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Special category visa for New Zealanders to become Aust citizens

New Zealanders who have lived in Australia for four years or more, and arrived after 2001, will be able to apply for citizenship without having to apply for permanent residency first.

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Australia has announced a special category visa that will make it easier for New Zealanders living in the country to become Australian citizens. Starting from July 1, 2023, New Zealanders who have lived in Australia for four years or more, and arrived after 2001, will be able to apply for citizenship without having to apply for permanent residency first.

“​From 1 July 2023, New Zealand citizens who have been living in Australia for four years or more will be eligible to apply directly for Australian citizenship. They will no longer need to first apply for and be granted a permanent visa. These changes apply to New Zealand citizens holding a Special Category (subclass 444) visa (SCV) who arrived in Australia after 26 February 2001. Protected SCV holders will continue to be eligible to apply directly for Australian citizenship,” said the Department of Home Affairs.

This is a significant development as New Zealand has been advocating for this reform since visa rules were tightened in 2001. The introduction of a special category visa restricted New Zealanders’ access to specific health and welfare support. In addition, it required them to apply for permanent residency before seeking citizenship – a process that was often costly and time-consuming.

 The new policy is expected to affect up to 350,000 New Zealanders currently residing in Australia. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese made the announcement a day ahead of a visit by his New Zealand counterpart Chris Hipkins. Albanese stated that he is “proud to offer the benefits that citizenship provides” to New Zealanders residing in Australia.

The general residence requirement for Australian citizenship by conferral is set out in the Australian Citizenship Act 2007. To meet the general residence requirement an applicant must be lawfully present in Australia for four years, including 12 months as a permanent resident, immediately before the date of application.

With effect from 1 July 2023:

  • All New Zealand citizens holding an SCV will be considered permanent residents for citizenship purposes.
  • New Zealand citizens granted an SCV before 1 July 2022 will have their period of permanent residence for citizenship purposes backdated to 1 July 2022.
  • New Zealand citizens granted an SCV for the first time on or after 1 July 2022 will be considered a permanent resident for citizenship purposes from the date of their SCV grant.

According to the DoHA, the above provisions will apply to New Zealand citizens in Australia. It will also apply to New Zealand citizens who are overseas, but held an SCV immediately before last leaving Australia.

“These provisions will not apply to citizenship applications submitted before 1 July 2023. If you submit your citizenship application before this date, and you do not meet the eligibility requirements, we will refuse your application and you will not be entitled to a refund,” DoHA said.

The reform has been welcomed by New Zealanders living in Australia, as it will make it easier for them to access the same benefits as Australian citizens. It will also open up pathways for Indians living in New Zealand, who often choose the latter as a stepping stone to move to Australia. According to a Ministry of External Affairs report, 240,000 Indians reside in New Zealand, of which there are 1.6 lakh people of Indian origin and 80,000 NRIs.

Melbourne-based Migration Expert Chaman Preet has welcomed the announcement, saying, “It’s great news for many who have been waiting patiently for years now”. She added that “this announcement will benefit a lot of potential applicants who are from the subcontinent and hold New Zealand passports.”

The reforms bring the rights of New Zealanders residing in Australia at par with those of Australians living in New Zealand.

There are currently about 670,000 New Zealanders living in Australia, with about 70,000 Australians in New Zealand.

This move is expected to enhance the already strong ties between Australia and New Zealand. It will benefit both countries regarding trade, tourism, and culture. It will also ensure that New Zealanders living in Australia are treated with fairness and equity and have access to the same rights as Australian citizens.

Read more: Australian universities refute claims of banning Indian students

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