over the last three years, Indian immigrants have replaced Chinese as the major source country especially in transitioning from a study visa to permanent settlement or in terms of certain occupations or industries,” Spoonley said.
“In terms of both Auckland and New Zealand generally, Indians are projected to exceed Chinese in terms of the size of the community.”
However, unlike Indians, few Chinese move on from residency to citizenship – making up just 820 over the period.
Spoonley said this was due to two major reasons.
“New Zealand does not require permanent settlers to become citizens and there are a wide range of services and benefits that are attached to being a permanent resident, unlike many countries that require migrants to become citizens before accessing these rights,” he said.
“The second is that I suspect it is an insurance policy – wait and see before making a final commitment.”
Spoonley said there were many reasons also why migrants wanted the New Zealand passport.
“There is some evidence that gaining NZ citizenship is seen as way of gaining access to other countries, notably Australia, but this often significantly overestimated, especially by Australians,” he said.
“But the main reason is to show loyalty to your new country of residence plus there are significant benefits of travelling on a New Zealand passport – it is a safe and widely respected identity document.”
A DIA spokeswoman said historically, about six in 10 new citizens are from Auckland – but the figure this year was closer to 50 per cent.
Sheth, a produce department manager at Remuera New World, said he decided to become a citizen to show he was committed to his adopted homeland.
“This is where my family is, this is where my work is, and this is home for me,” said Sheth, originally from Baroda in Gujurat.
“But becoming a citizen, I am showing that I am now rooted here and I won’t be going anywhere.”
His immigration adviser, sister Karishma Malek, who moved to New Zealand before him, sold him the idea of moving here.
“My sister told me this was a beautiful country, the people are friendly and the job prospects are better for me,” Sheth said.
“When I came here and found all that to be true. As a citizen, I am part of this country now and it is really a special feeling.”
He is married to an Indian wife who is also a citizen, and they have a New Zealand-born child.