The government recently announced the long-awaited pathway through which New Zealanders can more easily acquire Australian citizenship. Starting from 1 July 2023, New Zealand citizens will be eligible to directly apply for Australian citizenship without having to first obtain permanent residency.
What is changing?
Currently, an applicant for Australian citizenship must be in possession of permanent residency. Upon arrival, New Zealand citizens are automatically granted a Special Category Visa (SCV) (Subclass 444). Although this visa permits an individual to remain in Australia indefinitely, it is considered to be a temporary visa.
Starting from 1 July 2023, holders of an SCV will be considered to be a permanent resident for citizenship purposes.
It is worth noting that apart from being eligible to apply for citizenship, the SCV will still be a temporary visa and other entitlements as an SCV holder will not change. Certain privileges which are reserved for Australian citizens and permanent residents, such as being able to sponsor your family members for permanent residency, will not be available until an individual is granted Australian citizenship.
Certain New Zealanders may already be entitled to permanent residency or “Eligible New Zealand Citizen” status, and do not need to rely on these upcoming changes. For more information on these prior pathways, you may consult our article here.
Timeframe of changes
The new rules will take effect on 1 July 2023. On this day:
- Any New Zealand citizen who has held an SCV prior to 1 July 2022, will be considered to have been a permanent resident starting on that day.
- Any New Zealand citizen who arrives in Australia and is granted their first SCV on or after 1 July 2022, will be considered to be a permanent resident starting on the day of their first SCV grant.
These rules will also apply to New Zealand citizens who are offshore, provided that they held an SCV at the time of their last departure from Australia. This means that even when an individual travels overseas and the relevant SCV ceases, they will nonetheless be considered to be a permanent resident for citizenship purposes.
What are the requirements for applying for citizenship?
The main criterion is to fulfil the general residence requirements. This entails being present in Australia for the period of 4 years before an application, and:
- not being absent for periods totalling more than 12 months during the 4 years; and
- not being absent for periods totalling more than 90 days during the 12 months preceding the application.
An individual will also need to satisfy the Department of identity and that they are of “good character.” After applying, an individual will also be required to attend an interview and sit a citizenship test.
For more information regarding citizenship and the services we offer, please see our citizenship page here.
Children of SCV holders
As SCV holders will be considered as permanent residents for citizenship purposes, this means that any children born in Australia to an SCV holder will be an Australian citizen by birth. The rules will apply differently, depending on when the child is born:
- Any child who is born on or after 1 July 2023 will be an Australian citizen from birth.
- If a child is born between 1 July 2022 and 30 June 2023, they will retroactively and automatically be considered to have been a citizen from the time of their birth, when the new rules take effect on 1 July 2023. In this situation, a child will be able to apply for evidence of citizenship status.
- Children born to SCV holders before 1 July 2022 would not become Australian citizens by birth, although dependent children aged 15 and under can be included in their parent’s citizenship application.
How we can help?
If you are a New Zealander hoping to become an Australian citizen, feel free to contact us by email at [email protected] or phone +61 3 9016 0484. Our staff are well placed to assist with all issues in relation to the citizenship application process.