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by Etienne Hugo

In the past New Zealand has been seen by many as a back door into Australia. This perception may have been formed as skilled immigration to New Zealand has in the past been easier to achieve than to Australia, and Kiwis were once deemed as Australian permanent residents.

Although it is true that there is a special relationship between Australia and New Zealand as its great Southern neighbour, New Zealand citizens are since February 26, 2001 no longer Australian permanent residents by virtue of the fact that they are New Zealand citizens living in Australia. The legal position of a New Zealand citizen who was usually residing in Australia for at least 12 months before February 26, 2001, is different to that of a newly arrived Kiwi. The new arrival is classified as an ‘eligible New Zealand citizen'. Although there may be a number of South Africans who became New Zealand citizens and then chose to reside in Australia and settle here before the above date, this number has remained stagnant in the nine years that have lapsed since that time.

The current position is that as a New Zealand citizen, the following immigration related benefits apply for Australia:

1. Eligibility for a Subclass 444 (special category) visa;

2. Eligibility for a New Zealander's spouse to apply for a Subclass 461 visa;

3. Eligibility for an eligible New Zealand citizen to sponsor a spouse for an Australian spouse visa (either offshore-Subclass 309/100 or the onshore-Subclass 820/801 visa);

4. Eligibility to apply for a general skilled migration, being an offshore visa category, but with the benefit of having the option to be granted this visa while physically in Australia, for example the Subclass 175 and Subclass 176 visa;

5. Holders of Subclass 444 visas are allowed to apply for onshore employer nomination scheme visa as being a suitable visa, as gazetted in the regulations.

6. New Zealand citizens have full work rights in Australia and also have access to Medicare under a reciprocal agreement between the two countries.

1. Subclass 444 (special category) visa

There is a common misconception that New Zealand citizens do not need a visa for Australia. The correct position is that all New Zealand citizens, including the prime minister for New Zealand, unless such a person obviously fails the relevant public interest criteria, will on entry to Australia be granted a Subclass 444 special category visa by operation of law. Such special class visas are not evidenced with a visa label, which may have further fueled the misconception referred to above.

The Subclass 444 visa allows for full work and study rights in Australia and is granted for an indefinite period of time. Note that it is a temporary visa and not a permanent visa for Australia, although the practiced implication is that a Kiwi can live here indefinitely. A holder of a temporary visa (Subclass 444) can never apply for Australian citizenship, no matter how long he or she resides in Australia with such a visa. Unless such a person fits the definition of an eligible New Zealand citizen then such a person is not entitled to support a spouse for an Australian spouse visa. The reasoning behind this is that the holder of Subclass 444 visa is a temporary resident of Australia, and is not eligible to sponsor a spouse for a visa that will lead to permanent residence.

Under the Act you are an eligible New Zealand citizen if:

a) You were in Australia on February 26, 2001 as the holder of a Special Category Visa; or

b) You were in Australia as the holder of a Special Category Visa for a period of, or periods that total, not less than one year in the period of two years immediately before February 26, 2001, or

c) You have a certificate, issued under the Social Security Act 1991, that states that you were, for the purposes of that Act, residing in Australia on that date.

Note though that a Subclass 444 visa holder can sponsor a spouse for a New Zealand spouse visa as explained below.

2. Subclass 461 – New Zealand spouse visa

New Zealand citizens who reside in Australia or plan to do so as holders of Subclass 444 visas, (who do not meet the definition of eligible New Zealand citizens) can sponsor a spouse or de facto partner for a Subclass 461 visa. The visa applicant must provide evidence that he or she is in a genuine and ongoing marriage or de facto relationship with a New Zealand citizen who currently lives in Australia, or is about to live in Australia, which creates the need for such a visa for Australia.

Subclass 461 visa holders have full work and study rights and the visa is granted for periods of four years.

Applications for Subclass 461 visas can be lodged in or outside Australia at the appropriate high commission, embassy or consulate.

3. Sponsorship for Australian spouse visa

New Zealand citizens who meet the definition of being an eligible New Zealand citizen have the capacity to sponsor a spouse or de facto partner for an Australia spouse visa, either onshore or offshore.

In addition to meeting the relevant definition, a sponsor for an Australian spouse visa must further meet sponsorship criteria where a variety of issues are relevant. Examples of these include age, marital status previous sponsorships, previously held visas, and so on.

Other requirements are identical to that of a spouse visa, as sponsored by an Australian citizen or Australian permanent resident.

4. Eligibility to be granted a general skilled migration (offshore) visa in Australia

It is a Schedule One criteria requirement that applicants for general skilled migration (under the offshore category) be physically outside Australia on the date of decision in relation to that application. Although the applicant's physical residence is not critical at time of application, it is vital for a valid visa decision that the applicant for this offshore application is physically outside of Australia on the date of decision. In practice DIAC issues pre-grant letters requesting visa applicants to depart Australia for visa grant.

A special benefit afforded to New Zealand citizens as applicants for general skilled migration visas is that these applicants are allowed to remain physically in Australia at time of decision and can be granted the visa sought while remaining physically in Australia.

5. Eligibility to apply for an onshore employer nominated permanent visa

New Zealand citizens who reside in Australia as holders of Subclass 444 visas are eligible to apply for an onshore permanent visa through the employer nomination scheme (ENS) and can benefit from the application of regulation 856.213(b)(iii)(A), whereby an applicant will meet the relevant criteria in relation to skill level by providing evidence that the applicant was a holder of a suitable visa for at least two years, in which time the applicant worked in the nominated occupation or a closely related occupation for at least one year with the current sponsoring employer.

Such persons do not have to meet the alternative skill level requirement that may require formal skills assessment or very high salary levels.

As only a handful of temporary or provisional visas allow for an onshore application for a Subclass 856 visa, this concession is significant as a benefit to New Zealand citizens.

It is important to consider the eligibility criteria for the ENS visa categories to confirm eligibility.

Note: It is important to contact an immigration agent to further discuss your potential eligibility or that of your family or friends.

Dr Etienne Hugo is a South African born lawyer based in Australia. He is the legal practitioner director of Teleo Immigration, a leading Sydney based law firm specialising in Australian immigration law.

Posted in migration |
Posted by Etienne Hugo
12 Apr 2010

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my husband NZlender. we been married 5yers and living in australia.Im on 461 visa. i want to know 1.Can i apply 801 or 820 partner visa 2.If can, is that possible to apply 820/801 while i have left another 4 years on my 461 visa? pls. help
Rating: 5 / 5
by Laki on 30 Aug 2015

I feel it is ridiculous that the criteria for PR totally shuts alot of us out, NO way to gain it.Yet other nationalities who arrived here in Australia have gained Australian Citizenship.......just give us a fair opportunity to apply for PR. The criteria is unable to be met, and no one arriving or il change that only a teeny handful a year are gaining PR since 2001???........I work pay tax and have been here 7 years.I just do not understand except that the govt is reaping tax.Why is there a criteria for NZers wanting to gain PR that NO ONE can actually meet???? Should be highlighted in lights at the airport.
Rating: 5 / 5
by natasha on 03 Feb 2015

I was born in Nz n have lived there until I moved to Australia 2012.. I have Australian citizenship as my father is Australian so my question is can I get my partner a 461 visa if I'm a Aussie citizen but I also qualify as kiwi
Rating: 5 / 5
by Karl on 30 May 2014

OMG. I gave up my medicare card as I have been charged top dollar even though I had one, even one time by a Government hospital. Why are some of us getting free medical attention and others of us like me paying through the roof????
Rating: 5 / 5
by Buckcerridwyn on 06 Feb 2014

Hi I am a nz citizen with SCV444. Arrived in Oz Dec 2002. My children are all PR here and are married to Aussies. My spouse and I are 61 yrs old. Can we apply for Oz PR?
Rating: 5 / 5
by Ramoo V on 23 Jan 2014

Hi there, I'm a kiwi living in Oz for the past 9 years on a subclass 444 visa, my fiancee was granted a subclass visa (She is a Finnish National) in February 2013 and is valid for 5 years, which she can renew for another 5 years. Could you please advise what her entitlements are in regards to Medicare? She has been advised that she is only eligible for a visitor's Medicare card, which incurs a cost of around $50 AUD every time she visits the Dr. I however, have a Medicare card that's bulk billed and don't pay a cent when going to the Dr's. Am I right in thinking she is entitled to the same benefits that I am? Thanks
Rating: 5 / 5
by Casey on 09 Jan 2014

Hi there,my husband and I are Nz citizens,we have been living in Australia for two and a half years.We have a 22 year old son living in Nz,he has a visa to stay there,has been living there for the past nine years,he applied for citizenship,but was refused two years ago,due to drinking in public,we are asking how do we get him to come live here with us in Australia,what is the easiest way to get him to be with us? Many thanks.
Rating: 4 / 5
by Debbie Thom on 10 Nov 2013

Hi there,my husband and I are Nz citizens,we have been living in Australia for two and a half years.We have a 22 year old son living in Nz,he has a visa to stay there,has been living there for the past nine years,he applied for citizenship,but was refused two years ago,due to drinking in public,we are asking how do we get him to come live here with us in Australia,what is the easiest way to get him to be with us? Many thanks.
Rating: 4 / 5
by Debbie Thom on 09 Nov 2013

all the new zealand family relationship who not have a permant resident we have to protest infront of the immigration as we get the permant resident
Rating: 5 / 5
by jai on 03 Nov 2013

A great article. All the latest info you could possibly want is on Facebook - OzKiwi - and on their website Website: www.ozkiwi2001.org
Rating: 5 / 5
by Diana on 16 Oct 2013

I have resided in Australia since 1988 and in that time I have been to New Zealand twice once in 1989 and in 2001 since then I have never been back, was married to an Australia for 5 years no kids, can go on centerlink benefits, so how do I know if I am permanent residence or not, if I can vote or not even though I am still a kiwi after 25 years. Please send links.
Rating: 5 / 5
by Geoffrey on 13 Jul 2013

I went to nz on 2007,moved to Australia on 2012 with my partner(nz. Citizen) on subclass461, Now the question is ,can I apply for nz residency from Australia and if it gets approved do I have to go back to nz to get the indefinite entry?? Or what are the options to gain nz residency??please help
Rating: 4 / 5
by pete on 27 Jun 2013

I'm a nz citizen, in 1988 I arrived in Sydney Australia with my parents and sister, I was aged 16, We worked here all 4 of us, I met my husband here who is also a nz citizen, we married in 1991 had our first child in 1992, then had our second child 1994. We left Australia in the year 1997,back to nz then returned to Australia in 2007. We have lived here since then bought a house in 2009. So we've been here now 6 years, Can we apply for PR. or am I classed as Scv, my mother in law who is PR recently suffered a major stroke and is coming to live with me permanently, she needs a full time carer, will I be eligible for this payment?
Rating: 5 / 5
by Susitina Drollet on 23 Apr 2013

hi, i am a nz citizen living in sydney since may 2002, i have just completed my adx diploma in accounting via Tafe, i have a sponsor and iam 46 yrs old, can i apply for my au residence visa, many thanks.
Rating: 4 / 5
by vic ram on 19 Feb 2013

Hmmm! interesting reading. I have just arrived in Australia on a 444 with my wife on a 461 to start a new life here. I am English but lived and worked in NZ for 7 years and was previously employed by Immigration New Zealand as an immigration officer so I know how fast the immigration rules can change, often with alarming frequency! this is not to deliberately confuse people but to try and stay ahead of the forgers and fake document providers. The unfortunate side effect is that nobody ever seems to know what the latest rules are except high price agents and lawyers whose sole purpose is to study and learn these changes and impart their knowledge to you, at a price! I myself with all my knowledge of NZ's systems only became aware of the severe limitations of my 444 visa this week! I was shocked and felt quite sick in my stomach when it dawned on me that I could never ever become even a permanent resident. This legislation that was introduced in 2001 was with no doubt a direct result of the bludgers and shirkers seeking to enjoy the pleasures of the welfare system in AU which of course was heaps better than NZ's system, then once the Aussies had enough of it they simply changed the rules. I couldn't agree more personally even though I am affected by it, I wish the UK Government had the balls to do the same thing with their crazy half baked immigration policies. So what to do about it....well I think the only thing to do is get a job settle down and enjoy the pleasures that Australia has to offer, I am in Brisbane and I love it here. Though I am sad that I can only ever be a temporary resident here, at least I can live and work here indefinitely and legally, and I am entitled to healthcare under the reciprocal NZ AU agreement. That is enough for now, maybe as the years go by a change will come to support those honest hardworking 444 visa holders that want that coveted PR status so bad. I know I do.
Rating: 4 / 5
by Stephen Collins on 07 Jan 2013

I am married to a New Zealand citizen, we are both living in Australia. I am on 461 after renewing at the end of the first 5 years, what happens at the end of my renewed first 5 years.
Rating: 5 / 5
by Ebenezer Oti on 21 Nov 2012

Im the new boy on the block frm NZ living and working in Perth. Question? Im employer needs me to provide proof and my right to work in Aus. Where can I get this from? Thanks
Rating: 5 / 5
by KUTZ on 09 Nov 2012

I'm a NZ Citizen and moved to Australia in 2007. My father is Australian Citizen by Descent (my Grandma is a Australian Citizen by birth). Unfortunately I can't apply Australian Citizen by Descent because when I was born, and back in that days... Australian Citizen wasn't allowed dual passports. Also I can't apply Remaining Relative Visa, because my two brothers are still in New Zealand. Is there are other options to apply Permanent Residence Visa through Australian Relative? Thanks
Rating: 3 / 5
by Southerngal on 09 Nov 2012

Hi Vinay Mehta did you get any answer on this would also love to know what is one chances. Look like nr 5. Eligibility to apply for an onshore employer nominated permanent visa, is not an option anymore, there must be a easier way for NZ Citizens to transition over to a get OZ PR for those who are willing, I understand most just want to work and return later so no reason to do PR but for those who want to stay for live it is better to get their PR, Thanks George
Rating: 5 / 5
by George on 13 Oct 2012

I am a NZ citizen arrived here in 2010 and working for a Bank. My Wife is working for Westmead Children Hospital in Adminstration. We want to apply Australian Permanent Residency . I am over 45 years and my wife is 40 yrs . What are our chances of getting PR
Rating: 1 / 5
by Vinay Mehta on 26 Sep 2012

Msg for bb you can ring 131880 option 3 I think it was and give them your passport number they will then be able to give you the information you need for your job. I just got off the phone with them
Rating: 4 / 5
by Mata Henry on 14 Sep 2012

If a NZ citizen comes to Australia & is automatically given the SCV444 visa are they eligible for the social security benefit after 2 years
Rating: 4 / 5
by Stirling Henare on 10 Sep 2012

Hi I've lived in Australia for 12years and have not been back .Ive got a new job but my employer wants me to provide a 444 visa so I can get a start.As I have just got a renewed passport with no stamp in it how do I go about getting a 444 visa as there is not a so called 444 visa stamp. Do I have to leave and return to get this sorted cheers
Rating: 4 / 5
by Bb on 04 Sep 2012

Hi, I am a NZ Citizen and have been living in Australia since 2006. I have a 9month old son and have recently split from my partner. I want to claim social security payments to help me out financially but don't know whether I have to apply for permanent residency or citizenship. Need help!
Rating: 5 / 5
by Ana on 03 Aug 2012

hi im a new zealand citizen ive lived here since 10 nov 2006 i have two kids to an australian citizen which we have seperated now my question is is there any way i can claim for residency im finding it in hard ship for i do not work anymore because it has slowed down i live wit a mate that seem to let me pay her 20 dollars a week to live there could u please help ive been through immigration department to be honnest i just get lost tyhanks
Rating: 5 / 5
by peta on 26 Jul 2012

Hi, my question is similar to the one previous, I'm English and my Kiwi partner and I are looking at going onto the 461 visa, I would like to study but I want to know if my fees will be classed as international or domestic as there is a big difference in price, Thank you
Rating: 5 / 5
by Marianne on 12 Jul 2012

Hello i am a Canadian and I am applying for a Visa 461 s my husband is a New Zealand citizen living in Australia. I know I can live/work and study with this visa for 5 years. My questions are: If I want to study at University, Am I a local or international student? And Can I have Medicare? Since I will be working and paying tax? Thank you
Rating: 4 / 5
by Mimi on 15 Jun 2012

iand my daughter are kiwi living in australia since 2008 , my husband has spouse visa subclass 461 with health cover 8501, now his visa expire on feb 2013 , and we didn't maintain any health insurance , coz it was expensive so my husband stop it since more then 1 year. so can we reapply for 5 years or not.
Rating: 4 / 5
by Rupal on 17 May 2012

Hi i m on student visa 572. Now i m going to apply for visa 461. I m working in a cleaning co. from last 3 years as a supervisor. Can my employer sponsor me for residency after getting 461 visa. Thnx
Rating: 5 / 5
by Raj on 19 Apr 2012

Hi,im a nz citizen have been living in aus for 4 years.work as a appointment setter and hairdersser.my aunty and uncle are citizens.am i eligable to get permanent residency.thanks
Rating: 4 / 5
by Debbie Knighton on 17 Feb 2012

Thanks for the info. NZ citizens coming in after 26/2/2001 are not even classified as 'residents' under the Social Security Act. However, in order to formally emigrate from SA I was easily able to obtain a 'tax resident' certificate from the ATO. The collection of tax is never hindered by any other laws - I should know, I worked for SARS for 6 years.
Rating: 5 / 5
by John Oxley on 14 Feb 2012

Hi I'm a NZ citizen staying in Perth for the last 5 years. Do I get a government pension here and can I apply for permanent residency at the age of 51 years old? I'm a lecturer at a TAFE. Cheers.
Rating: 5 / 5
by Patrick Watkins on 06 Feb 2012

Hi, am NZ citizen living in perth from last 3years, working in call centre, in any case am i eligible for aus residency, please let me know, i can go thru you to process the application. thank you very much
Rating: 5 / 5
by zass on 18 Jan 2012

I'm an nz citizen living and working in Sydney for 10 years. My query is that: Are we HECS? Also, if we apply for ENS Visa, and my salary is less than the threshold for about a 1000 aud, am I still qualify? Thanks, Jos
Rating: 5 / 5
by Jos on 13 Aug 2011

Actually I'm student here in australia on subclass 572 and my wife is new zealan citizen can I apply for visa subclass461
Rating: 1 / 5
by Shakeel shah on 24 Apr 2011

this information however detailed still leaves out new zealand citizens who have 1 or both australian parents
Rating: 4 / 5
by paul oneill on 20 Apr 2011

Thanks for the information.
Rating: 5 / 5
by Rhonda du Toit on 10 Oct 2010

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