Australian Visa Article

Permanent Residency for New Zealanders in Australia - Part 1

Permanent Residency for New Zealanders in Australia - Part 1

New Zealand citizens in Australia permanent residency and Citizenship

What are some of the permanent residency visa options and requirements for Australian citizenship for New Zealanders in Australia?

As a New Zealander, you can travel to Australia and live here indefinitely with full work rights.

However, did you know that as New Zealanders you are not automatically eligible for the full range of government benefits or for Australian citizenship?

If you have been living in Australia for quite some time, you may be wondering about your Australian permanent residency status. As a New Zealander in Australia, if you can meet certain requirements, you could be eligible for Australian permanent residency or citizenship.

This could be because either (1) you are an eligible New Zealand citizen for Australian citizenship OR (2) if you are not an eligible NZ citizen, but are able to apply for the subclass 189 NZ stream permanent residency visa.

Getting Permanent Residency or citizenship gives NZ citizens a much more secure status in Australia. In this article, I’ll explain these options which are exclusively available for New Zealanders.

Your permanent options can be broken into four large groups of people which will depend on the date you arrived in Australia.

I will do this in two parts as there’s quite a lot of information to cover for this topic, so today, we’ll consider the two most common groups of people today. Subsequently, I’ll cover the other two options in a separate article.

Step by step guide

Jay Son – Australian Immigration Lawyer

Jay Son, our principal migration lawyer and Director of Hummingbird Legal is based in Australia. Jay is admitted to the Supreme Court of Queensland and the High Court of Australia. Jay is based in Australia and practises exclusively in Australian immigration law.

Jay is a strong migration advocate and has assisted many New Zealand citizens with their permanent residency and Australian citizenship options and is able to guide you through the entire process.

Jay is also highly experienced in complex visa cases as well as challenging government decisions in relation to Australian immigration law. He solves difficult migration matters and visa problems including the AAT appeals, visa refusals, visa cancellations, Schedule 3 partner visa criteria submissions, health waiver and character concerns.

If you want to learn more about Jay, click here.

#1 – Am I an eligible New Zealand Citizen?

What is an eligible New Zealand citizen?

If you are a New Zealand citizen and you are in Australia, you most likely have a visa called Subclass 444 Special Category visa (‘444 visa’). This is a great visa because you can stay in Australia indefinitely with full work rights. This is a very commonly known visa for New Zealand citizens in Australia. For as long as you are in Australia, this visa will not expire unless there are some serious character concerns, and the Department wants to cancel your visa because of this.

Visa cancellation is a different topic so I won’t be covering that in today’s article. In fact, I have other articles where I’ve explained more about situations involving visa cancellations in Australia. You can click here and here to read more about visa cancellations in Australia.

Back to the topic, the first group I will consider is the people who are called eligible New Zealand citizens.

Generally speaking, the process of obtaining Australian citizenship requires you to first be on a temporary visa, which in your case as a New Zealander, is the subclass 444 special category visa. Then the next step is to apply for permanent visa which I’ll explain in more detail further along in this article, and finally, once you have the permanent visa, this is when you can apply for Australian citizenship.

Now, the good news is that if you are an eligible New Zealand citizen (‘eligible New Zealand citizen Australia’), you actually are treated as a permanent resident in Australia already, and this means, you can apply for Australian citizenship straight away.

In most cases, this is the best case scenario as a New Zealand citizen living in Australia.

Whether or not you are an eligible New Zealand citizen is determined by your presence in Australia on specific dates and circumstances. There are four of specific circumstances and one of these must be of your circumstances.

The eligible New Zealand Citizen requirements are:

  • If you were in Australia on 26 February 2001;
  • If you spent at least 12 months in Australia holding a special category visa in the two years immediately before 26 February 2001
  • If you commenced or recommenced living in Australia within 3 months from 26 February 2001; or
  • Finally, if you were usually residing in Australia on 26 February 2001, but you were temporarily away

If you are in any one of the above circumstances, you are an eligible New Zealand citizen, and therefore, you already are a permanent resident in Australia and you can apply for Australian citizenship straight away. You do not need to apply for a permanent visa in your case. When you apply for your citizenship, you will need to demonstrate that you meet at least one of the earlier mentioned requirements with the Department.


#2 – What if I am not an eligible New Zealand Citizen but came to live in Australia on or before 19 February 2016?  

Now, even if you are not an eligible New Zealand Citizen, you can still apply for permanent residency.

This is the second group I would like to address in this article.

One great benefit for those who came to live in Australia on or before 19 February 2016 is that they can consider applying for the ‘Skilled Independent subclass 189 visa NZ stream’.

This is a streamlined visa exclusively available for those with a NZ passport who have demonstrated commitment and contribution to Australia.

The other great benefit is that when you apply for this visa, your dependents, including your partner and children can all apply together with you, meaning all of you can become Australian permanent residents all at the same time.

To be eligible for NZ Stream 189 Visa:

  • You must have come to live in Australia on or before 19 February 2016;
  • You must have usually resided in Australia for a continuous period of at least 5 years right before you apply for this visa;
  • You must meet the minimum income threshold, which is currently $53,900 per year, for at least 3 completed financial years in those 5 years; and
  • Lastly, you and your dependents applying for this visa with you will need to meet health and character requirements.

Once you get this visa, you will have the full range of government benefits and you will be eligible to apply for Australian citizenship as well.


#3 – What if I have different circumstances?

This was some of the information I wanted to share with you about your permanent residency and Australian citizenship options as a NZ citizen living in Australia. At this point, you might be wondering, “what about those who came to live in Australia in the 80s and the 90s as well as those who came to live in Australia much after the 19th February 2016?” These people will have options of their own, and I will cover this in Part 2 in a separate article coming soon.


Contact Us

In the meantime, if you are thinking about settling your permanency in Australia either for yourself and/or your dependents, and you think you may be an eligible New Zealand citizen wanting to apply for Australian citizenship, OR you are not an eligible NZ citizen but you may be able to apply for the 189 visa New Zealand stream, feel free to get in touch with us for assistance.

Depending on your individual circumstances, we can help you check your eligibility requirements and assist you with applying for either the Australian citizenship straight away or the Australian permanent residency.  

We’ll able to advise you on your best course of action that is both cost effective, time saving and within consideration of your dependent family members given your unique situation.

You can call us, email us or send us an enquiry form on our website.


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