An additional pathway to permanent residence for New Zealand citizens

On 19 February 2016, in acknowledgement of the special bilateral relationship between Australia and New Zealand, the Australian Government announced a streamlined pathway to Australian permanent residence, for many New Zealand citizens who have been living in Australia for at least five years and shown a commitment and continuous contribution to Australia.

The new visa pathway will be available as a new stream within the Skilled Independent (subclass 189) visa from 1 July 2017. The pathway is for New Zealand Special Category (subclass 444) visa (SCV) holders who were usually resident in Australia on or before 19 February 2016 and who, at the time of lodging an application, have resided in Australia for at least five years. These new arrangements will give many New Zealand citizens permanent residence status, if they meet certain criteria, including:

  • contributing to Australia, demonstrated through income tax returns which show assessable income at least equivalent to the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) for the qualifying period; and
  • meeting mandatory health, character and security checks.

New Zealand citizens who are granted this visa will be eligible to apply for Australian citizenship after a period of 12 months (in addition to the five years as an eligible New Zealand SCV holder).

Note: If you arrived in Australia prior to 26 February 2001, you may already be considered a permanent resident for the purpose of applying for Australian citizenship. For further information see:  What is an Eligible New Zealand Citizen  or New Zealand Citizens living in Australia

Visa structure after 1 July 2017

From 1 July 2017, The Skilled Independent (subclass 189) visa will have two streams:

  • Skilled Independent 189 (Points-tested) Stream
  • Skilled Independent 189 (New Zealand) Stream.

The existing Skilled Independent (subclass 189) visa remains open to all nationalities, however, from 1 July 2017 it will be renamed the Skilled Independent 189 (Points-tested) Stream. The application process is still by invitation through SkillSelect.

What are the requirements for this visa?

To be eligible for the Skilled Independent 189 (New Zealand) Stream, at the time of application you must:

  • hold a Special Category (subclass 444) visa
  • have been usually resident in Australia for a continuous period of five years immediately prior to application, and have commenced that period of usual residence on or before 19 February 2016
  • have a taxable income at or above an income threshold for each income year in the five years prior to lodging an application (unless claiming an exemption).
  • meet mandatory health, character and national security checks
  • lodge a visa application and pay the relevant visa application charges.

You can include the following people in your visa application:

  • your partner
  • your child/step-child or your partner’s child/step-child.

These members of the family unit must:

  • meet mandatory health, character  and national security checks.
  • family members can hold any visa.

How can I prepare for 1 July 2017?

After 1 July 2017, we will provide further information about the pathway. See: Skilled Independent (subclass 189) visa.

To prepare for 1 July 2017, ensure that you have gathered the following evidence before applying for the visa, for everyone included in the application:

You will also require:

  • Notice of Assessments, issued by the Australian Taxation Office, for the past five years
  • evidence of residence such as rental agreement/rates notice.

If applying for an exemption or waiver to the income requirement you will also need:

  • evidence of exemption to the income requirement such as:
    • court order or parenting plan
    • compensation claim
  • evidence of parental leave/carers leave such as a letter from your employer.

What is the evidence requirement for income?

To be eligible for the Independent Skilled 189 (New Zealand) Stream, you must provide copies of a minimum of four Notices of Assessment (with the tax file number removed or obscured), issued by the Australian Taxation Office from the five income years immediately prior to application.

Taxable income recorded on the Notice of Assessment must be at or above the income threshold listed in the regulatory instrument for that income year. The income threshold for the Independent Skilled 189 (New Zealand) Stream is set at the same level as the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT). A summary of the Income threshold for the past five years can be found in the following table.

Table 1 – Income threshold for the past five years

Financial YearIncome Threshold for  Skilled Independent 189 (New Zealand) Stream
2012/13 AUD$51,000
2013/14 AUD$53,900
2014/15 AUD$53,900
2015/16 AUD$53,900
2016/17AUD$53,900

How do I remove my Tax File Number from Notice of Assessments?

For the purposes of the Independent Skilled 189 (New Zealand) Stream, you must remove or obscure your Tax File Number in the copies of the Notice of Assessment provided as evidence to support the income requirement. You can do this by blacking out or masking the tax file number with a pen or piece of paper when scanning the Notice of Assessment. You can then save Notice of Assessments with the tax file number removed as a PDF and provide it as evidence.

Are there exemptions to the income test?

Exemptions will apply to a Special Category (subclass 444) (SCV) visa holder who is prevented by an Australian authority from leaving Australia to return to New Zealand. This includes:

  • the Family Court of Australia assigning primary care of a child to a New Zealand citizen and placing restrictions on that New Zealand citizen from removing the child from Australia; or 
  • where a New Zealand citizen is receiving compensation for an injury and is unable to continue earning at or above the income threshold, and if they returned to New Zealand their ongoing rehabilitation and/or compensation would be discontinued.

A waiver to the income requirement applies for periods of maternity, paternity or carers leave during the qualifying period. An assessment of this waiver will be undertaken on a case-by-case basis and will take into consideration whether the applicant resumes (or intends to resume) earning an income at or above the income threshold within a reasonable timeframe.

 Exemptions will be detailed in a legislative instrument, which will be publically available from 1 July 2017.

What does 'Usually Resident' in Australia mean?

The place that a person is 'usually resident' is assessed taking into account their physical residence (where the person eats, sleeps, has a home) and the person's intention to make that place their home.

How do I obtain a police certificate?

For instructions on obtaining a certificate from an overseas government or law enforcement authority, refer to the relevant country information.

If you are required to provide an Australian police clearance certificate because you have spent more than 12 months in Australia within the last 10 years, you must complete the Australian Federal Police (AFP) National Police Check application form, which is available from the AFP website, AFP National Police Checks.

For instructions on obtaining a certificate Character and police certificate requirements.

What is a Health Assessment Portal (HAP ID)?

eMedical, our electronic health processing system, is used to process Australian immigration health examinations.

If you are completing your health examinations electronically (using eMedical) you must provide the clinic with a health case identifier (HAP ID) in order to book the appointment to complete your health examinations. For further information, see: Arranging a health examination.

Is a waiver to the health requirement available on this visa?

A health waiver is available for the Skilled Independent 189 (New Zealand) Stream.

How much is the visa application charge (VAC)​?

As part of the 2017-18 Budget, the Government announced a number of changes to existing visaa pplication charges (VACs). For more information see:  Visa Price Increase Fact Sheet 2017-18 (375KB PDF)

The visa application charge will be consistent with the General Skilled Migration Programme.

Concessions to the VAC have been made solely for the Skilled Independent 189 (New Zealand) Stream. At the time of lodgement, only 20 per cent of the total VAC needs to be paid. The remaining 80 per cent must be paid before grant.

How do I apply?

After 1 July 2017, you will be able to apply for the Skilled Independent 189 (New Zealand) Stream via ImmiAccount.

If I was not in Australia on 19 February 2016 can I apply?

If you meet all relevant criteria and can demonstrate you were usually resident on the 19 February 2016, you will be eligible to apply.

If I arrived in Australia on the day of the announcement, can I apply in five years' time?

Yes. If you can demonstrate you were usually resident on the 19 February 2016 you could apply in the future, but the grant of a visa will depend on whether you meet all relevant criteria.

What if I provide a bogus document or false and misleading information?

If we find that, you provided a bogus document or false or misleading information with your visa application:

  • we might refuse your visa application
  • we might prevent you from being granted another visa for three years and, if your visa has already been granted, we might cancel it.

You are responsible for the information included in your application, even if someone else completes it for you.

I am an SCV holder, what are my other options for permanent residence?

Like all nationalities New Zealand citizens seeking an option to apply for a permanent visa can explore the range of visa options available under the Family and Skill stream of the Australia’s annual Migration Programme.

New Zealand SCV holders who arrived in Australia before 1994 might also be eligible for a Resident Return visa (subclasses 155 and 157).

Note: If you arrived in Australia prior to 26 February 2001, you may already be considered a permanent resident for the purpose of applying for Australian citizenship. For further information see:  What is an Eligible New Zealand Citizen  or New Zealand Citizens living in Australia