On April 22, 2023, the Australian Government made a significant announcement regarding changes to Australian citizenship for New Zealand citizens living in Australia.
The new pathway allows eligible New Zealand citizens, who have been living in Australia for four years or more, to apply directly for Australian citizenship from 1 July 2023. These citizens will no longer need to apply for and be granted a permanent visa.
This change creates a direct pathway to Australian citizenship for New Zealand citizens as long as they meet the residency requirements and reflects the announcement made by the Minister in July 2022 to streamline the pathway to citizenship for New Zealand citizens.
The direct pathway to Australian citizenship will be applicable to New Zealand citizens holding a Special Category (subclass 444) visa (SCV) who arrived in Australia after 26 February 2001. In some circumstances, New Zealand citizens who have since left Australia may still be eligible for this direct pathway. Protected SCV holders will continue to be eligible to apply directly for Australian citizenship. The new pathway will be achieved by backdating the period of permanent residency for citizenship purposes for long-term resident New Zealand citizens. This will enable them to meet the 12-month permanent residency period under the general residence requirement for Australian citizenship.
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 four years, including 12 months as a permanent resident, immediately before the date of application.
With effect from July 1, 2023, all New Zealand citizens holding an SCV will be considered permanent residents for citizenship purposes. New Zealand citizens granted an SCV before July 1, 2022, will have their period of permanent residence for citizenship purposes backdated to July 1, 2022. New Zealand citizens granted an SCV for the first time on or after July 1, 2022, will be considered a permanent resident for citizenship purposes from the date of their SCV grant. These provisions will also apply to New Zealand citizens who are overseas but held an SCV immediately before last leaving Australia.
The backdating of permanent residence for SCV holders will also impact children born to SCV holders. From July 1, 2023, any child born in Australia on or after July 1, 2022, to an SCV holder may automatically acquire Australian citizenship at birth. From July 1, 2023, children who meet these circumstances can apply for evidence of citizenship.
The changes will make it easier for New Zealand citizens to become Australian citizens, which will have significant benefits for them, including the ability to access certain government services and benefits, as well as being able to participate fully in Australian society.
Overall, the announcement made by the Australian Government regarding Australian citizenship for New Zealand citizens living in Australia is significant and reflects the close relationship between our two nations. The changes will make it easier for New Zealand citizens to become Australian citizens, which will have significant benefits for them and for Australia as a whole.
For applicants who are SCV holders and have been a long-term resident in Australia, you should book a consultation with a lawyer who specializes in immigration law to understand what exactly these changes mean for you and your family. Our lawyers can provide guidance and help individuals understand the latest changes in immigration law and how it may affect their application.
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