In brief - Additional pathway to permanent residence for New Zealand citizens

Recently, the Skilled Independent (subclass 189) visa (189 visa), introduced a new pathway to permanent residence for New Zealand citizens currently living and working in Australia. The new visa pathway became available from 1 July 2017, for New Zealand Special Category (subclass 444) visa (SCV) holders who arrived in Australia after 26 February 2001, and have lived in Australia for the last five years, making a commitment and contribution to Australia.
This new arrangement allows for a broader group of New Zealand citizens to be eligible to become permanent residents and eventually qualify for Australian citizenship.

New Zealand Skilled Independent (subclass 189) visa

Previously, New Zealand citizens who wanted to apply for permanent residence had to apply under the general skilled migration categories (family, employer sponsored or points-tested), even if they had lived in Australia for extended periods of time. The introduction of the New Zealand stream provides an alternative avenue to apply for citizenship that is not restricted in the same way as the Points-tested stream. 

The Skilled Independent (subclass 189 visa) comprises of two streams:

  1. Skilled Independent 189 (Points-tested) stream. The Points-tested stream is for skilled workers who are not sponsored by an employer or family member and who are not nominated by a state or territory government, but who wish to live and work in Australia as a permanent resident
  2. The new Skilled Independent 189 (New Zealand) stream

New Zealand stream

To be eligible under the recently introduced New Zealand stream, citizens must:
  • hold a Special Category (subclass 444) visa;
  • have been resident in Australia for a continuous period of five years on or before 19 February 2016;
  • have a taxable income at or above the income threshold;
  • meet mandatory health, age, character and national security checks, and
  • lodge a visa application and pay the relevant visa application charges.

How to meet the criteria of the New Zealand stream 

Evidence of residence must be provided
New Zealand citizens must provide evidence they have been 'usually resident' for the five years prior to lodging their 189 visa application. The term 'usually resident' takes into account the persons physical residence (where the person eats, sleeps, has a home) and their intention to make that place their home.
Evidence that residence commenced on or before 19 February 2016 must also be provided. This includes the date you consider you became 'usually resident'.

Income (and income exemptions)
For New Zealand applicants to be eligible under the New Zealand stream, they must have made a contribution to Australia in the form of income tax returns for the five income years prior to application. 

The applicant must also provide a copy of the Notice of Assessment, issued by the Australian Taxation Office, which have been completed for each of the four most recently completed income years prior to application.

The income recorded on the Notice of Assessment must be at or above the income threshold for that income year. This threshold is set out at the same level under the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold. The income threshold for the past four years:
Financial year Income threshold for Skilled Independent 189 (New Zealand) Stream
2013/14 AUD $53,900
2014/15 AUD $53,900
2015/16 AUD $53,900
2016/17 AUD $53,900

Exemptions to the income requirement are limited to three categories:
Category Characteristics
Family court/parenting plan
Involves an Australian authority precluding you from leaving Australia to return to New Zealand as a result of the Family Court of Australia assigning primary care of a child to you, which places restrictions on you from removing the child from Australia.
Compensation claim Involves receiving compensation for an injury which prevents you from earning at or above the income threshold and discontinuance of your rehabilitation or compensation if you returned to New Zealand.
Parental/carers leave waiver Involves an approved period of parental or carer's leave from your usual employment. Prior to such leave, you must have had an annual income no less than the income threshold, and you must have resumed or intend to resume earning an income no less than such threshold.

If an applicant seeks to rely on an income exemption they must provide additional documentation to demonstrate that the exemption applies. They may be required to provide copies of a parenting order or parenting plan, statutory declaration outlining the personal circumstances or a medical certificate for carer responsibilities.

No age restrictions apply under the New Zealand stream

Unlike the Points-tested stream which requires applicants to be under 45 years of age at the time of invitation, there is no maximum age restriction when applying under the New Zealand stream.

Mandatory health, character and national security checks

The applicant must be able to satisfy that they and  each member of their family unit meets the required health and character requirements.

Evidence must be provided that each person included in the application has undertaken the required health examinations.

Police certificates are required for each person since turning 16 years of age. The check is required for each country each person has lived in for a total period of 12 or more months, over the last 10 years.

A military service record or discharge papers for each person who are or have served in the armed forces over the last 10 years is also required.

Additional character requirements require each person who is aged 18 and older to complete "Form 80" and "Form 1221" and provide a copy of their curriculum vitae.

Visa Application Charges apply when applying for visas

Applicants are required to pay 20% of the Visa Application Charges (VAC) when they lodge their application.

All application fees for Australian visas were increased from 1 July 2017. VAC will continue to increase each 1 July.

What this means for New Zealand SCV holders

Successful Skilled Independent (subclass 189) (New Zealand) stream applicants who can satisfy the criteria may become permanent residents of Australia. As residents successful applicants will be able to continue to live and work in Australia, and may be able to access rights and opportunities afforded to Australian citizens including Centrelink benefits and Commonwealth assistance, but not until 12 months after their application has been accepted. As citizens they will also be able to vote, obtain an Australian passport and have the opportunity to work in occupations such as the Australian Defence Force.

How can Colin Biggers & Paisley help?

We have an experienced team of solicitors, who can assist you to navigate the new additional New Zealand stream under the 189 visa or concerns about your 189 visa status and how the new stream affects you.
For all enquiries regarding migration to Australia, please contact us to find out more.

This is commentary published by Colin Biggers & Paisley for general information purposes only. This should not be relied on as specific advice. You should seek your own legal and other advice for any question, or for any specific situation or proposal, before making any final decision. The content also is subject to change. A person listed may not be admitted as a lawyer in all States and Territories. © Colin Biggers & Paisley, Australia 2024.

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