Australia – New Path to Permanent Residence for New Zealanders in Australia

What has changed

Effective July 2017, New Zealand citizens already residing in Australia and holding a Special Category (subclass 444) visa (SCV) will be eligible to apply for a new stream within the Skilled Independent visa category, making them eligible for permanent residence.

Who is affected?

  • New Zealand Special Category (subclass 444) visa (SCV) holders who were usually resident in Australia on or before 19 February 2016 and who, at the time of lodging an application, have resided in Australia for at least five (5) years

What to expect

The new Skilled Independent 189 (New Zealand) Stream is an additional pathway for New Zealand citizens to secure permanent residence in Australia.

New Zealand citizens generally do not need to apply for a visa to enter and remain in Australia, but instead receive a Special Category Visa upon arrival which allows them to live and work in Australia but does not bestow upon them permanent residence status, meaning they do not qualify residentially for Australian citizenship and cannot sponsor family members to migrate to Australia. There are exceptions for some New Zealand citizens who arrived in Australia prior to 2001.

The new stream will be available to New Zealand citizens who hold a Special Category Visa and who were usually resident in Australia on or before 19 February 2016 and who have continued to reside in Australia for at least five (5) years and meet minimum income requirements in four (4) of the five (5) years prior to application.

Applicants will need to present tax returns evidencing income in four (4) of the five (5) previous years which met the applicable Temporary Skilled Migration Threshold ($53,900 for years 2013/14 to 2016/17 and A$51 000 for 2012/13).

The Government has estimated that up to 70,000 New Zealand citizens may seek to secure the visa. Following grant of permanent residence, there will also be capacity to apply for citizenship after residing a further year as a permanent resident.

Additionally, the Skilled Independent visa category age limit is being lowered to forty-five (45) years of age at the time of invitation to apply for the visa. Applicants invited to apply prior to 1 July 2017 are not affected even if applying after July. Until now, applicants could be up to forty-nine (49) at time of application.

Travelers departing Australia will no longer be required to complete an outgoing passenger card as the information now captured by the card will be gathered by other means.

It is of note to clients that some of their Australian-based employees may seek this visa type but it should be noted that New Zealand citizens relocating to Australia for the first time would continue to do so in the same way.

The Skilled Independent visa is not employer sponsored, but it should be noted that the reduction in maximum age to forty-five (45) is in line with changes to employer-sponsored categories and reflects an overall tightening of policy on immigration.

What you need to do
Planning ahead
  • Contact your Emigra Worldwide representative for further details on how these updates may impact you or your client.