Australian Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese has announced that commencing from 1 July 2023, eligible New Zealand citizens living in Australia will have a direct pathway to Australian Citizenship.
This new pathway for NZ citizens in Australia to qualify for Australian Citizenship will be available to Subclass 444 Special Category visa holders who arrived in Australia after 26 February 2001 and who meet a four-year residency requirement, in addition to other eligibility criteria.
This NZ pathway to Australian Citizenship measure will make it easier for subclass 444 NZ citizen in Australia visa holders to attain Australian Citizenship as they will no longer be required to become Australian permanent residents (for at least 12 months) before being eligible for Citizenship.
Special Category visa holders will still be required to meet all other Citizenship eligibility requirements, including an Australian residence requirement as well as character criteria to qualify under this new direct Australian Citizenship for New Zealanders pathway.
These changes only apply to Citizenship applications lodged on or after 1 July 2023. A New Zealander applying for Citizenship in Australia before this date must still meet the 12-month Australian permanent residency requirement.
What Is The Special Category Visa?
The Subclass 444 NZ citizen in Australia visa is a temporary visa for eligible New Zealand citizens that permits them to remain in Australia indefinitely whilst they are a New Zealand citizen.
The Subclass 444 NZ citizen in Australia visa is usually applied for on arrival in Australia and ceases on departure. The visa cannot be extended and a new application must be made on each new arrival to Australia.
Special Category visa holders are not subject to any visa conditions whilst they are in Australia. This means that subclass 444 NZ citizen in Australia visa holders can work and study in Australia without restriction.
What Happened Before 27 February 2001 To Special Category Visa Holders?
Special Category visa holders who arrived in Australia before 27 February 2001 were able to apply for Australian Citizenship without first having to apply for permanent residency. Note that this cohort of Special Category visa holders will continue to be eligible to apply directly for Australian Citizenship after the changes come into force from 1 July 2023.
Following changes to the Citizenship provisions which came into effect on 27 February 2001, this direct pathway to Citizenship was closed. From then on, Special Category visa holders were no longer considered to be permanent residents for Citizenship purposes.
What Happened From 27 February 2001 To Special Category Visa Holders?
Commencing on 27 February 2001, New Zealand citizens in Australia were required to obtain a permanent visa in order to be considered a permanent resident for Citizenship purposes, unless they were covered by transitional arrangements. That is, a Special Category visa was no longer considered a permanent visa for Citizenship purposes.
The transitional arrangements applied to New Zealand citizens who:
- were in Australia on 26 February 2001 as the holder of a Special Category visa; or
- were outside Australia on 26 February 2001 but were in Australia as the holder of a Special Category visa, for one or more periods totalling 12 months in the two years immediately prior to 26 February 2001; or
- did not fall within the above two categories but had a Centrelink certificate issued under the
Social Security Act, which states that the person was, for the purposes of that Act, residing in Australia on a particular date. This included people who were temporarily absent from Australia but were in receipt of Centrelink payments.
Persons covered by these transitional arrangements were taken to be permanent residents of Australia during any period whilst they were in Australia as the holder of a Special Category visa. They were also taken to be permanent residents of Australia while they were outside Australia, provided they were ordinarily resident in Australia.
What Happens Under The New Direct Pathway To Australian Citizenship For New Zealanders From 1 July 2023?
The new direct New Zealand pathway to Australian Citizenship measure, which comes into effect from 1 July 2023, will mean that Special Category visa holders who arrive in Australia from 27 February 2001 will no longer be required to first become permanent residents before being eligible for Australian Citizenship.
Thus, irrespective of when a New Zealander arrived in Australia as a Special Category visa holder, they will be eligible to apply for Australian Citizenship, with no requirement to first become a permanent resident under the new direct NZ pathway to Australian Citizenship measure.
What Other Citizenship Eligibility Requirements Will Apply Under The New Pathway For NZ Citizens In Australia?
To qualify for Australian Citizenship following the introduction of the new direct Australian Citizenship for New Zealanders measure announced by the Prime Minister, Special Category visa holders will still be required to meet all other Citizenship eligibility requirements, as set out below.
General Eligibility For Australian Citizenship For New Zealanders Applying For Citizenship In Australia Under The New Direct Pathway
Under the General Citizenship eligibility requirements (the most common scenario), Special Category visa holders will need to satisfy the following criteria to qualify for Australian Citizenship under the new pathway for NZ citizens in Australia, from 1 July 2023:
- be aged 18 years or over at the time of making a Citizenship application;
- meet the general residence requirement, special residence requirement or defence service requirement at the time of application for Citizenship;
- understand the nature of the Citizenship application;
- possesses a basic knowledge of the English language;
- have an adequate knowledge of Australia and of the responsibilities and privileges of Australian citizenship;
- be likely to reside, or to continue to reside in Australia, or maintain a close and continuing association with Australia if the Citizenship application is approved; and
- be of good character at the time of decision on the Citizenship application.
Requirements 3, 4 and 5 will be considered to have been met where an applicant attends an interview and successfully completes the Citizenship test.
Be aware that different eligibility requirements apply in circumstances where the Citizenship applicant:
- has a permanent or enduring physical or mental incapacity;
- is aged 60 years or over;
- has a hearing, speech or sight impairment;
- is aged under 18 years; or
- is born to a former Australian citizen.
Certain citizenship applicants are also not required to attend an interview or sit a Citizenship test, including those who are:
- aged 17 years or younger at the time of making the application for citizenship;
- aged 60 years or over at the time of application; or
- unable to sit the test due to an incapacity or impairment.
What Is The General Residence Requirement?
In the most common scenario, a New Zealander applying for Citizenship in Australia who holds a Special Category visa will need to meet the general residence requirement to qualify for Australian Citizenship under the NZ pathway to Australian Citizenship measure.
This criterion will be satisfied where the applicant has:
- been lawfully present in Australia for the period of four years immediately before the date of making the Citizenship application;
- been present in Australia as a permanent resident for the period of 12 months immediately before making the Citizenship application.
- not been absent from Australia for more than 12 months in the last four years; and
- not been absent from Australia for more than 90 days in the 12-month period immediately before the date of applying for Australian Citizenship.
Following the introduction of the New Zealand pathway to Australian Citizenship measure, which will take effect from 1 July 2023, for New Zealand citizens who are long-term residents of Australia, their period of permanent residence in Australia for Citizenship purposes will be backdated. This will allow them to meet the 12-month permanent residence period under the general residence requirement.
How Will This Be Achieved Under The Direct New Zealand Pathway To Australian Citizenship?
With effect from 1 July 2023:
- all New Zealand citizens holding a Special Category visa will be considered permanent residents for Citizenship purposes;
- New Zealand citizens granted a Special Category visa before 1 July 2022 will have their period of permanent residence for Citizenship purposes backdated to 1 July 2022;
- New Zealand citizens granted a Special Category visa for the first time on or after 1 July 2022 will be considered a permanent resident for Citizenship purposes from the date of visa grant.
The above provisions will apply to New Zealand citizens in Australia. They will also apply to New Zealand citizens who are overseas, but who held a Special Category visa immediately before last departing Australia.
What Is The Character Requirement?
To satisfy the character criteria for Australian Citizenship under the new direct Australian Citizenship for New Zealanders pathway, good character refers to the enduring moral qualities of the applicant.
An applicant who is of good character is likely to uphold and obey the laws of Australia and the other commitments made when making the Pledge of Commitment should they be approved to become an Australian citizen.
According to Immigration policy, in assessing the character of a Citizenship applicant, the Department must:
- consider any character issues that arise on the facts of a case;
- consider all relevant information;
- be mindful that the requirement to be of ‘good character’ does not mean that a person must be of ‘perfect character’; and
- be mindful that a person who may not have been of good character can become a person of good character.
Further, Immigration policy states that the Department can be satisfied that an applicant is of good character if they have demonstrated good enduring and lasting moral qualities that are evident before their visa application, throughout the period that they held a visa, and during the time that their Citizenship application was lodged and processed.
Evidence Of Good Character
As part of the Citizenship application under the new pathway for NZ citizens in Australia, the applicant must provide:
- an Australian National Police Check from the Australian Federal Police;
- a penal clearance certificate from every country in which the applicant spent more than 90 days since they turned 18 years of age; and
- a full record of convictions from New Zealand.
What Happens To Children Born In Australia To Special Category Visa Holders Under The New Direct NZ Pathway To Australian Citizenship?
The backdating of permanent residence for Special Category visa holders under the NZ pathway to Australian Citizenship will also impact children of Special Category visa holders who are born in Australia.
Commencing from 1 July 2023 under the New Zealand pathway to Australian Citizenship measure, any child born in Australia on or after 1 July 2022 to a Special Category visa holder may automatically acquire Australian Citizenship at birth.
From 1 July 2023, children who meet these circumstances can apply for evidence of Citizenship.
For further information and advice about these changes for New Zealanders applying for Citizenship in Australia and to assess your eligibility for Australian Citizenship, please contact us at PAX Migration and book your initial consultation today.
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Australia’s migration laws are complex, and each case is different. We recommend that you seek professional advice if you are interested in applying for Australian Citizenship, including the new direct pathway to Australian Citizenship for New Zealanders, as being fully informed will give you the best chance of achieving a successful outcome on your case. A migration professional can help you to do this. There are several terms that are defined in the migration law. Detailed advice about these is beyond the scope of this article and we would therefore recommend that you seek further information in this regard.
For up-to-date advice on the new pathway for NZ citizens in Australia to qualify for Citizenship and how to apply for Australian Citizenship, contact PAX Migration Australia, a leading immigration service providing advice on a range of visas and Australian Citizenship. Contact us for a no-obligation discussion on how we may be able to assist you to achieve your migration goals in Australia.
Prime Minister of Australia – Direct Pathway To Australian Citizenship For New Zealanders – Media Release – 22 Apr 2023 – Prime Minister, Minister for Home Affairs, Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs
Australian Government – Department of Home Affairs – Immigration and Citizenship – Australian Citizenship – Become an Australian citizen – Become an Australian citizen (by conferral) – Permanent residents or eligible New Zealand citizens – Step by step