Historical & Recent Changes

Immigration Legislation

Updated 28/07/2023

Many changes have occurred over time and here is a snapshot to help understand what these changes were/are.

Historical Information

1973 — Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement

On 22 January 1973, Prime Ministers of New Zealand and Australia, Gough Whitlam and Norman Kirk announced the basis for the TTTA.

Between 1 March 1973 and 31 August 1994 citizens of each country and citizens of other Commonwealth countries who had resident status in either Australia or New Zealand were able to travel freely between our two nations for either permanent or temporary stay without the need to provide a passport or visa.

New Zealand citizens are now classified as ‘exempt non-citizens’. Prior to this classification New Zealand citizens were classified as ‘British Subjects’.

1981 — Introduction of New Zealand Passports to Enter Australia

New Zealand citizens are required to present a valid passport at Australia’s borders.

New Zealand citizens continue to be classified as an ‘exempt non-citizen’ for the purposes of the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) and no visa was required.

1986 — Citizenship Status of Children Born In Australia

The acquisition of Australian citizenship was restricted to children born in australia to Australian citizens and permanent residents and excluded children who were born to New Zealand citizens who were ‘exempt non-citizens’.

This was because the birth provisions of the 1948 Act, subsection 10(6), specifically excluded ‘exempt non-citizesns’ from the definition of ‘permanent resident’ under the Migration Act.

Therefore, children born between 20 August 1986 and 31 August 1994 to New Zealand citizens who were ‘exempt non-citizens’ did not become Australian citizens at birth.

Any child born in Australia prior to 20 August 1986 acquired Australian citizenship at birth, reagrdless of the status of their parents.

1994 — Introduction of the Special Category Visa (SCV)

From 1 September 1994 amendments to the Migration Act required all non-citizens in Australia to hold valid visas. This included New Zealand citizens who were ‘exempt non-citizens’. Section 32 of the Migration Act introduced the SCV which was a new class of temporary visa. The SCV allows New Zealand citizens to enter Australia to visit, live and work indefinitely.

The SCV is granted automatically and all a New Zealand citizen needs to do to apply for an SCV is to complete an Incoming Passenger Card, meet the health and character requirements and present it at the border or in some cases, to an Immigration Officer at an Immigration Office.

At this point in time New Zealand citizens are now recognised as both permanent residents under the Citizenship Act but temporary residents under the Migration Act.

2001 — Significant Changes for New Zealand Citizens

Most NZ citizens who arrive after 26 February 2001 must apply for and be granted a permanent visa in order to apply for Australian citizenship.

Only Eligible New Zealand citizens are still recognised as permanent residents under the Citizenship Act.

2016 — Subclass 189 (New Zealand Stream) Permanent Visa Pathway is Introduced

On 19 February 2016 Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnball announces the Skilled Independent Visa, subclass 189 (New Zealand Stream) permanent visa pathway for all TY444 visa holders.

Eligibility criteria states earnings above the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold $53,900 taxable income and who were residing in Australia continuously on or prior to 19 February 2016.

The pathway was not available until 1 July 2017.

December 2022 - Changes to the Subclass 189 (New Zealand Stream) Permanent Visa Pathway

On 10 December 2022 the subclass 189 (New Zealand Stream) visa was temporarily suspended and new criteria was introduced.

This visa pathway was suspended due to the Australian Government’s announcement that a dedicated taskforce would be put in place to deal with the backlog of applications. The aim is to assess and finalise these applications by mid 2023.

It is intended that this visa will re-open as of 1 July 2023 and it is anticipated that the criteria will remain the same or similar including:

  1. Changes to the income requirements
  2. Changes to the health requirements
  3. Changes to the residency requirements

Therefore, it is anticipated that the majority of New Zealand citizens on a whole will be able to apply for permanent residency subject to the newly updated criteria.

December 2022 - Changes to Australian Citizenship

It was also announced that the 12 month permanent residency requirement for Australian citizenship would no longer apply to New Zealand citizens who obtain their Subclass 189 (NZ Stream) visa from 1 January 2022 to 30 June 2023.

Therefore, New Zealand citizens who are granted their 189 visa between 1 January 2022 and 30 June 2023 are eligible to apply immediately for their Australian citizenship without needing to wait the 12 month waiting period. It is important to check however, that all other criteria is met at the same time also before applying.

In addition, children born to New Zealand parents between 1 January 2022 and 30 June 2023 prior to the grant of their subclass 189 visa are also Australian citizens at birth.

2023 Direction 99 introduced (Visa refusal and cancellation under section 501 and revocation of a mandatory cancellation of a visa under section 501CA) -

23 January 2023 – Welcome changes to the way the visa cancellation decisions are to be carried out under s501 – Character Test have been revised to include further considerations to long term residents and their families.

We expect to see more appeals being won and less people being removed from Australia which is a welcome relief.

More on these changes will come to light as time progresses so we eagerly watch how these will affect individuals and families in a positive light.

22 April 2023 - Direct Pathway to Australian citizenship for NZ citizens to commence from 1 July 2023

To almost everyone’s shock and delight, the new announcements made would be a welcome and historical change.

The catch however is, that New Zealand citizens must hold TY444 visas and meet the residency requirements.

So the big downfall has been the negative impact these changes had on NZ citizens who do not hold TY444 visas anymore.

The other negative impact has been on NZ citizens and their families who had done the right thing and just paid thousands of dollars on visa pathways, right before these announcements.



1 July 2023 - Citizenship Pathway begins

As of 1 July NZ citizens who hold TY444 visas will have their permanent residence status backdated to 1 July 2022.

This will then allow them to meet the 12 month criteria necessary to apply for Australian citizenship.

Important Notice: Our website and social media content serve as a guide and general educational resource. For personalised advice, we strongly recommend booking an assessment with us. As experienced and knowledgeable registered migration agents, we specialise exclusively in migration matters for New Zealand citizens and Pacific Island citizens residing in Australia.

First step to getting help is to reach out to us

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