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. 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 on 26 February 2001 are generally considered to be “protected SCV holders”. Protected SCV holders qualify as Australian residents and 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 who arrived in Australia after 26 February 2001 are generally considered to be “non-protected SCV holders” and are considered to be on a “temporary visa”. Non-protected SCV holders 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 is that non-protected SCV holders who have lived in Australia for at least ten continuous years since 26 February 2001 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).

Being a non-protected SCV holder can also affect 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. Non-protected SCV holders 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 Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship website for further information).

If you are a permanent resident or a protected SCV holder, 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. You should contact the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to see if your children may already be Australian citizens.

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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