How does a New Zealander become an Australian Citizen

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Direct pathway to Australian Citizenship for New Zealanders

New Zealand citizens do not need to apply for a visa before coming to Australia. In most cases, they will be granted a Subclass 444 Special Category Visa (SCV) on arrival. This visa allows New Zealand citizens to live, work and study in Australia for as long as they want. Therefore, many New Zealand citizens do not apply for a permanent visa in Australia. However, if you are thinking of becoming an Australian citizen and enjoy the benefits of being an Australian citizen, the SCV visa is not always a direct pathway to Australian citizenship.

The process to become a permanent resident on a permanent visa depends on when you first arrived in Australia on a New Zealand passport:

  • before 1/9/1994: you may be eligible for a Resident Return visa (RRV). This will depend on your circumstances, in particular:
    • if you were residing in Australia before this date, and
    • the length of time of your residence.

We encourage you to seek independent migration advice before applying for an RRV.

The process to become an Australian citizen depends on when you first arrived in Australia on a New Zealand passport:

  • On or before 26 February 2001: Check if you are an eligible New Zealand citizenNote: if you are a New Zealand citizen who was born in Australia, you may already be an Australian citizen by operation of law (see Citizenship).
  • After 26 February 2001: You must first become a permanent resident. Then you can apply for citizenship.
  • 1 January 2023: 189 NZ holders who have previously held a SC444 visa will have the commencement of their permanent residence backdated to 1 January 2022. This also applies to their NZ citizen family members who hold a SC189 visa. The general residence requirement for Australian citizenship by conferral is set out in the Australian Citizenship Act 2007. To Meet the general residence requirement an applicant must be lawfully present in Australia for 4 years, including 12 month as a permanent resident, immediately before the date of application. The backdating of permanent residence means that, from 1 January 2023, NZ 189 holders are eligible to apply for Australian citizenship by conferral immediately following visa grant, without needing to hold this visa for 12 months. 
  • 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.

Australian Citizenship (Permanent Resident) Amendment Determination 2023 – LIN 23/024 – F2023L00680 amends the previous Australian Citizenship (Permanent Resident) Determination (LIN 22/103) 2022.

The purpose of this Determination is to extend permanent residency to all NZ citizens holding Subclass 444, Special Category Visas (SCV) and in specific circumstances, to backdate the general twelve-month permanent residency requirement for eligibility to apply for Australian citizenship. Under this determination, some NZ citizens will be eligible to apply for Australian citizenship from as early as 1 July 2023.

Where an SCV holder satisfies subsection 5(2) of the Citizenship Act, that person is taken to have become an Australian permanent resident, when:

Date of grant Date PR granted
Granted SCV before 1 July 2022 1 July 2022
Granted SCV for 1st time between 1 July 2022 & 30 June 2023 On date of grant of SCV
Granted SCV on or after 1 July 2023 On date of grant of SCV

Persons who previously held a special category visa

Subsection 5(2) also applies to NZ citizens who are outside of Australia (not having been removed or deported from Australia) and, immediately before departing Australia, were holders of an SCV or an SCV granted on the basis of the person’s status as an airline crew member or an airline positioning crew member.

Children of SCV holders born in Australia

Children born in Australia to parents holding SCVs during the relevant period will be taken to have become Australian citizens at birth under para 12(1)(a) of the Citizenship Act.

NZ diplomatic or consular representatives

The above arrangements do not apply to a person who is in Australia as a diplomatic or consular representative of NZ or is the spouse or dependent child of a diplomatic or consular representative of NZ.

Related:

What are the benefits of being an Australian citizen?

There are many benefits of being an Australian citizen. Some of them include:

  • Visa-free travel
  • Australian consular support
  • Participate in Australian politics
  • Vote in elections
  • Federal government jobs

You can find out more here.

Eligible New Zealand Citizen

In most cases, an SCV does not provide a direct pathway to citizenship. New Zealand citizens are required to apply for permanent residency and then apply for citizenship. However, if you meet the following criteria, you can apply for citizenship right away:

  • You were in Australia on 26 February 2001 on an SCV, or
  • You were outside Australia on 26 February 2001, but you have spent at least 12 months in Australia on an SCV in the two years immediately before 26 February 2001, or
  • Have Centrelink certificate from before 26 February 2001 that shows you were living in Australia

You can apply directly under citizenship by conferral. More information about citizenship by conferral can be found here.

Arrived in Australia after 26 February 2001

If you miss the cut-off date (26 February 2001), you will have to apply for permanent residency before you can become an Australian citizen. Once you have permanent residency in Australia, you are able to apply for citizenship by conferral.

Subclass 189 Skilled Independent Visa – New Zealand stream

Subclass 189 Skilled Independent Visa – New Zealand stream is one permanent visa option for New Zealand citizens. To be eligible, you must:

To promote take-up of the SC 189 New Zealand Stream visa, the government has extended the eligibility to SC 444 Special Category visa holders who meet the income threshold for at least three of the last five income years (previously 4 out of 5). More information regarding this announcement will be provided by the government in the future.

Under the new changes, to be eligible for the SC 189 New Zealand Stream visa, the applicant must:

  • Be holding a Special Category (subclass 444) visa
  • Have resided in Australia for at least the last 5 years
  • Have started living in Australia on or before 19 February 2016
  • Have the taxable income (see below table) at or above the income threshold for at least 3 of the last 5 income years prior to lodging an application
  • meet health, character and security checks.

The cost of this visa is $4,045, and it takes approximately 15 to 25 months to process.

Other permanent residency options

If you do not meet the requirement for a Subclass 189 – New Zealand stream, there are other pathways for you to become a permanent resident in Australia. The commons visa options include:

Subclass 189 – Skilled Independent Visa

Subclass 190 – Skilled Nominated Visa

Subclass 186 – Employer Nomination Scheme

Subclass 801/820 – Partner Visa

These visas are permanent or may lead to permanent residency in Australia. As a permanent resident, you can then become eligible for citizenship.

Citizenship by conferral

Once you have this visa, you are considered a permanent resident of Australia. This means that you will be eligible to apply for citizenship if you meet the residence requirement.

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