Skilled Independent SC189 (New Zealand stream) visa

The new pathway to permanent residence is for New Zealand citizens who have lived and worked in Australia for at least 5 years. The new pathway will be part of the Skilled Independent Subclass 189 visa cohort.
1. Residence Requirement

The new pathway is only available to NZ citizens who started living in Australia on or before 19 February 2016. You will need to show that you were usually resident at this time. If you were in Australia for a short visit for a holiday or business would not suffice. On the other hand, if you were temporarily outside Australia on 19 February 2016 but were usually resident before this, you may well be eligible.

You will need to show that you have been usually resident in Australia for a continuous period of at least 5 years prior to applying. This continuous period of residence would need to have started on or before 19 February 2016.

Potential applicants must be aware however that this is a limited stream and has a residential  cut-off of 19 February 2016,  so if you arrived in Australia after the 19 February 2016,  then this pathway is not open to you.

BUT if you began residing in Australia on 19 February 2016, you can apply after five years, provided you meet the other eligibility criteria. If you were not in Australia on 19 February 2016, but can demonstrate you were usually resident you will also be eligible to apply.

Showing that you are usually resident would normally involve 2 factors:

  • Physical presence in Australia; and
  • An intention to reside in Australia

Short visits outside Australia (eg holidays) would be acceptable, providing there is an intention to reside in Australia and you spend a significant amount of time in Australia. If you take up a job or permanent home outside Australia, this could affect your ability to show continuous usual residence in Australia.

You would need to have held a Special Category Visa (SCV Subclass 444) for the 5 years – this is the visa NZ citizens are usually granted on entry to Australia.

2. Income Requirement

You would need to provide ATO Notices of Assessment (NOA) showing that you have earned annual taxable income at least equivalent to Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) for the last 5 financial years.

The TSMIT has been $53,900 since 1 July 2013, but was $51,400 from 1 July 2012 to 30 June 2013 and $49330 from 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2012.

Limited exemptions to the income requirement will apply – those currently announced include:

  • Maternity, paternity or carers leave – application of this exemption is discretionary; or
  • Inability to depart Australia due having been assigned primary care of a child by the Family Court of Australia and the child cannot be removed from Australia; or
  • Currently receiving compensation for injury and ongoing rehabilitation or compensation would be discontinued if departing Australia
Age and skill exemption

Unlike other skilled visas, there is no age limit for the NZ citizens stream of the 189 visa. The age limit for the main Skilled Independent subclass 189 visa  and permanent employer sponsored visas is now 45 years, so this is a significant advantage for older applicants.

The skill exemption will also benefit NZ citizens who for one reason or another is unable to be skill-assessed to satisfy other visa sub-classes.

Including Family Members

Even if they are not NZ citizens, spouses and dependent children can be included in the application. If applying onshore, they must hold a substantive visa or Bridging A, B or C visa.

Health and Character Requirement

All family members included in the application must meet health and character requirements.

The waivable health criterion 4007 applies – this means that if you have a health condition which involves significant cost or use of scarce medical or community services, you can still be granted permanent residence provided the cost is not undue. For instance, if you have significant assets or solid health insurance, and can prove that you can meet your own medical costs, you may still be successful in your application.

Most other permanent visas require family unit members to complete health and character, whether they are included in the application or not. This is not the case for the new application pathway – only family members included in the application need to complete health and character.

Government visa application fees (excluding professional fees to prepare and lodge the application)

Government visa application fees are in line with current fees for the Skilled Independent Subclass 189 visa. However, only 20% of the application fee needs to be paid at lodgement. The balance of fees would only be payable once you have met all other criteria and are likely to be granted the visa.

Government visa application fees payable are below:

Applicant Type At Lodgement Prior to Grant Total
Main Applicant $810 $3235 $4045
Dependents 18 or Over $405 $1,615 $2020
Dependents under 18 $205 $810 $1015

Please note: Unlike other permanent skilled visa types, there is no English Language Charge for applicants with less than Functional English.

Summary

For NZ citizens (who are SCV holders/SC444 visa holders) who were living in Australia on or before 19 February 2016, the new permanent residence pathway is extremely beneficial. In particular:

  • There is no English language testing, skills assessment, points test, or sponsorship by an employer;
  • There is no age limit;
  • The income level is relatively moderate – and limited exemptions apply for people on parenting or carer leave;
  • There is a health waiver for applicants and family members with health conditions;
  • The bulk of the application fee is only payable once the requirements have been assessed and the visa is about to be granted

New Zealand Citizens who meet the criteria should consider applying for the new pathway as it offers very favourable access to permanent resident status. Given the current political climate, this opportunity may only be available for a limited time as it forms a part of the skilled Migration program which is under some pressure. If you qualify now, apply now! The down-side is that it is only available to those applicants who were in Australia on or before the qualifying date of 19 February 2016 and can meet the 5 years continuous residence and income threshold.

For other options for New Zealand citizens or family members please visit our New Zealand citizens page.