Australian visasCitizenshipNew Zealand

Australian citizenship and permanent residence for New Zealanders: A Quick (as possible) Guide

By April 29, 2020May 8th, 2020No Comments

The tale of New Zealanders in Australia is a long and convoluted one. Under various arrangements since the 1920s, there has been a free flow of people between Australia and New Zealand. Once as close as siblings, that relationship has since cooled, with New Zealanders now treated as cousins at best.

What is the status of New Zealanders in Australia?

Provided they meet certain health and character requirements, New Zealand citizens who lawfully cross the Tasman into Australia are automatically granted a Special Category (Subclass 444) visa (SCV) . This visa enables a New Zealander to remain in Australia indefinitely, work without restriction, and study. However, they are not permanent residents.

As a result, whether they have access to social security (or for example, the recent Job Seeker payment) depends on when they arrived and their circumstances at the time.

This quick guide attempts to provide a simplified summary of the implications.

A (far too) brief summary

Be wary that this table is just a guide, and there are nuances that may impact the specific rights and obligations. We strongly recommend you speak to your immigration professional before making a decision based on this.

Arrived prior to 1 September 1994 (first cohort)
Arrived after 1 September 1994 and up to 26 February 2001 (second cohort)
Arrived after 26 February 2001 and up to 19 February 2016 (third cohort)
Arrived after 19 February 2016 (current cohort)
Visa status

Exempt non-citizen and considered a Permanent resident

Protected SCV Holder (see more info below)

SCV Holder

SCV Holder

Social Security Status

Generally have access to all Australian social security benefits

Generally have access to all Australian social security benefits

New Zealand citizens who are non-protected SCV holders (those who arrived after 26 February 2001) who intend to live in Australia permanently are only eligible for certain payments under certain conditions

New Zealand citizens who are non-protected SCV holders (those who arrived after 26 February 2001) who intend to live in Australia permanently are only eligible for certain payments under certain conditions

Eligibility for citizenship

Can apply for citizenship directly if they can demonstrate they are a protected SCV holder

Can apply for citizenship directly if they can demonstrate that they are a protected SCV holder

Can apply for citizenship after obtaining permanent residence (but are able to obtain permanent residence through the 189 New Zealand stream)

Can apply for citizenship after obtaining permanent residence (typically through skilled migration or having an Australian family member)

The above cohorts are addressed in more detail below.

First cohort: those who arrived in Australia prior to 1 September 1994

Visa status in Australia

New Zealanders who arrived in Australia prior to 1 September 1994 are considered “exempt non-citizens”. This means that they are considered permanent residents if they remained in Australia or former permanent residents if they are returning to Australia.

If they departed the country, on return to Australia, they will still be granted a SCV (which in itself is a temporary visa).

However, if they wish, they can re-obtain permanent residence by making an application for the Resident Return Visa (RRV) (see here).

In most cases, there is no additional benefit in applying for the RRV.

Social security status

These individuals have the same social security entitlements as other Australian permanent residents. This means that they have the same eligibility as Australian citizens, provided they have served any applicable waiting period (see here).

Citizenship eligibility

Under s 5 of the Citizenship Act, the Minister has by legislative instrument determined that individuals in the first cohort can be treated as permanent residents for a Citizenship application if they are a protected SCV holder. Broadly speaking, a protected SCV holder is an SCV holder who meets one of the following categories:

  1. an SCV holder who was in Australia on 26 February 2001 or
  2. an SCV holder who was in Australia as an SCV holder for a period of, or periods totalling, 12 months during the period 2 years immediately before 26 February 2001 or
  3. an SCV holder who commenced or recommenced residing in Australia within 3 months from 26 February 2001 or
  4. an SCV holder who was residing in Australia on 26 February 2001, but was temporarily absent

These terms are far more complex than this summary (see here) so it is important you review this with an immigration professional before making any applications based on a claim you fit the criteria.

If you are able to demonstrate that you are an SCV holder, you may treat periods of stay in Australia as if you are a permanent resident for the purposes of an Australian citizenship application by conferral (see here).

Second cohort: Those who arrived after 1 September 1994 and up to 26 February 2001

Visa status in Australia

These individuals are granted SCV’s on arrival, which allows them to remain in Australia indefinitely, work without restriction, and study, but they are not permanent residents.

Social security status

These individuals have the same social security entitlements as other Australian permanent residents. This means that they have the same eligibility as Australian citizens, provided they have served any applicable waiting period (see here).

Citizenship eligibility

Under s 5 of the Citizenship Act, the Minister has by legislative instrument determined that individuals in the first cohort can be treated as permanent residents for a Citizenship application if they are a protected SCV holder. Broadly speaking, a protected SCV holder is an SCV holder who meets one of the following categories:

  1. an SCV holder who was in Australia on 26 February 2001 or
  2. an SCV holder who was in Australia as an SCV holder for a period of, or periods totalling, 12 months during the period 2 years immediately before 26 February 2001 or
  3. an SCV holder who commenced or recommenced residing in Australia within 3 months from 26 February 2001 or
  4. an SCV holder who was residing in Australia on 26 February 2001, but was temporarily absent

These terms are far more complex than this summary (see here) so it is important you review this with an immigration professional before making any applications based on a claim you fit the criteria.

If you are able to demonstrate that you are an SCV holder, you may treat periods of stay in Australia as if you are a permanent resident for the purposes of an Australian citizenship application by conferral (see here).

Third cohort: Those who arrived after 26 February 2001 and up to 19 February 2016

Visa status in Australia

These individuals are granted SCV’s on arrival, which allows them to remain in Australia indefinitely, work without restriction, and study, but they are not permanent residents.

Social security status

New Zealand citizens who have arrived in Australia since 26 February 2001 on SCVs are considered ‘non-protected SCV holders’ and have restricted eligibility to social security benefits. DSS provides information about which social security benefits may be claimed.

Citizenship eligibility

As they are treated as ordinary temporary visa holders, individuals in this cohort must obtain Australian permanent residence before they can apply for citizenship.

If seeking eventual permanent residence, individuals in this cohort can apply for permanent residence under the standard visa categories:

  1. Partner visas (see here)
  2. General skilled migration (see here)
  3. Investor visas (see here)
  4. Other visas (see here)

One benefit for this cohort is that they can also consider the Skilled Independent (subclass 189) NZ stream. This is a streamlined visa is for New Zealand citizens who have demonstrated commitment and contribution to Australia. Broadly speaking, the eligibility requirements for this visa are that:

  1. the main applicant had been usually resident in Australia for a continuous period of at least 5 years immediately before the date of the application
  2. the continuous period of usual residence in Australia started on or before 19 February 2016
  3. the main applicant provides copies of notices of assessment of the applicant’s income tax liability in relation to the 4 most recently completed income years before the date of the application (during the period of 5 years immediately before that date)
  4. for each of the 4 completed years, the main applicant’s taxable income was at least $53,990 (unless exempt) per annum

Partners/spouses and children may be included in such an application. All applicants will need to meet health and character clearances.

In most cases, this application is far simpler than other available permanent residence pathways.

Once individuals in this cohort become permanent residents, they may make an application for Australian citizenship by conferral (see here).

Current cohort: Those who arrived after 19 February 2016

Visa status in Australia

These individuals are granted SCV’s on arrival, which allows them to remain in Australia indefinitely, work without restriction, and study, but they are not permanent residents.

Social security status

New Zealand citizens who have arrived in Australia since 26 February 2001 on SCVs are considered ‘non-protected SCV holders’ and have restricted eligibility to social security benefits. DSS provides information about which social security benefits may be claimed.

Citizenship eligibility

As they are treated as ordinary temporary visa holders, individuals in this cohort must obtain Australian permanent residence before they can apply for citizenship.

If seeking eventual permanent residence, individuals in this cohort can apply for permanent residence under the standard visa categories:

  1. Partner visas (see here)
  2. General skilled migration (see here)
  3. Investor visas (see here)
  4. Other visas (see here)

Individuals in this cohort cannot apply for the Skilled Independent (subclass 189) NZ stream.

Any questions?

If you’re a New Zealand citizen interested in Australian permanent residency, please feel free to reach out to us by email at [email protected] or phone (03) 9016 0484.

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THIS DOCUMENT DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE OR CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP. PLEASE CONSULT AN IMMIGRATION PROFESSIONAL FOR UP TO DATE INFORMATION.
Mihan Hannan

Author Mihan Hannan

Formerly a Senior Associate in one of Australia’s most reputable immigration litigation and review practices, Mihan is solutions focused and well versed in all aspects of Australian immigration law. Mihan also has a subscription addiction, being obsessed with tools to improve the immigration work flow.

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