New Zealand citizens becoming Australian citizens post COVID-19

Australia and New Zealand have a long history of having free flow of people between the two countries.

In fact, when the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 was proclaimed, it is a little know fact that in the definitions it referred to the States as:

“The States shall mean such of the colonies of New South Wales, New Zealand, Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia, and South Australia, including the northern territory of South Australia, as for the time being are parts of the Commonwealth, and such colonies or territories as may be admitted into or established by the Commonwealth as States; and each of such parts of the Commonwealth shall be called a State.”

Whilst the invitation was not taken up by New Zealand to be a part of the new Commonwealth the bonds between the two countries across the ‘ditch’ have always been strong both culturally, economically, and politically. Not to mention a great rivalry on the sporting field.

What does the post COVID Australia look like to New Zealanders?

There has always been a range of options for New Zealanders wishing to travel and live in Australia either for a short period of time or permanently and even become Australian citizens.

With the current travel bubble which will commence on 19 April 2021 people will not be required to quarantine.

Special Category visa (SCV) – subclass 444

This temporary visa which allows a New Zealand citizen to visit, study, stay and work as long as they wish in Australia.

The visa is applied for when you arrive in Australia and submit your completed incoming passenger card with your New Zealand passport.

Generally, this is processed as a matter of course at the airport.

The only exceptions to getting this visa is if you are assessed as a behaviour concern non-citizen (BCNC) or as a health concern non-citizen (HCNC).

A BCNC could be as a result of being:

  • convicted of a crime that has resulted in a sentence of death or imprisonment for at least one year
  • convicted of two or more crimes that have resulted in sentences of imprisonment that add up to at least one year
  • previously removed from Australia
  • previously removed or deported from another country

A HCNC is someone who has Tuberculosis.

This visa is valid for as long as you stay in Australia and remain a New Zealand citizen.

Once you leave Australia the visa ends, and you will have to apply for a new one when you return to Australia.

There is no charge for this visa.

How do I become an Australian Citizen?

Many New Zealanders often believe because they have the SCV they are permanent residents.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. Before you can qualify to become a citizen, you must be a permanent resident for the purpose of Australian citizenship.

The SCV does not limit the time for how long you can stay in Australia and for this reason many New Zealanders never apply for permanent residency believing they have become permanent residents, but that is not the case and the SCV does not lead to permanent residency.

Citizenship through being an Eligible New Zealand Citizen

An eligible New Zealand citizen can apply for citizenship by conferral without begin a permanent resident if they:

  • were in Australia on 26 February 2001 on an SCV
  • spent at least 12 months in Australia on an SCV in the 2 years immediately before 26 February 2001, or
  • have a Centrelink certificate from before 26 February 2004 that shows you were living in Australia

Citizenship through having a Resident Return Visa (RRV)

New Zealand citizens who were in Australia prior to 1 September 1994 even for a short period were considered at the time as ‘exempt non-citizens’.

This means a New Zealander in Australia prior to this date would be a permanent resident.

You must also establish that there were some compelling reasons for your absence and substantial ties of benefit to Australia.

As an RRV is a permanent class of visa once attained and subject to satisfying the permanent residency requirement for citizenship you can apply for your citizenship.

The permanent residency requirement is that you must have:

  • been living in Australia on a valid visa for the past 4 years
  • been a permanent resident or eligible New Zealand citizen for the past 12 months
  • not been away from Australia for no more than 12 months in total in the past 4 years, including no more than 90 days in total in the past 12 months.

Citizenship through the Skilled Independent Subclass 189 (New Zealand Stream)

On 1 July 2017, the New Zealand Stream of subclass 189 Skilled Independent Visa was introduced.

To qualify for this visa, you must have:

  • been resident in Australia for 5 years
  • an income level for each year greater than $53,900.00 for the 4 years prior to applying
  • satisfy health and character requirements.

This visa is a permanent visa and the benefit it that you can apply for citizenship after 12 months of holding this visa.

Other permanent visa options

If you do not qualify for any of the options outlined above New Zealand citizens can still apply for permanent residence through any of the other visa programs through skilled work visa, business visa and even partner visas.

For example, permanent employer sponsorship lets New Zealanders have access to concessions on the criteria where they have worked in a skilled occupation for the same employer for at least 2 years and the employer is willing to proceed through nomination application.

How can we help New Zealand citizens?

We have large numbers of New Zealand citizens with obtaining Australian permanent residency and citizenship.

Give our expert team a call or contact us to discuss what options may be open to you.