On February 19, 2016, the Australian Government announced the introduction of a new pathway to permanent residence for New Zealand Special Category Visa (SCV) holders. Applications may be filed starting on July 1, 2017.

Holders of the Subclass 444 Special Category Visa (which is available to New Zealand passport holders on entry toAustralia) will be eligible for permanent residence if:

  • They arrived after February 26, 2001 but on or before February 19, 2016;
  • They have lived in Australia for the last five years and shown a commitment and contribution to Australia immediately prior to the visa application (to be shown though income tax returns); and
  • They meet the mandatory health, character and security checks.

The pathway will be made available through the Skilled Independent category of the General Skilled Migration Programme. It will require applicants to show income tax returns for the period of residence at or above the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT). Currently the TSMIT stands at AUD53,900 per annum.

Concessions will be available to the income test requirement for vulnerable New Zealand citizens. The details, however, are expected to be released closer to the implementation date.

Once permanent residence is granted, applicants then have the option of applying for Australian citizenship. The requirements for Australian citizenship will be in accordance with the usual criteria without any concessions for New Zealand citizens.