Migration Pathway for NZ Citizens May Disadvantage Skilled Applicants

webster By Mark Webster
Monday, 22 February 2016

A new migration pathway for New Zealand Citizens has been announced, and is due to come into effect from 1 July 2017.

New Zealand citizens are currently able to remain indefinitely in Australia with full work rights on Special Category Subclass 444 visas. However, since 2001 they are not considered permanent residents and are not eligible for Australian citizenship.

The new pathway makes it possible for NZ citizens who have lived in Australia for 5 years and who have been earning taxable income in Australia to qualify for permanent residence.

Whilst this is great news for NZ citizens living in Australia, the implementation may adversely affect people applying for General Skilled Migration.

Pathway Requirements

A new stream will be introduced to the Skilled Independent Subclass 189 visa. The main requirements will be:
  • Resident in Australia for the five years prior to application
  • Must have arrived in Australia after 26 February 2001 but before 19 February 2016
  • Taxable income at or above the TSMIT (Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold - currently $53,900) for the last 5 years - ATO notices of assessment must be provided
  • Meet health and character requirements
A waiver will be available for the taxable income requirement - for example primary carers of children who are unable to return to New Zealand due to custody or access issues.

Concession on Visa Application Fee

The visa application fee will be the same as for other subclass 189 applicants. Currently, this would be $3,600 for the main applicant, $1,800 for dependents 18 or over and $900 for children under 18.

However, New Zealanders applying under the new pathway only need to pay 20% of the application fees of lodgement, with the remainder payable on visa grant.

Impact on Migration Program

Skilled Independent applicants currently need to meet a range of criteria that applicants in the NZ citizen stream would not - namely:
  • Skills Assessment in an occupation on the Skilled Occupations List
  • English Language Testing
  • Passing the skilled migration points test
  • Receiving an invitation via SkillSelect
  • Paying the full application fees at lodgement
  • Maximum age limit of 49
There is virtually no commonality with the proposed NZ citizen stream, so the rationale for including it within the Skilled Independent subclass is not clear. There is a possibility for applicants who do meet the demanding requirements for skilled independent migration to be disadvantaged if NZ citizen applicants receive priority.

There may be 60-70,000 New Zealanders who may be eligible for the new stream - as there are only 44,000 places available for the skilled independent subclass each year, this may mean it will be more competitive to obtain an invitation for a subclass 189 visa. The impact is likely to be significant in the first few years as New Zealanders who were previously not eligible for permanent residence make applications. The impact is likely to decline thereafter.

As the New Zealanders need to have been resident for the last 5 years in Australia, there would be no impact on Net Overseas Migration. We would argue that the new stream should operate outside the Migration Program, or at least should not count towards the quota for the 189 program. This would allow New Zealanders to apply without restriction, but limit the impact on others seeking to apply for Skilled Migration.

Note that the above change is likely to come into effect only on 1 July 2017. If you would like advice on your migration options, please book a consultation with one of our migration advisors.


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