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The Chinese Immigrants Act 1881 and the Immigration Restriction Act 1899 and its amendments, set out details of requirements to be met by ‘aliens’ or non-British citizens, entering or leaving New Zealand, When departing overseas, they required certificates of registration to ensure that they would be permitted to re-enter New Zealand.

These were issued by the Collector of Customs in Dunedin. They were issued in duplicate, with one copy given to the person applying and one retained by the Collector.

When they returned, the certificate was presented to a Customs official, and once identified, they could enter the country. The surrendered certificate was then forwarded to the Collector of Customs who had issued it and filed with his copy. The certificate also exempted them from paying the poll tax required under the Chinese Immigrants Act 1881, provided they had paid it on their first entry. The certificates generally show the following details:

  • port and date of issue of certificate

  • name of alien and place of residence

  • identification details such as the place and date of birth, physical features

  • arrival details and a photograph

Some of the earlier certificates also required fingerprints. Some certificates have the initial application attached, or correspondence about the individual concerned.