New Zealanders in Australia to Access Direct Citizenship
Update on 18 May 2023:
Home Affairs Minister, Clare O’Neil announced on 22 April 2023 that New Zealanders living in Australia will have a direct pathway to Australian Citizenship from 1 July 2023.
New Zealanders on a Subclass 444 will be able to apply directly for Citizenship without becoming Permanent Residents first if they meet a four-year residence requirement and other eligibility factors.
Other recently announced Citizenship benefits for New Zealanders include the below:
- New Zealand citizens granted a Subclass 444 Visa before 1 July 2022 will have their period of permanent residence for citizenship purposes backdated to 1 July 2022.
- Provisions will also apply to New Zealand citizens who are overseas, but who held 444 Visa before leaving Australia – conditions apply.
- From 1 July 2023, children of 444 visa holders that are born in Australia on or after 1 July 2022 may automatically acquire Australian Citizenship at birth.
These provisions will only apply to Citizenship applications submitted from 1 July 2023. We are yet to receive details on how the changes impact current applications in process, including transitional arrangements and the impact for partners of New Zealand citizens who may not be eligible under these changes.
The above changes have effectively removed the need to apply for Permanent Residence under a Subclass 189 (New Zealand Stream Visa), however our article below may still be relevant for New Zealanders that have already applied for a 189 Visa.
Fast-Tracked Permanent Residence and Citizenship for New Zealanders in Australia
Below article published 20 April 2023.
New Zealanders in Australia will be happy to know the Australian government is fast-tracking Permanent Residence and Citizenship applications for New Zealanders and has changed its approach to visa cancellations in recognition of the partnership ties between the two countries.
Unfortunately, when New Zealanders come to Australia on a Subclass 444 Special Category Visa and apply for Permanent Residence through the Subclass 189 Skilled Independent (New Zealand Stream) Visa there is usually a wait of at least two years due to the limited number of places allocated to this group.
New Zealanders also have limited access to social benefits such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme, social security payments, student loans, automatic Australian citizenship for their children born in Australia and their right to vote as Subclass 444 Visa holders do not have the same rights and benefits as Australian Permanent Residents and Citizens.
Thankfully, the Department of Home Affairs has established a dedicated taskforce to prioritise visa processing for this sub-group and finalise most lodged applications by July 2023.
It has also temporarily closed the Subclass 189 (New Zealand Stream) to new applications from 10 December 2022 until 1 July 2023 while it focuses on reducing the backlog of around 11,500 applications and slashing wait times down to six months or less.
Here’s a summary of what has changed for New Zealanders living in Australia.
Read on to find out more.
Fast tracked Permanent Residence and the Removal of Residence, Income and Health Requirements
To aide in fast-tracking Subclass 189 (New Zealand Stream) Visas, the Government has amended the Migration Regulations 1994 and removed requirements to satisfy the below criteria for applications lodged before 10 December 2022:
- A period of residence in Australia – this usually requires the applicant to have been a resident in Australia for a continuous period of at least 5 years immediately before applying for their 189 Visa and for that residence to have started before 19 February 2016;
- Income thresholds – this would have required the applicant to meet a minimum income of $53,900 in three out of the five years before applying for the visa (conditions apply).
- Health requirements – the primary visa holder and family applicants would usually need to be of good health in accordance with Public Interest Criterion (PIC) 4007. In normal circumstances, these health requirements would bar people with certain medical conditions from obtaining Permanent Residence.
At this stage, the amended Migration Regulations 1994 only applies to New Zealand Stream applications made before 10 December 2022.
This means the above residence, income and health requirements will again be necessary when the Subclass 189 (New Zealand Stream) re-opens to new applications from 1 July 2023, unless the Government expands the streamlined arrangements for New Zealand citizens at this time.
This could be the case as Australian Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese stated in July 2022 that he expects to announce new migration and citizenship pathways for New Zealanders by Anzac Day 2023, in recognition of the close ties between the two nations. We will certainly keep you updated.
Faster access to Australian Citizenship
Many New Zealanders in Australia will now also have quicker access to Australian Citizenship. On 1 January 2023, the Government introduced a new Migration Instrument that enables eligible New Zealanders and their family members to meet the residency requirements for Australian Citizenship faster than usual.
Applying for Citizenship by conferral usually involves meeting residency requirements by spending a certain amount of continuous time in Australia as a Permanent Resident before becoming eligible.
However, under the new instrument, for Australian Citizenship purposes, New Zealand citizens are considered to have become Australian Permanent Residents on a backdated start date of 1 January 2022 if they:
- Held a Special Category Visa, such as a 444 Visa and;
- Hold a Subclass 189 (New Zealand Stream) Visa that was granted between 31 December 2021 and 1 July 2023 – conditions apply.
This also applies to their New Zealand citizen family members on a Subclass 189 (New Zealand Stream) Visa and children born in Australia to certain Subclass 444 Visa holders (conditions apply).
The change allows some New Zealand citizens to apply for Citizenship immediately after being granted Permanent Residence through the Subclass 189 (New Zealand Stream) Visa, without having to hold this visa for 12 months.
Ties to Australia given greater weight for New Zealanders in Australia facing deportation
Australia has also changed its approach to cancelling the visas of New Zealanders on character grounds. In Australia, Section 501 of the Migration Act requires that a person needs to be of good character to visit or remain in the country.
Its policy was tightened in 2015 to allow the Immigration Minister to deport a person for spending more than one year in an Australian prison. Since this time, nearly 3,000 New Zealanders have been deported.
While a formal change of Section 501 hasn’t occurred, Australian Immigration Minister, Andrew Giles, issued a new Ministerial Direction in February which ordered the Department of Home Affairs to make the length of time a New Zealand Citizen has lived in Australia and their connections to the community a top consideration when deciding to cancel their visa and deport them on character grounds.
The Direction recognises that some New Zealanders have been in Australia since they were very young children, and that it may be inequitable to send them to New Zealand when they have no connections there. It also directs case officers to consider the impact of deportation on any dependent children they have in Australia.
Interstaff | Over 30 years of Australian visa and migration experience
The changes are a welcome and positive step towards improving the migration journeys of New Zealanders living in Australia and acknowledging the positive contribution New Zealand citizens make in Australia.
Should you require visa, citizenship or migration advice, we encourage you to contact Interstaff’s Registered Migration Agents. Our migration agents provide advice on your eligibility for Australian Citizenship and assist you with the process of preparing evidence for the application.
Interstaff is an Australian-owned and operated business providing strategic migration advice to businesses and individuals Australia-wide and internationally since 1988. Simply call Interstaff’s Migration Agents on 08 9221 3388 (Perth) or 02 7200 2567 (Sydney) or 03 8319 0902 (Melbourne) or +61 8 9221 3388 (International).