Changes announced for New Zealand 189 visa

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Direct pathway to Australian Citizenship for New Zealanders

The 189 NZ stream has been temporarily closed to new applications and the regulations have been amended to enable the streamlined processing of the on-hand caseload.

The temporary closure means an application cannot be made from 10 December 2022 until 1 July 2023.

This is a temporary pause on new applications while the Government considers future migration and citizenship pathways for New Zealand citizens in Australia, reflecting the close ties our two nations have.

During this period, the Department of Home Affairs will seek to finalise the majority of on-hand applications in the New Zealand stream, and has established a dedicated taskforce to prioritise the processing of this caseload.

The majority of New Zealand stream applicants have been waiting several years for their visa application to be finalised due to the limited number of places allocated to this group in recent years.

The following streamlining measures introduced acknowledge that this this group of New Zealand citizens are long-term residents of Australia, have been working here and contributing to Australia’s economic recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic. These include removing the requirement for New Zealand stream on-hand applicants to satisfy criteria relating to:

  • a period of residence in Australia
  • the income threshold
  • health, given the access New Zealand citizens already in Australia have to Medicare.

The only criteria to be met by primary applicants (and their family members) with on-hand applications are the existing common criteria for the Subclass 189 (Skilled – Independent) visa which relate to public interest criteria such as character, security, and certain other matters

The effect of this amendment is that the criteria for Subclass 189 (Skilled – Independent) visa applications made in the New Zealand stream will revert to the previous (pre-10 December 2022) settings for new applications made on or after 1 July 2023 unless the Government decides to provide new beneficial arrangements for New Zealand citizens beforehand.

  • 1 July 2023: The 189 visa has temporarily closed to new applications. This pause on new applications means an application cannot be made from 10 December 2022 until 1 July 2023. The following streamlining measures introduced acknowledge that this this group of New Zealand citizens are long-term residents of Australia, have been working here and contributing to Australia’s economic recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic. These include removing the requirement for New Zealand stream on-hand applicants to satisfy criteria relating to:
        • a period of residence in Australia;
        • the income threshold; and
        • health, given the access New Zealand citizens already in Australia have to Medicare.

2022 updates

Related: COVID-19 Concessions for 189 New Zealand Stream visa

Changes to legislation on 1 July 2022 allow the subclass 461 visa to be granted regardless of your location. The new wording is the applicant may be in or outside Australia, but not in immigration clearance, at the time of grant.

The government has amended the New Zealand Pathway to permanent residence to support eligible New Zealand citizen temporary visa holders in Australia to obtain permanent residence.​

The Pathway is available to New Zealand citizens who were usually resident in Australia for a continuous period of five years immediately prior to their visa application and commenced that period of residence on or before 19 February 2016.

Changes came into effect on 1 July 2021 providing greater flexibility in the income requirement for the New Zealand stream of the Skilled Independent (Subclass 189) visa by reducing the number of years in which an applicant must meet the specified income threshold.

From 1 July 2021 applicants will be required to demonstrate that they have earned a taxable income at or above a specified threshold for three out of the five income years (reduced from four out of five years) before lodging an application. This includes a requirement to meet the income threshold for the most recently completed income tax year.

The income threshold will align to the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) – currently set at $53,900 – and will remain at this level for the 2020-21 income year.

In addition, to further assist New Zealand citizens on their pathway to permanent residence, the Government is implementing measures to assist temporary visa holders who were on a pathway to permanent residence prior to COVID-19 to maintain eligibility for a permanent Skilled Independent visa (Subclass 189) New Zealand stream. The measures provide:

  • An income requirement concession if they can demonstrate that their 2019-20 taxable income was adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Allowance for time spent offshore due to COVID-19 travel restrictions to be counted as residence in Australia for applicants who were on a pathway to meeting the ‘usually resident’ requirement for the visa.

Related: COVID-19 Concessions for 189 New Zealand Stream visa (Financial year 2019-2021)

Income threshold for income years:

Income Year Minimum Amount of Income
2016 – 2017 $53,900
2017 – 2018 $53,900
2018 – 2019 $53,900
2019 – 2020 $53,900

Waiver of the income requirement applies for periods of:

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