If you contracted the services of a Migration Agent in Australia ask him or her about the Australian government’s new option or pathway for holders of New Zealand Special Category visa (SCV) to gain permanent residency status in Australia. Relocation to Australia is now possible assuming the visa holder meets the following requirements:

  • Arrived in Australia before 26 February 2001;
  • Lived in Australia the last five years;
  • Has shown commitment and contribution to Australia;
  • The visa holder will also be subject to mandatory health, character and security checks.

The visa holder’s commitment and contribution to Australia can be proven through income tax returns (Notice of Assessment) for the period of residence. These documents will provide evidence of taxable income at or above the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold or TSMIT.

The TSMIT is a salary threshold indicator used by the 457 programme to qualify an occupation as skilled. It is also used as basis to categorize the visa holder as having reasonable means of support while living in Australia. The TSMIT is currently set at AUS$ 53,900.

The purpose of the TSMIT is to assure Australia of having a productive workforce of skilled and talented immigrants who can immediately make a contribution to the economy. This is congruent with the defined economic objectives of Australia’s Migration Programme which considers income tax returns as indicative of economic contribution.

By allowing Special Category visa holders to use tax returns as proof of economic commitment and contribution is a concession to the requirements of citizens of other countries. There is no duplication of existing government requirements and presents clear evidence of contribution to the economy.

It highlights the advantage of mobility under the Trans – Tasman Travel Arrangement or TTTA and at the same time retains focus on acquiring skilled migration as evidenced by contributions to Australia’s income tax system.

There will be special consideration on the income test requirement extended to New Zealand residents who will be deemed “vulnerable”. An example would be the primary provider of a family, who due to legal constraints is unable to return to New Zealand with his/her children. The person could also be an SCV holder who could not access working age payments.

Another example would be an applicant who is on maternity / paternity leave during the qualifying period. If their income fell below the threshold during the period and they continued to be employed, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection or DIBP may take that into consideration and request for other proof of income.

Every measure that could accommodate the individual situation of an applicant will be studied and considered to ensure there will be no discrimination in the process.

The DIBP will be the implementing agency for the pathway. It will be made available under the Skilled Independent Category of the General Skilled Migration stream of Australia’s annual migration programme.

Estimates show that around 60,000 to 70,000 immigrants from the 140,000 holders of SCV have been in residence for the past five years and will be eligible for this pathway.

New Zealand residents who qualify for the programme will be able to apply for citizenship after one full year of permanent residency. However, they should comply with the allowable overseas absence requirement which states the applicant must not be absent from Australia for a cumulative period of one year of the four year period. This includes no more than 90 days before applying.

How does a New Zealander become an Australian citizen? Here is a summary of the eligibility requirements:

  • Good moral character if 18 years old or older;
  • High probability of residing, maintaining residency or a close relationship with Australia;
  • Meet the identity requirement;
  • If between the ages of 18 and 59, applicant must pass the citizenship test or the citizenship review.

There will be a Visa Application Charge or VAC but further concessions will be extended for New Zealanders to reflect the freedom of movement and right of abode as provided for by the TTTA.

This new pathway is being introduced by the Australian government in recognition of Australia’s special bilateral relationship with New Zealand. It will be available 01 pathway July 2017 for New Zealand citizens who arrived in Australia after 26 February 2001 but on or before the date of the announcement which was 19 February 2016.

In previous years it was difficult for New Zealand citizens to attain residency status in Australia due to stringent measures introduced by the administration of former Prime Minister John Howard. But Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull saw it was time to relax these measures through the introduction of the pathway after a meeting with New Zealand’s John Key.

The visa criteria are yet to be announced, So far, it seems there are some clear distinctions from the General Skilled Migration program, with NZ citizens not requiring:

  • Skills Assessment tests if in an occupation listed in the Skills Occupations List;
  • Subjected to English Language Testing;
  • Meeting the required score of the skilled migration points test;
  • SkillSelect invitation;
  • Full payment of fees upon application;
  • Maximum age limit is 50

If you have questions or concerns about how the pathway benefits you or its implications on your relocation to Australia, you should consult with a reputable and certified Migration Agent.