The Australian government has announced an expanded pathway to citizenship for New Zealanders living in Australia, potentially benefiting around 400,000 individuals out of the estimated 700,000 Kiwis residing there.
- Creation of a direct pathway to citizenship for New Zealanders in Australia
- Elimination of the need for permanent residency before applying
- Coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement
Migration System Shake-Up: This move is part of the Albanese government’s continued efforts to revise the migration system, overturning a 2001 decision by John Howard’s coalition government that limited citizenship access for New Zealanders and forced them onto special category or temporary residency visas.
Citizenship Eligibility and Benefits:
- New Zealanders can become citizens after four years of living in Australia
- Removal of income and health tests from the application process
- Access to key welfare benefits, student loans, disability support, public housing, public service jobs, armed forces, and voting rights
- Australians living in New Zealand already enjoy these benefits
Assessments and Requirements: Standard character checks and English competency tests will still apply for citizenship applicants, as they do for all would-be citizens.
Bilateral Relations: New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins welcomed the announcement as a significant improvement in the rights of New Zealanders living in Australia and a step towards bringing the two nations closer together. He stated that this move restores most of the rights Kiwis had in Australia before they were revoked in 2001.
Impact on Lives: Immigration Minister Andrew Giles believes the decision will make a significant difference in the lives of New Zealanders living in Australia, calling it a “fair” opportunity for Australia’s closest friends and allies. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese expressed pride in offering New Zealanders, many of whom are working and building their lives in Australia, more certainty.
Deportation Policy Revisions: In February, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced changes to Australia’s approach to deportation, considering the length of a person’s stay in Australia before deporting them for minor crimes. This decision softened the previous policy, which had been a key friction point between Wellington and Canberra, prompting former New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to publicly criticize then-prime minister Scott Morrison.