Written by Belinda Christie
It appears there is a lot of confusion about the status of New Zealand citizens that reside in Australia. Most appear to be under the impression that they hold permanent residency in Australia and for most this is not the case.
Special Category 444 Visa
When a New Zealand citizen arrives in Australia without a visa (which is most New Zealanders), they apply for a visa by filling out their Incoming Passenger Card (IPC). Most don’t realise this is the case and don’t place enough importance on being honest on the IPC. The most important questions are the health and character declarations. By being dishonest on this card, it can actually result in being refused entry to Australia. This is not a pleasant experience and can put a damper on a move or visit to Australia.
However, once a New Zealand citizen has been immigration cleared then they have been granted a Special Category subclass 444 visa. This is granted on each entry to Australia and ceases as soon as the New Zealand citizen departs the country. If they re-enter Australia, they are granted a new subclass 444 visa.
This visa allows the New Zealand citizen to reside in Australia permanently and has full work rights. So basically a New Zealand citizen can stay in Australia as long as they continue to meet the character requirements. As they are the holder of a visa, the visa can be cancelled and the New Zealand citizen removed if they fail character requirements or are deemed to be a danger to the Australian public.
However, a New Zealand citizen who is the holder of a Special Category 444 visa is not a permanent resident in Australia, unless they apply for a permanent visa just like foreigners from any other country. A New Zealand citizen cannot sponsor a spouse or family member for permanent residency, they cannot access most social security payments (however this may change very soon) and they are not eligible for Australian citizenship.
Eligible New Zealand citizens
If a New Zealand citizen was living in Australia on a Special Category 444 visa on 26 February 2001 or for at least one year in the two years immediately before 26 February 2001 then they are known as an Eligible New Zealand citizen.
Otherwise, if a New Zealand citizen has a certificate that was issued by Centrelink that states they were residing in Australia on a particular date they are also known as an Eligible New Zealand citizen. These certificates are no longer issued by Centrelink.
The benefits of being an Eligible New Zealand citizen include: – The ability to sponsor a spouse or certain family members for an Australian permanent visa – The ability to access certain Centrelink payments – The ability to acquire Australian citizenship
Australian citizenship for those born to New Zealand citizens
This can be rather complicated depending on the date a person was born to a New Zealand citizen in Australia.
If a person was born in Australia to New Zealand citizen parents between 20 August 1986 and 31 August 1994, they would acquire citizenship by their 10th birthday as long as they have been ordinarily resident in Australia for the 10 years since their birth. This means they have resided in Australia since their birth.
If a person was born in Australia between 1 September 1994 and 26 February 2001 and one parent was present in Australia at the time as the holder of a Special Category 444 visa they would acquire Australian citizenship at birth. There are several people this does not apply to such as diplomats, but for the majority they would Australian citizenship.
A person born in Australia after 27 February 2001 to New Zealand citizen parents are not considered Australian citizens unless at least one parent is an Australian citizen or has been granted permanent residence.
However, if a person was born to New Zealand citizen parents after this date, they acquired citizenship at birth if the New Zealand citizen parent was in Australia on 26 February 2001 or if they were not in Australia on this date, they were in Australia for a period of time that equalled at least a year in the 2 years immediately prior to that date. Otherwise, if the New Zealand citizen parent holds a Centrelink certificate stating they were residing in Australia on a particular date, then the person born after 27 February 2001 acquired Australian citizenship at birth.
If a person was born in Australia to New Zealand citizen parents after 26 February 2001 and they have been an ordinary resident in Australia for 10 years since birth, they will acquire citizenship by their 10th birthday.
If you believe you may be an Australian citizen, it is encouraged to obtain an Australian passport before traveling. Many people continue to travel on a New Zealand passport and a Border Force officer is unable to check your status if you have never updated your status with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. These officers are not qualified to make an assessment on your citizenship eligibility, particularly in the fast paced airport environment. So to ensure you are not then granted a subclass 444 visa, ensure you are travelling on an Australian passport which will allow you to use the fast Smartgate, or have updated your status with the department and alert a Border Force officer of your Australian citizenship if you choose not to travel on an Australian passport.
New Zealand citizens often apply for other permanent or temporary visas. If a New Zealand citizen does not meet the character requirement for a subclass 444 visa, they can still travel to Australia as long as they apply for and are granted another visa prior to travel. Or if a New Zealand meets the requirements for a permanent visa, they often apply so they can have the benefits of permanent residency.
In 2017, the Australian Government introduced a permanent residency pathway for skilled New Zealand citizens that have resided in Australia for at least 5 years and have earned at least $53900 each year. The visa is the Independent Skilled (New Zealand Stream) subclass 189 visa. This visa allows you to include dependents with your application. A benefit of this visa application is that you only have to pay 20% of the visa application charge at time of visa application lodgement so you won’t be too out of pocket when applying for the visa. The other 80% is paid when the department is ready to grant the visa.
So as has been demonstrated, there is no straightforward answer to the status of New Zealand citizens in Australia. If you need help to decipher your status in Australia or would like to become a permanent resident or Australian citizen, contact Christie Migration Agents to advise and assist you.