Saturday, February 11, 2012

Chinese Portraits

This exhibition is a small selection of photographs from the certificates of registration. These were issued by the Collector of Customs in Dunedin, and allowed Chinese and other alien residents to re-enter New Zealand, if leaving temporarily.

The Chinese Immigrants Act 1881 and the Immigration Restriction Act 1899 and its amendments, set out details of requirements to be met by aliens entering New Zealand. Permits were generally needed and, for this reason, aliens living in this country and departing overseas temporarily, needed certificates of registration to ensure that they would be permitted to re-enter New Zealand.

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

Upon return (not necessarily to the same port), the certificate was presented to Customs officials, and once positively identified, the alien was allowed to enter. The surrendered certificate was then forwarded to the Collector of Customs who had issued it, where it was subsequently filed with his copy. For Chinese, the certificates 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 particulars such as the place and date of birth, physical features, arrival details, and a photograph. Some of the earlier certificates also required fingerprints. Some of the certificates also have attached the initial application, or correspondence regarding the individual concerned.

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