New Zealanders who travel to Australia using their New Zealand passports are covered by the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement. Upon arrival, most New Zealanders are automatically granted a non-protected Special Category visa (SCV) (subclass 444), which is electronically linked to their passport and allows them to reside, study, and work in Australia indefinitely.
The SCV is technically a temporary visa; however, commencing 1st July 2023, New Zealand citizens holding an SCV are deemed permanent residents for the purpose of citizenship. This means that New Zealand citizens in Australia now have a direct pathway to Australian citizenship without the prerequisite of obtaining permanent residency status, provided they satisfy a four-year residency requirement along with other eligibility criteria.
These legislative changes were introduced by the Australian Citizenship (Permanent Resident) Amendment Determination (LIN 23/024) 2023 and can be summarised as follows:
- New Zealand citizens who hold or have held a special category visa (SCV) and meet specific requirements will be considered permanent residents under the Australian Citizenship Act 2007.
- The requirement for SCV holders to be “protected SCV holders” under the Social Security Act 1991 has been removed.
- This legislation backdates permanent resident status for certain SCV holders. Those who were granted an SCV before 1 July 2022 will be considered permanent residents from 1 July 2022. Similarly, those who were first granted an SCV between 1 July 2022, and 30 June 2023, will have their permanent resident status backdated accordingly.
- Children born in Australia to SCV holders during the specified period will be considered Australian citizens at birth.
- The amendment extends permanent resident status to all New Zealand citizens holding an SCV, including those who are outside of Australia, except for those who were removed or deported from Australia.
- The changes also cover special purpose visas granted to airline crew members and airline positioning crew members, provided they were not removed or deported from Australia.
- The amendments protect the permanent resident status of New Zealand citizens who travel outside of Australia and hold an SCV, except in cases of removal or deportation.
These changes aim to provide a pathway to Australian citizenship for New Zealand citizens holding SCVs and ensure their eligibility for permanent resident status.
What do these changes mean for Subclass 461 visa holders?
The recent legislative changes have significant implications for members of the family unit of New Zealand citizens residing in Australia.
If you currently hold a Special Category Visa (SCV) and are considering applying for Australian citizenship, it’s important to understand how these changes will impact your family members who hold a Subclass 461 New Zealand Citizen Family Relationship visa. Once you become a citizen, your family members can no longer renew their Subclass 461 visas.
As a result, Subclass 461 visa holders whose family members acquire Australian citizenship will need to explore alternative visa options that lead to permanent residency, such as partner visas (e.g., Subclass 309/100 or Subclass 820/801) or child visas. Existing Subclass 461 visa holders should be eligible to apply for these visa types as soon as their partners become Australian citizens.
Prior to the introduction of these changes, individuals in a relationship with a New Zealand citizen (who were not New Zealand citizens themselves) could apply for and receive a five-year Subclass 461 visa. However, starting from 1 July 2023, if the New Zealand partner becomes an Australian citizen, the Subclass 461 visa holder will no longer be eligible for another Subclass 461 visa because they no longer meet the requirement of being in a relationship with a New Zealand SCV holder.
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