Visa Options for NZ Citizens

webster By Mark Webster
Friday, 02 June 2017

NZ landscape

New Zealand Citizens are able to travel to Australia and remain here indefinitely with full work rights.

However, they are not eligible for the full range of government benefits or for Australian citizenship.

Obtaining Permanent Residence gives NZ citizens a much more secure status in Australia - this article explains the main visa options which are available for NZ Citizens.

NZ Citizens on Special Category Visas

If you are an NZ citizen, you would generally receive a Special Category Subclass 444 Visa (or SCV) on arrival to Australia.

Whilst this visa allows you to remain in Australia indefinitely with full work rights, it is considered a temporary visa only and is subject to some serious limitations.

If you are convicted of an offence requiring imprisonment of at least 12 months, you would be considered a "Behaviour Concern Non-Citizen". This would result in you being ineligible for the SCV, and potentially barred from entering Australia. NZ citizens are now the largest single nationality in immigration detention, due largely to character issues.

New Zealand citizens are eligible for some government payments (eg Medicare, certain Centrelink payments). However, they are not eligible for others - such as unemployment benefits or HECS-HELP loans for university education.

NZ citizens are not in general eligible for Australian citizenship, and so are not eligible to vote in Australia and certain jobs will not be open to them. They are also not able to sponsor relatives for permanent visas such as partner. or parent visas.

NZ Citizens Settled in Australia Prior to 26 Feb 2001

If you were present in Australia prior to 26 February 2001, or had settled here before that date, you are considered an "Eligible New Zealand Citizen". In this case, you would have the same rights as an Australian Permanent Resident in terms of social security benefits, Australian citizenship and ability to sponsor relatives.

New PR Pathway for NZ Citizens

A new pathway to permanent residence for NZ citizens will be available from 1 July 2017. This will be open to NZ citizens who have been living and working in Australia for 5 years.

This will be an attractive option for many NZ citizens living in Australia as there are concessions on the usual application fee, English language requirement and health requirement. However, it is only available if you were usually resident in Australia as of 19 February 2016.

Employer Nomination Scheme

The Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) is a permanent employer sponsored visa which has concessions for NZ citizens working in Australia. There is a specific pathway for NZ citizens who have worked for their Australian employer in an occupation on the Employer Sponsored Occupations List for 2 of the last 3 years. In this case, you are exempt from the usual skills assessment requirement for the Direct Entry ENS stream, and also the usual age requirement (currently the maximum age limit is 50 for the ENS visa).

General Skilled Migration

NZ citizens may consider the General Skilled Migration program. This option would require you to pass skills assessment, meet the pass mark of 60 points, and receive an invitation through SkillSelect.

There are no specific concessions for NZ citizens applying for General Skilled Migration, though mutual recognition of registration between NZ and Australia may make the skills assessment requirement easier to meet.

Partner Migration

If you have a partner who is an:
  • Eligible NZ citizen; or
  • Australian permanent resident; or
  • Australian citizen

They may be able to sponsor you for a partner visa. This would lead to permanent residence, and this is generally a 2-stage process over a period of 2 years.

NZ Citizen Family Members

New Zealand citizens can obtain NZ Citizen Family Relation subclass 461 visas for their partners and children. To obtain the 461 the NZ citizen needs to hold a Special Category Subclass 444 visa, or be eligible for an SCV on arrival in Australia. The 461 visa is a 5-year temporary visa with full work and travel rights and can be renewed after this.


There are a range of permanent residence pathways available for NZ citizens.

You may consider applying for one of these if you would like to make sure that you and your family are secure to continue living in Australia and able to access benefits when you need them.

If you would like assistance in understanding the options available to you, please book a consultation with one of our advisors.

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