New Zealand High Commission Canberra, Australia

Immigration status of New Zealanders in Australia

New Zealand citizens entering Australia are issued with a Special Category Visa (SCV) on arrival, provided they meet security, character and health requirements. People with criminal records or serious health problems should check with the Australian High Commission before travelling to see if they meet these requirements.

An SCV entitles New Zealanders to live and work in Australia as long as they wish, provided they remain of good character. It is however a temporary visa. The Australian authorities can cancel an SCV if a person fails the character requirements (e.g. if they commit a crime). The person would likely then be sent back to New Zealand and may be unable to enter Australia again. If the person cannot be returned to New Zealand immediately, they may be placed in immigration detention in Australia.

SCV holders who were in Australia before 26 February 2001 are considered "protected SCV holders". They can generally access the full range of Centrelink social security payments provided they are currently residing in Australia and satisfy certain rules including qualification criteria and relevant waiting periods.

Those SCV holders who arrived in Australia after 26 February 2001 are not categorised as "protected" under Australian social security law and cannot access the full range of Centrelink social security payments. For example, they are not eligible for the unemployment (‘Newstart’) or sickness allowance. The only exception are those SCV holders who have lived in Australia for at least ten continuous years since 26 February 2001. In that case they may be eligible to receive a one-off payment of Newstart Allowance, Youth Allowance or Sickness Allowance for up to six months (see the ‘Social security entitlements for New Zealanders’ section of the Centrelink website).

SCV holders who arrived in Australia after 26 February 2001 also have limited eligibility for a range of state provided services such as public housing, training courses, transport subsidies, disability services etc. Eligibility differs from state-to-state. SCV holders who arrived in Australia after 26 February 2001 should contact the relevant agencies within their state of intended residence for further information.

New Zealanders who arrived in Australia after 26 February 2001 must obtain Australian permanent residency to be eligible to receive these benefits, to obtain Australian citizenship or to sponsor their family members for permanent residence. Click here for information from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

New Zealanders who were in Australia before 1 September 1994 but were not in Australia on 26 February 2001 as an SCV holder or in Australia as an SCV holder for a total of 12 months in the two years before that date should contact the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to discuss whether they qualify for a Resident Return Visa

In order to qualify for a permanent residence visa, the applicant is generally required to be under 45 years of age, with skills and qualifications that meet the Australian standard for an occupation on the Skilled Occupation list, and with relevant work experience (see the Department of Immigration and Border Protection for further information).

If you are a permanent resident or a protected SCV holder (who arrived in Australia before 26 February 2001), you can apply for Australian citizenship. New Zealanders can obtain Australian citizenship and an Australian passport without giving up their New Zealand citizenship or New Zealand passport. The Department of Immigration and Citizenship recommend that Australian passport-holders always use that passport to enter Australia.

The Australian immigration status of children born in Australia to New Zealand parents is complicated. If you are a permanent resident or hold an SCV, your children may already be Australian citizens if they were born in Australia and reached 10 years of age having lived in Australia most of their life. You should contact the Department of Immigration and Border Proteciton to see if your children may already have acquired Australian citizenship.

Children born in Australia to one or more New Zealand parents can obtain New Zealand citizenship by descent. Contact the New Zealand passports office in Sydney on tel + 61 (2) 9225 2300, or the Department of Internal Affairs.


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