The Australian government has announced sweeping changes to its immigration rules that will allow approximately 380,000 New Zealanders living in Australia to apply for citizenship without first becoming permanent residents. This major move restores reciprocity to the rights of expats of the two countries, and ensures that New Zealanders no longer face limits on their access to healthcare and welfare benefits.
Massive Immigration Rule Change Allows 380,000 Kiwis in Australia to Fast-Track Citizenship Without PR!
The changes will come into effect on 1 July 2023, and will allow all special category visa holders to apply directly for citizenship as long as they meet the four-year residence and other eligibility requirements. Previously, New Zealanders had to apply for permanent residency before seeking citizenship, but permanent visas were subject to medical and income tests, leaving some without a pathway to Australian citizenship.
The announcement was made ahead of a visit to Australia by New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, who will attend an Australian citizenship ceremony in Brisbane with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Sunday. Albanese hailed the changes as a way to strengthen the relationship between the two countries, which have a deep friendship forged through shared values, history, and a common outlook.
The changes will benefit approximately 670,000 New Zealanders in Australia on special category visas, including the 380,000 who arrived after 2001 and are now eligible for citizenship. For many New Zealanders, the changes will provide a fairer pathway towards Australian citizenship, and the opportunity to build more secure lives in Australia. One such person is Oliver Alderson, an air traffic controller who has lived in Australia since 2006. Under existing rules, Alderson would have had to pay thousands of dollars in visa application fees to become a permanent resident before he could apply for citizenship. However, with the changes, he can now apply directly for citizenship, providing him with peace of mind and more security about living in Australia.
The move has been widely welcomed, with Joanne Cox, the chair of Oz Kiwi, the peak body representing New Zealanders in Australia, describing it as the biggest change in trans-Tasman relations and the rights of New Zealanders in Australia since 2001. Albanese said that the changes “will mean the many people already living and working in our communities can enjoy the benefits of citizenship”. Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil added that Albanese was “ensuring the deep, strong connection between our two countries is reflected in how we treat Kiwis living in Australia.”
In addition to the citizenship changes, the Australian government is also considering giving voting rights to New Zealanders in Australia, an issue currently being examined by the joint standing committee on electoral matters as part of its inquiry into the 2022 election. With an estimated 70,000 Australians living in New Zealand and eligible to vote, these changes would provide greater political representation for both Australians and New Zealanders living abroad.
Overall, the changes to the immigration rules represent a positive step towards greater reciprocity and fairness for New Zealanders living in Australia. They will enable people to build more secure lives, provide greater opportunities for political representation, and strengthen the deep friendship between Australia and New Zealand. With the 50th anniversary of the trans-Tasman travel arrangement approaching, these changes are a timely reminder of the close ties between the two countries and the importance of maintaining a strong and mutually beneficial relationship.