NZ citizens - An additional pathway to permanent residency for ‘non-protected’ Special Category Visa (SCV) holders

From 27 February 2001 to 19 February 2016, we had two categories of New Zealand citizens residding in Australia:

1. Protected Special Category Visa Holders (subclass 444)

2. Non-protected Special Category Visa Holders (subclass 444)

From 20 February 2016, we have 3 categories of New Zealand Citizens living in Australia:

1. Protected Special Category Visa Holders (subclass 444)

2. Non-protected Special Category Visa Holders (subclass 444) who arrived in Australia after 26 February 2001 but before or on 19 February 2016

3. Non-protected Special Category Visa Holders (subclass 444) who arrived in Australia after 19 February 2016

It is worth mentioning definitions of the above categories:

1. Protected Special Category Visa Holders (subclass 444)

= "eligible New Zealand citizen " means a New Zealand citizen who:

(a) at the time of his or her last entry to Australia, would have satisfied public interest criteria 4001 to 4004 and 4007 to 4009; and

(b) either:

 (i) was in Australia on 26 February 2001 as the holder of a Subclass 444 (Special Category) visa that was in force on that date; or

 (ii) was in Australia as the holder of a Subclass 444 visa for a period of, or periods that total, not less than 1 year in the period of 2 years immediately before 26 February 2001; or

 (iii) has a certificate, issued under the Social Security Act 1991 , that states that the citizen was, for the purposes of that Act, residing in Australia on a particular date.

NZ citizens in this category are basically treated as permanent residents in Australia.

2. Non-protected Special Category Visa Holders (subclass 444) who arrived in Australia after 26 February 2001 but before or on 19 February 2016


This is a new category of New Zealand citizens. People in this category will obtain easier access to a permanent residency in Australia. The followig is cited from DIBP website:

An additional pathway to permanent residence for ‘non-protected’ Special Category Visa (SCV) holders

​​Options for permanent residen​​ce for 'non-protected' SCV holders

In acknowledgment of our special bilateral relationship, the Australian Government will provide an additional pathway to permanent residence, and therefore citizenship, for New Zealand Special Category visa (SCV) holders who arrived after 26 February 2001, who have lived in Australia for the last five years and shown a commitment and contribution to Australia.

This additional visa pathway will be available from 1 July 2017, for New Zealand citizens who arrived post 26 February 2001, but on or before, the date of the announcement, 19 February 2016.

How this p​​​athway will work


The Department of Immigration and Border Protection will have responsibility for implementing the pathway.

The pathway will be made available within the Skilled Independent category of the General Skilled Migration (GSM) stream of Australia's annual Migration Programme.

This pathway will allow SCV holders who have been living in Australia for the past five years, and have earned income at or above the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) as evidenced by their Australian Taxation Office Notice of Assessment throughout their qualifying residence period, to apply for permanent residency and thereafter citizenship.​

The pathway ​​requirements

Requirements for this visa pathway will include mandatory residence, contribution and community protection criteria.  This includes:

  • have been resident in Australia for the five years immediately prior to visa application
  • contributed to Australia, demonstrated through income tax returns (Notice of Assessment) for the period of residence evidencing taxable income at or above the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) 
  • mandatory health, character, and security checks.

Eligible applicants not in Australia the day of the announcement

If an applicant meets all relevant criteria and can demonstrate they were resident on the date of announcement, they will be eligible.

Estimated number of eligible applicants

Approximately 60,000 – 70,000 of the 140,000 post 2001 SCV holders who have been in Australia for at least five years are expected to be eligible.​

Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) and eligibility

The Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) is a salary threshold used by the 457 programme as an indicator that an occupation is skilled and to ensure that a visa holder has reasonable means of support whilst in Australia.  It is curr​​ently set at AUD53,900.

Setting the eligibility threshold at the TSMIT ensures we are providing a pathway to prospective citizens who can make a strong contribution to Australia's future.

This is consistent with the economic objectives of Australia's Migration Programme, as it takes into account a level of contribution based on income tax returns. 

Enabling Special Category visa holders to supply evidence from tax returns provides a concession to requirements relative to citizens of other countries, as it does not duplicate existing government requirements and is not onerous, but provides clear evidence of contribution.

This represents a clear concession over existing migration pathways.  It reflects the ease of mobility under the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement (TTTA), while retaining a focus on skilled migration through a demonstrated contribution to Australia's income tax system.

E​xemptio​ns to the income test

Limited exemptions to the income test requirement will be considered for particularly vulnerable New Zealand citizens.  The mandatory residence criterion, including all other relevant criteria, will still need to be met before a visa could be granted.

Details of how applications for exemptions to the income test will be assessed will be determined between the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection and the Minister for Social Services.

Who will be considered a vulnerable individual​

This level of detail will be determined between the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection and the Minister for Social Services. The mandatory residence criterion would still apply in these circumstances.

  • As an example, possible vulnerable individuals may include the primary carer of children who, for reasons of a court order are unable to return to New Zealand with their children, and who as an SCV holder is unable to access working age payments.

Will an applicant who has been on maternity/paternity leave during the qualifying period be ineligible if their income fell below the required threshold during that period?​

If the applicant continued to be employed during that period, DIBP may take that into account and have the capacity to consider other proof of income, for example, a statement from the applicant's employer covering the period in question.

This level of detail will be worked through by DIBP during implementation of the measure, noting that there is no intention to disadvantage applicants with a consistent record of income and employment but who have taken periods of parental leave.

Visa application charg​​​e (VAC)​

There will be concessions to the visa application charge (VAC) solely for New Zealand citizens to better reflect the freedom of movement and right of abode they enjoy under the TTTA by:

  • The visa application charge will be consistent with the General Skilled Migration Programme: AUD3,600 per primary applicant with an additional AUD1,800 for partners, AUD1,800 per dependent child over 18 and AUD900 per child under 18.
  • Applicants will only have to pay 20 percent of the VAC when they lodge their application, with the remainder to be paid before the visa is granted.

Steps to become an Australian citizen

  • New Zealanders taking advantage of this pathway will usually be able to apply for citizenship after one year of permanent residence, provided they meet the allowab​​le overseas absences requirement.
  • Note: This requirement means, a person must not have been absent from Australia for more than one year in total in the four year period, including no more than 90 days in the year before applying
  • The usual citizenship eligibility requirements will apply such as:
    • ​be of good character if 18 years of age or over
    • be likely to reside, or continue to reside, or maintain a close and continuing relationship to Australia
    • meet the identity requirement
    • pass the citizenship test if aged between 18 and 59 years or pass a citizenship interview.
  • Note: All applicants must submit a valid application and pay the relevant fee. 

What if someone ​arrived in Australia the day before, or on the day of the announcement, will they be eligible to apply in five years' time?

Yes. They could apply, but the grant of a visa will depend on whether they meet all relevant criteria.

Will the visa application charge (VAC)​ be reduced for the Con​tributory Parent visa?


3. Non-protected Special Category Visa Holders (subclass 444) who arrived in Australia after 19 February 2016

NZ citizens in this group can stay in Australia indefinitely on visa sublass 444 but they are not permanent citizens. They have limited access to social security payments and are not eligible for an Australian citizenship unless they become permanent citizens first.

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