Gate leakage mechanisms in AlInN/GaN and AlGaN/GaN metal insulator semiconductor high-electron-mobility transistors (MIS-HEMTs) with SiNx as gate dielectric have been investigated. It is found that the conduction in the reverse gate bias is due to Poole-Frenkel emission for both MIS-HEMTs. The dominant conduction mechanism in low to medium forward bias is trap-assisted tunneling while it is Fowler-Nordheim tunneling at high forward bias. However, conduction near zero gate bias is dominated by defect-assisted tunneling for both sets of MIS-HEMTs. The gate leakage current is primarily dependent on the properties of the gate dielectric material and dielectric/semiconductor interface rather than the barrier layer. A model is proposed for the gate leakage current in GaN-based MIS-HEMTs, and the method to extract the related model parameters is also presented in this paper. The proposed gate current model matches well with the experimental results for both AlInN/GaN and AlGaN/GaN MIS-HEMTs over a wide range of gate bias and measurement temperature. © 1963-2012 IEEE.