Status of NZ Citizens

Immigration Legislation

Updated 17/01/2023

Immigration legislation encompasses the Australian visa and citizenship program which is determined by the Migration Act 1958, the Migration Regulations 1994 and the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 and Australian Citizenship Regulations 2016. Various Policies, Instruments, Notices and Directions and also help delegates of the Department of Home Affairs to make assessments and decisions on a case by case basis.

New Zealand citizens

One of the most difficult concepts in immigration legislation to grasp is understanding the immigration status of New Zealand citizens in Australia. This is because Australian laws have evolved and changed numerous times depending on political views and economic influences.

Major changes that had a negative impact on New Zealanders began to appear in August of 1986 when changes to the status of children born in Australia to New Zealand citizen parents emerged. Children born between 20 August 1986 to 30 August 1994 were no longer recognised as Australian citizens from birth.

The most damage however has been caused by the lack of understanding, explanations, information and procedural fairness provided to New Zealand citizens.

For example, New Zealand citizens are still the only migrant who are not provided with a visa grant letter.

In September 1994, New Zealand citizens were not informed that their immigration status was changed from being considered a permanent resident to now being defined as a temporary resident with the introduction of the Special Category visa, Subclass TY444.

The other, most significant change occurred on 26 February 2001 and other minor changes have continued to occur with visa pathways and criteria.

Under the Australian Labor government led by PM Anthony Albanese, new and positive changes are on the horizon with significant changes beginning to take place in December 2022 with further announcements set to take place on ANZAC Day, 2023 and 1 July 2023.

New Zealand citizens don’t all hold the same immigration status and as a result, these differences have a direct impact on what visa and citizenship options are or aren’t available.

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.

ANZAC Day Announcements came early! 22 April 2023 - Direct pathway to Australian citizenship

On the 22nd April 2023 a shock announcement was made. New Zealand citizens who hold a subclass TY444 visa may now have a direct pathway to Australian citizenship. They will still be required to meet residency requirements along with the other usual requirements in order to successfully apply for and be granted Australian citizenship.


For certain New Zealand citizens, their permanent resident status was backdated to 1 July 2022.

Did You Know?

When a New Zealand citizen completes an incoming passenger card (IPC) using their New Zealand passport, this is actually a visa application for the Special Category Visa, subclass TY444? Once a New Zealand citizen has been processed through immigration clearance (customs) we are automatically granted a Special Category Visa (SCV), subclass TY444.

The TY444 ceases to exist each time a New Zealand citizen leaves Australia and a new TY444 visa is granted each time that New Zealand citizen enters Australia. Most New Zealand citizens hold a Special Category Visa, subclass TY444 yet up until recent years, were completely unaware they even held a visa, let alone what their visa status was.

Special Category Visa (SCV)

When the SCV, subclass TY444 was introduced on the 1st September 1994.

In most cases, New Zealand citizens are not required to apply for a visa to travel to Australia.

To be granted the TY444 visa, the applicant must present a New Zealand passport AND neither a behaviour concern non-citizen (BCNC)* nor a health concern non-citizen (HCNOC)**.

The TY444 ceases to exist each time a New Zealand citizen leaves Australia and a new TY444 is reissued upon each entry back into Australia, regardless of whether the person lives in Australia permanently or not.

New Zealand citizens that don’t hold a TY444 visa may be the holder of another type of visa such as an absorbed person visa or have applied for and been granted a permanent visa such as a Resident Return Visa/subclass 155 , Skilled Independent visa/subclass 189, Partner visa/subclass 801, Child sponsor visa/subclass 820 or a variety of other permanent visas they may have applied for and been granted.

Either way, a New Zealand citizen who holds a permanent visa will usually be aware of it because they would have had to go through a stringent process to apply, paid a visa application fee and will have a Visa Grant Notification in the form of a letter issued to them.

* If a person has had criminal convictions, been deported, excluded or removed from any country, including Australia you may be considered a BCNC.

** If a person has untreated tuberculosis you may be considered a HCNC.

In Australia there are two distinct differences in immigration statuses:

Australian Citizen

Australian Citizen

Australian Non-Citizen

Australian Non-Citizen

Non-citizens are divided into two groups:

Lawful Non-Citizen

Lawful Non-Citizen

Unlawful Non-Citizen

Unlawful Non-Citizen

There are two distinct groups of VISAs:

Permanent Visa

Permanent Visa

Temporary Visa

Temporary Visa

Eligible New Zealand Citizens

In order to apply for Australian citizenship, you must be classed as a permanent resident or an ‘Eligible New Zealand citizens’.

The other ways a person may check their visa status is to run a Visa Entitlement Verification Online (VEVO) check or apply for their official movement record from the Department of Home Affairs. This can be done by the applicant themselves or through a registered migration agent, organisation or government agency.

We offer free VEVO checks to New Zealand due to it being a difficult process otherwise.

Some New Zealand citizens may even have a special sticker in their passport but these are no longer issued anymore due to everything being issued electronically.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does a non-citizen become an unlawful non-citizen?

  1. Overstaying their temporary visa
  2. Losing their permanent visa – usually by not adhering to the conditions of the visa or travelling on an expired visa
  3. Had their visa cancelled – either through failing character requirements or failing to adhere to the conditions of their visa

How does a non-citizen ensure they remain a lawful?

  1. Begin by understanding what visa they are on
  2. Understand the conditions associated with that visa
  3. Ensure they apply for and are granted a new visa when/if necessary
  4. Keep their contact information updated with the Department of Home Affairs eg email, address, phone number
  5. Keep a check on any possible updates or changes to their visa status

What happens if a person becomes unlawful?

The answer will first depend on what caused the individual to become unlawful.

The key consequences are:

  1. Limited visa options available that can be applied for
  2. The person may be able to go offshore and apply for and be granted a new visa then re-enter Australia as a lawful non-citizen again
  3. Once removed, a prescribed ban period from reapplying for a new visa and re-entering Australia
  4. Once removed, a lifetime ban from re-entering Australia
  5. In some cases, a person will be billed for the time they were detained and costs of removal
  6. In some cases of visa cancellations, there may be prescribed circumstances where people may seek to have their decision reviewed and the decision to cancel their visa revoked. In other words, their visa is reinstated as if it had not been cancelled in the first instance.

What if the non-citizen has been living in Australia for most of their life?

Again, depending upon the reason for becoming an unlawful non-citizen the same rules apply, regardless of whether the person has been here for a relatively short time or a very long time.

Please note: The information we provide on our website and social media is intended as a guide and general educational resource only. The only way to know what is best for each individual case is to book an assessment. We are highly experienced and knowledgeable registered migration agents who specialise solely in the migration matters of New Zealand citizens and Pacific Island citizens who live in Australia.

First step to getting help is to reach out to us

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