Australian permanent residence & citizenship options for New Zealand citizens

New Zealand citizens who arrive in Australia are granted a Special Category Visa (SCV) (subclass 444) on arrival, allowing them to live in Australia indefinitely. However, this is only a temporary visa and does not guarantee holders the same rights as permanent residents or Australian citizens. For example, such NZ citizens may not have full social security or pension rights as Australian permanent residents, or ability to access tertiary education on the same terms as Australian permanent residents.

Additionally NZ citizens, even if they have resided in Australia for many years and have all their family members residing in Australia, can be permanently removed from Australia if they become of ‘character’ concern. For example, there are mandatory visa cancellation arrangements for those who are sentenced to a minimum term of imprisonment in Australia.

New Zealand citizens considering Australian permanent residence or citizenship, may be eligible by the following routes:

1.       Protected Special Category Visa holders

Protected SCV holders are those SCV holders who:

  • were in Australia on 26 February 2001; or

  • were in Australia as an SCV holder for a period of, or periods totalling, 12 months during the two years immediately before 26 February 2001; or

  • commenced or recommenced residing in Australia within three months from 26 February 2001; or

  • were residing in Australia on 26 February 2001 but were temporarily absent.

Protected SCV holders can apply for citizenship without needing a permanent visa, they must just meet the usual citizenship criteria including residential and character requirements.

2.       Skilled Independent subclass 189 (New Zealand) stream

New Zealand citizens who resided in Australia on a subclass 444 SCV, for at least 5 years prior to 19 February 2016, are eligible for a general skilled migration stream (subclass 189) visa .

To be eligible, applicants must have a taxable income at or above the income threshold (approximately $55,000 per annum) for four of the five years prior to lodging an application and must meet mandatory health, character and security requirements. A health waiver is available for those with medical conditions, and Putt Legal has expertise in this area.

New Zealand citizens who are granted this permanent visa will be eligible for Australian citizenship after 12 months.

3.       Resident Return Visas

New Zealand citizens who first arrived in Australia prior to September 1994, even for a brief period, may be eligible to apply for Australian permanent residence status by applying for a resident return visa (subclass 155). The visa application charge for this visa is currently $365, and eligibility for this visa may depend on the periods of residence in Australia since the first arrival date.

4.       Permanent residents

A New Zealand citizen who is in Australia on a permanent visa (rather than a subclass 444 SCV), who meets the residency requirement (soon to be four years on a permanent visa), and is of good character can still apply for citizenship by this route.

Give Putt Legal a call on 9221 7682  for assistance in applying for citizenship, or a permanent visa.


Putt Legal are your specialists in Immigration Law. We can assist you in making your migration to Australia seamless.

The Australian visa process can be complex and confusing; our lawyers work with you to guide you through every step of the way.

We are highly qualified and experienced in immigration law matters and are committed to providing expert advice in every individual case.

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