New Zealand Citizens

If you are a New Zealand citizen and entered Australia on a New Zealand passport you will generally have been issued a Sub-class 444 or “Special Category Visa (SCV)”. If you entered Australia on a New Zealand passport, you may not be aware that you hold a Special Category Visa because these visas are granted automatically on entry into Australia. There will be no stamp in your passport indicating that you were issued with the visa.

If you have been granted a SCV you can work and live in Australia indefinitely however it is not a permanent visa. If you are a New Zealand citizen, you can apply to the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) for a permanent visa and if successful, you will become a permanent resident of Australia. Prior to the granting of permanent residence, you can only receive the full range of Social Security payments as a New Zealand citizen if you are ‘an eligible NZ citizen’. An eligible NZ citizen is a NZ Citizen who was in Australia on or was usually resident in Australia as a SCV holder for at least 12 months in the 24 months before February 26, 2001.

Eligible NZ citizens have the same rights as Australian permanent residents

The following options for NZ citizens arriving after the 26 February 2001 (or ineligible NZ citizens) are available:

1. SCV holders’ family members

Eligibility for a SCV holder’s family member (including partner, child etc) to apply for a temporary NZ Family Relationship (Subclass 461) visa;

The 3 following options are permanent visas and can facilitate Australian citizenship in due course:

2. Independent skilled visa

Eligibility to apply for a independent skilled migration through SkillSelect, for example the Subclass 189 and Subclass 190 visa sub-classes;

3. Employer nominated Scheme (ENS) visa (incorporating the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme -RSMS)

Eligibility to apply for an ENS/RSMS visa. Whilst holders of sub-class 444 (and 461) visas resident in Australia are excluded from the ENS – Temporary Residence Transition Stream, as it is restricted to 457 visa holders, they have been allowed to apply for the ENS Direct Entry Stream if they been working with their nominating employer in their nominated occupation for at least two of the last three years immediately before making their application. In these circumstances, they will be exempt from having to meet the usual skill assessment (including the 3 year experience) requirements and the age requirement.

4. Business Innovation and Investment Program (BIIP)

Eligibility to apply for a permanent visa under the BIIP (Sub-class 888) – Business Innovation Stream – without first having to hold a provisional BIIP Sub-class 188 visa.

University fees- NZ citizens and Australian permanent residents

New Zealand Citizens and Australian permanent residents (other than holders of permanent humanitarian visas) are eligible for Commonwealth supported places and are not subject to overseas student fees, but they are required to pay their student contribution amount up front, in full – without discount. New Zealand Citizens and holders of Australian permanent visas (other than a permanent humanitarian visa) are not eligible for a HECS-HELP loan.

Some other disadvantages NZ citizens (Kiwis) will experience from moving to/living in Australia:

  • Kiwis are entitled to family payments, including family tax benefit, baby bonus, childcare benefit and parental leave pay, and medical care under MediCare BUT are excluded from Newstart (unemployment) benefits, parenting payments and youth allowance, including the Paid Parental Scheme (PPS);
  • Kiwis living in Australia continuously for 10 years since February 2001 might be eligible for once-only Newstart and youth allowances for up to six months.
  • Kiwis are excluded from the new Disability Insurance Scheme, including children of NZ parentage born in Australia.
  • They cannot receive disability support pension for non-work-related disabilities developed while living in Australia.
  • Kiwis are excluded from new payments for Australian residents injured by terrorist attacks abroad.
  • Kiwis are excluded from disability support services in Queensland, which is now amending anti-discrimination laws to allow exclusion of New Zealanders.
  • Kiwis do not have access to public housing in Queensland, Western Australia and New South Wales, which also now refuses Kiwis emergency accommodation.
  • Kiwis have been excluded from student concessionary travel in Victoria, including primary and secondary school pupils and extending to all New Zealanders regardless of date of arrival. This is now subject to an anti-discrimination case.

For further information on NZ Citizens’ rights in Australia including:

  • Australian immigration status
  • Health entitlements
  • Social Security – New Zealand Government offices in Australia have no funds to assist New Zealanders in financial difficulty. New Zealand agencies such as Work and Income NZ are unable to pay emergency benefits to assist people outside New Zealand.
  • Paying tax in Australia
  • Recognition of qualifications
  • Purchasing property
  • Opening bank accounts in Australia

please refer to the following link:

More information relating to non-eligible New Zealand citizens in Australia (in question and answer format) can be found at the following link. Detailed information as to access to social security benefits in Australia can also be found in the following fact-sheet

***For advice on how to change your visa status from temporary to permanent visa holders please contact us

Australian citizenship for NZ citizens

Read more about Australian Citizenship

NZ citizens regrettably do not acquire Australian citizenship based upon time spent living in Australia, regardless of payment of tax or Medicare. The SC 444 Special category (SCV) visa is a temporary visa which allows the holder(s) to live and work in Australia. The SCV holding NZ citizen will remain a temporary visa holder – with the restrictions that come with it- unless that status is actively changed.

To be considered for Australian citizenship, an applicant must first be a permanent resident (or an ENZC- see below)

Before 26 February 2001

This is the date that most NZ citizens are acutely aware of. This was the date that the term and cohort ‘Eligible NZ citizen (ENZC) was closed. Those NZ citizens who were resident in Australia as at that date (or in a narrow range of exceptional circumstances were deemed to be so), were labelled ‘Eligible NZ residents’ and regarded the same as Australian permanent residents and also Australian citizens. An ENZC can sponsor family members and is eligible to apply for Australian citizenship.

After 26 February 2001

NZ citizens who arrived in Australia after the 26 February 2001 dead-line, are now simply temporary visa holders (SCV) with full work rights. There is no need to apply for the visa, because it is granted automatically upon entering Australia, based on the NZ passport held- unless the person is of ‘special significance’. It remains a temporary visa unless or until it is changed.

Children of SCV holders are treated as local students but particularly for tertiary education if they remain on their SCVs they have restricted entitlements and are not entitled to HELP (previous HECS – see above).

Since a SCV is not a permanent visa, the visa holder will not be eligible to apply for Australian citizenship. To become entitled to Australian citizenship, the SCV holder must first secure a permanent visa, based generally on skilled migration (either an independent skilled visa or an employer sponsored visa) or family sponsorship.

Options for PR and then to Citizenship

1 July 2012 rule changes to the Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS)

With one recent exception, the rule changes have affected the ability of SCV holders applying for permanent employer sponsorship (ENS & RSMS). Effectively SCVs are no longer eligible for the 457 2 year work (Transitional Residence) pathway to PR (ENS). This is because the SCV (SC 444) was removed from participation in this pathway to ENS. Prior to 1 July 2012, the SC 444 was one of those visa sub-classes (together with the SC 457 visa amongst others) which qualified for this transitional scheme. After July 1 2012, the SC 444 was removed from this scheme -together with the other sub-classes – so that the only qualifying visa for the Temporary Residence Transitional pathway is now the SC 457 visa.

Whilst barred from the Temporary Transition Residence pathway to ENS, SCV holders who have lived in Australia and worked for the same employer for two years can apply on the basis of that employment, and those applicants will receive some concessions. The relevant pathway will be the Direct Entry pathway. The usual skill assessment element of that pathway has been waived, but 3 years experience will still need to be shown. The age restriction of 50 years has also been waived from June 2013.

Regrettably this concession does not assist SCVs coming directly from NZ or who haven’t worked or lived the required time in Australia. These candidates will need to apply through the Direct Entry pathway and must obtain a positive skill assessment + show 3 years experience and be under 50 years of age.


Alternatively SCV are still free to lodge an Expression of Interest (EOI) on the skills data-base SkillSelect to await an invitation to lodge a application for the independent skilled visa, state sponsored visa or the Business Innovation and Investment (BIIP) visa.