Immigration Update

Opportunity for New Zealand Citizens to obtain permanent residence in Australia

On 19 February 2016, in acknowledgement of the special bilateral relationship between Australia and New Zealand, the Australian Government announced a streamlined pathway to Australian permanent residence, for many New Zealand citizens who have been living in Australia for at least five years and shown a commitment and continuous contribution to Australia.

This new pathway is available to New Zealand Citizens in Australia on New Zealand Special Category (subclass 444) visas who were usually resident in Australia on or before 19 February 2016 and have resided in Australia for at least five years. These new arrangements will give many New Zealand citizens permanent residence status, if they meet certain criteria, including:

  • contributing to Australia, demonstrated through income tax returns which show taxable income at least equivalent to the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (currently $ 53,900 per annum) for the qualifying period; and
  • meeting mandatory health, character and security checks.

One particular benefit of this new visa pathway is that notwithstanding the proposed changes to Australian Citizenship residence requirements, New Zealand citizens who are granted this visa will be eligible to apply for Australian citizenship after a period of 12 months (in addition to the five years as an eligible New Zealand SCV holder).

Does a permanent residence visa mean permanent residence in Australia?

When an application for Australian permanent residence is approved, the visa holder often overlooks the fact that the permanent residence is only granted for a period of 5 years with the ability to reside indefinitely in Australia. This is not a problem if the visa holders intend to remain in Australia permanently thereafter and when eligible to do so, apply for Australian Citizenship.

The problem arises where applicants do not reside permanently in Australia or travel abroad on a regular basis. In this situation once the permanent residence visa expires after 5 years, the visa holder will not be able to return to Australia should they depart Australia or happen to be outside Australia after visa expiry. Permanent residents in this situation should firstly take note of the date their permanent residence expires and ensure that they apply for a new visa if they will not be in Australia after visa expiry. This “new “ visa is known as a Resident Return Visa.

Resident Return visas are typically granted for a period of 5 years where applicants have resided in Australia for at least 2 years of the 5-year visa validity period of their original permanent residence visa or 12 months where the applicant has spent less that 2 of the 5 years in Australia. For the grant of the 12 month visa applicants will need to demonstrate that they have substantial ties to Australia.

For further information or advise on any of the matters dealt with in this Immigration update, contact Ivan Chait (MARN: 9253612 ) by email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..