Updated 13 February 2020
PDF Version [295KB]
and Michael Klapdor
Social Policy Section
Under various arrangements since the
1920s, there has been a free flow of people between Australia and New Zealand.
Historically, migration flows across the Tasman have been large in both directions,
but since the 1970s more New Zealanders than Australians have chosen to cross
the Tasman to live. As at 30 June 2018, there were an estimated
568,000 New Zealand-born people living in Australia, forming 2.3 per cent of
the population and representing our fourth-largest migrant community.
Under the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement introduced in
1973, Australian and New Zealand citizens are able to enter each other’s
country to visit, live and work indefinitely, without the need to apply for
prior authority. New Zealand is the only country in the world that has such an
arrangement with Australia. There are no caps on the numbers of New Zealanders
who may enter under the arrangement, and the only limitations on entry relate
to health and character requirements.
Background on the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement and the
Closer Economic Relations agenda is summarised in the 2012 joint report of the Australian
Productivity Commission and New Zealand Productivity Commission, Strengthening
trans-Tasman economic relations.
This quick guide outlines the visa requirements and
conditions for New Zealanders living in Australia, including under the Special
Category Visa and the pathway to permanent residence introduced in 2017. It
summarises some of the issues around the visa cancellation and removal from
Australia of New Zealand citizens, which has become a high-profile issue in
recent years. It also provides an overview of the services to which New
Zealanders living in Australia are entitled including restrictions on
entitlement to services. It compares this with the services to which
Australians living in New Zealand are entitled.
The Special Category Visa
Since 1 September 1994, all non-citizens in Australia have
been required to hold a valid visa. As a result, the Special
Category Visa (SCV, subclass 444) was introduced specifically for New
Zealand citizens. This visa is issued on arrival and there is no need to apply
prior to entering Australia. To obtain an SCV, a New Zealand citizen must
present a valid New Zealand passport and an incoming passenger card to
immigration officials upon arrival in Australia. Exceptions apply, such as if a
person is assessed as a ‘behaviour
concern non-citizen’, meaning they have a prior criminal conviction
resulting in a sentence of at least one year, or have previously been removed
or deported from Australia or another country. New Zealand citizens with
criminal convictions may be able to apply for a visa in advance. The Australian
High Commission in New Zealand offers advice in this regard.
Around 1.9 million SCVs were granted
in each of the previous three financial years up to 2018–19. As at September
2019, there were an estimated
685,000 New Zealand citizens present in Australia on SCVs (although many of
these would have been short-term visitors, and not resident in Australia).
Although it allows New Zealand citizens to stay in
Australia indefinitely, the SCV is classed as a temporary visa, and temporary
visa holders do not have the same rights and benefits as Australian citizens or
permanent residents. To access such rights, temporary migrants, including those
from New Zealand, must obtain permanent visas. In contrast, on entering New
Zealand, all Australian citizens and permanent residents are automatically
granted residence visas, and may apply for permanent residence after having
held a residence visa continuously for two years.
Prior to 2001, New Zealand citizens in Australia on SCVs
could access social security and obtain Australian citizenship without first
becoming permanent residents. In February 2001, Australia entered into a new
bilateral social security arrangement with New Zealand and amended citizenship
laws for New Zealand citizens. Under these changes, all New Zealand citizens
who arrived in Australia after 26 February 2001 and who want to access certain
social security payments, obtain citizenship or sponsor family members for
permanent residence may only do so after applying for, and being granted,
permanent residence through the migration program. That is, there was no New
Zealand-specific avenue to permanent residence, with New Zealand citizens
subject to the same visa application requirements as all other nationalities.
Transitional arrangements were put in place for New Zealanders
in Australia at the time of the amendments. This means that New Zealanders who
were already in Australia as SCV holders on 26 February 2001 may continue
to apply for citizenship, sponsor family members for permanent residence and
access social security payments without being granted permanent visas. These
individuals are regarded as ‘protected SCV holders’.
The pathway to permanent residence
On 19 February 2016, then Prime Minster Malcolm Turnbull announced
that Australia would provide a pathway to permanent residence, and eventually
citizenship, for certain New Zealanders living in Australia, as of 1 July 2017.
The announcement was an outcome of the Annual
Leaders Meeting between the Australian and New Zealand Prime Ministers, and
was welcomed by then New Zealand Prime Minister John Key.
is available through the New
Zealand stream of the Skilled Independent (subclass 189) visa as part of
the General Skilled Migration program. It is aimed at New Zealand citizens on
SCVs who have demonstrated a commitment and contribution to Australia, as
evidenced through the eligibility criteria:
- arrived in Australia on or before 19 February 2016
have been usually resident in Australia for the five years
immediately prior to visa application
can demonstrate, through income tax returns (Notice of
Assessment) for each of the four completed financial years prior to
application, a taxable income at or above the minimum income threshold. The
threshold is set by legislative
instrument and is equivalent to the Temporary Skilled Migration Income
Threshold (TSMIT, currently set at $53,900, which is the minimum salary for
temporary skilled visa positions, including the Temporary Skill Shortage visa),
- satisfy mandatory health, character and security checks.
Some limited exemptions apply to the income threshold, in
cases of parental or carer’s leave, Family Court determinations regarding the
primary care of a child, or injury compensation.
In 2017–18, in the first year of its operation, there were
visa grants through the pathway. The Department of Home Affairs had estimated
prior to the launch of the initiative that between 60,000 and 70,000 New
Zealanders in Australia would meet the eligibility criteria.
The New Zealand Government has welcomed the pathway, and promotes
it to its citizens in Australia. However, the pathway has been criticised
by some commentators
as being unnecessarily restrictive and discriminatory. Criticism largely
- the eligibility ‘cut-off’ date of 19 February 2016, excluding
future arrivals from the pathway, and
the income threshold and the limited exemptions which apply,
excluding New Zealanders on lower incomes or who cannot demonstrate they meet
the criteria, potentially affecting vulnerable sectors of the population.
There is no information
available as yet regarding Government analysis of the outcomes of the pathway
or considerations on adjusting the settings.
Visa cancellation and removal of
New Zealand citizens
The visa cancellation and removal of New Zealand citizens
from Australia has become an issue of media and political sensitivity over
recent years. New Zealand political leaders, including Prime
Minister Jacinda Ardern, continue to label the issue as ‘corrosive’ to the trans-Tasman
relationship. Prime Minister Morrison maintains a response
that the policy is not targeted at New Zealanders in particular and is part of
Australia’s strong stance on criminality and visa compliance.
In December 2014, the Australian Government introduced legislative
amendments including to section 501 of the Migration Act 1958 which
increased visa cancellation and refusal powers on character grounds. A key
provision was the introduction of mandatory visa cancellation in cases where a
person has been sentenced to twelve months or more of imprisonment, or been
convicted of sexual offences involving a child.
The new measures resulted in a significant increase in the
number of visa cancellations under section 501: Department of Home Affairs
show the total numbers were up 660 per cent in 2014–15 compared to the previous
year, a further 69 per cent in 2015–16 and a further 31 per cent in 2016–17. The
New Zealand Government argues
that its citizens are disproportionately affected by this measure. Visa
cancellation statistics on the Department of Home Affairs website show that
from 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2019, there were 435 character cancellations of New
Zealand citizens under section 501 out of a total of 943 cancellations for that
of the Joint Standing Committee on Migration’s inquiry
into review processes associated with visa cancellations made on criminal
grounds summarises key arguments submitted by the New Zealand High
Commission and advocacy groups including OzKiwi in considering the application
of the measures on New Zealand citizens. These include that:
- New Zealanders may have spent a significant proportion of their
lives in Australia—in some cases the entirety—and have no significant ties to
New Zealand or support there once removed from Australia
- they may be separated from family members, potentially infringing
upon the rights of the child and creating vulnerability in family circumstances
- they may be at increased likelihood of re-offending once returned
to New Zealand, with the view expressed by some that Australia is failing to
take responsibility for rehabilitating criminals of long-term residence in
There were also arguments that although New Zealand citizens
in Australia pay tax, they do not have the same access to services as
Australian citizens or permanent residents (see also the sections below), and
are therefore more vulnerable to hardship and potentially to committing offences.
The New Zealand High Commission’s submission
to the inquiry compared Australia’s system with New Zealand’s, which takes into
account the length of time an individual has lived in New Zealand and the
relative seriousness of the crime, as represented by the length of the prison
sentence. If an Australian convicted of a crime in New Zealand has lived there
for ‘more than 10 years, they will effectively not be deported regardless of
The Committee’s report included a recommendation that
specific provisions be made regarding character cancellation of New Zealand
citizens to account for their ‘historic special immigration status’. This would
not apply if a criminal conviction was for a serious violent or sexual offence.
At the time of writing, the Government has not yet responded to the report’s
What are New Zealanders in
Australia entitled to?
Eligibility for Australia’s social security system is
based primarily on residency and financial means. It is a basic qualification
or claim requirement for almost all pensions, allowances and benefits that persons
must be Australian residents.
To be considered an Australian resident, a person must reside
in Australia and be:
- an Australian citizen
- the holder of a permanent visa, or
- a Special Category Visa (SCV) holder who is considered a
‘protected’ SCV holder.
(Note that a Bill
before the Parliament at the time of writing will include holders of a
provisional skilled regional visa as Australian residents for social security
SCV holders are those SCV holders who:
- were in Australia on 26 February 2001
- were in Australia as an SCV holder for a period of, or periods
totalling, 12 months during the two years immediately before 26 February 2001
- commenced or recommenced residing in Australia within three
months from 26 February 2001, or
- were residing in Australia on 26 February 2001 but were
New Zealand citizens who have arrived in Australia since 26
February 2001 on SCVs are considered ‘non-protected SCV holders’ and have
restricted eligibility to social security benefits (see below).
For some social security payments there are additional
residency-related requirements. To be eligible for allowance payments such as
Newstart Allowance and Youth Allowance, as well as payments such as the Parenting
Payment and Carer Payment, individuals must have resided in Australia as
Australian residents for four years. Newstart Allowance will be replaced by JobSeeker
Payment on 20 March 2020 and the same waiting period will apply.
For pensions, including the Age Pension and Disability
Support Pension, persons must have been Australian residents for ten years or
more (including at least five of those years in one continuous period) before
they become eligible. The Disability Support Pension can be accessed
immediately if the impairment causing inability to work (one of the eligibility
criteria) occurred while a person was an Australian resident.
A two-year newly arrived resident’s waiting period applies
to the Carer Payment, Parental Leave Pay and Dad and Partner Pay.
A one-year newly arrived resident’s waiting period applies
to the Carer Allowance and Family Tax Benefit Part A (no waiting period applies
to Family Tax Benefit Part B or to Child Care Subsidy).
Waiting periods for many
payments were recently extended as a result of amendments in the Social Services
and Other Legislation Amendment (Promoting Sustainable Welfare) Act 2018,
with effect from 1 January 2019.
SCV holders (both protected or non-protected), or former SCV
holders, are not required to serve the newly arrived resident’s waiting period
for Family Tax Benefit Part A, Parental Leave Pay or Dad and Partner Pay.
Savings provisions in the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment
(Promoting Sustainable Welfare) Act 2018 mean that the waiting periods for
these payments do not apply to a person who has held a special category visa on
any day before the day their eligibility for the payment is assessed. This
means that former SCV holders who have transferred to another visa are not
subject to the newly arrived residents waiting period for these payments.
Entitlements for protected SCV
holders and permanent visa holders
New Zealand citizens who are protected SCV holders or
holders of permanent visas have the same social security entitlements as other
Australian residents. This means that they have the same eligibility as
Australian citizens, provided they have served any applicable waiting period.
Protected SCV holders are not required to serve the extended newly arrived
residents waiting period that has applied to most payments since 1 January
2019. Instead, they are required to have served the previous waiting period
required—two years for most working age payments.
Entitlements for non-protected SCV
New Zealand citizens who are non-protected SCV holders (those
who arrived after 26 February 2001) who intend to live in Australia permanently
are only eligible for certain payments under certain conditions.
Family assistance payments
Non-protected SCV holders are eligible for all family
assistance payments under the same conditions as Australian citizens. These
If they are renting privately and receiving FTB, SCV holders
may be eligible for Rent
SCV holders who arrived in Australia on New Zealand passports
and have lived in Australia continuously for at least ten years since 26 February
2001 can access a once only
payment of Newstart Allowance, Sickness Allowance or Youth Allowance for a
maximum continuous period of six months. The six-month period does not start
until any relevant waiting and/or preclusion/ exclusion periods have been
served and payments commence. Transfer between payments is not permitted under
this residence exemption. For example, a person in receipt of Newstart
Allowance by virtue of this exemption would not be able to transfer to Sickness
Allowance. They may be subject to waiting periods on the same grounds as other
applicants, for example where they have received a redundancy payment or have
more than $5,000 (single) or $10,000 (couple) in liquid assets.
Where SCV holders move on to permanent entry visas (for
example a spouse visa or the New Zealand pathway stream of the Skilled
Independent visa), they are considered under the same conditions as citizens of
other countries. In general terms, this means they are subject to the relevant newly
arrived residents waiting period from the date the permanent visa is granted.
Newstart Allowance and Sickness Allowance will be replaced
by JobSeeker Payment on 20 March 2020. A once only payment of
JobSeeker Payment will be available to SCV holders under the same conditions
Pensions and Carer Payment
Under Australia’s international
social security agreement with New Zealand, New Zealand
citizens living in Australia can apply for the Australian Age
Pension (if they have reached pension
Support Pension (DSP, if they are severely disabled) and Carer
Payment (if they are caring for a partner on DSP) irrespective of whether
they are protected or non-protected SCV holders. There are certain residency
and other qualifications applying to these payments. Reciprocal
arrangements apply in relation to certain New Zealand payments.
Non-protected SCV holders are not generally eligible to
receive the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment or the Disaster
Recovery Allowance. However, it has been the practice for ex-gratia payments of
equivalent value to be made to New Zealanders for major disasters.
Health Care Cards and the Commonwealth
Seniors Health Card
Non-protected SCV holders are entitled to a Low-Income
Health Care Card if they have resided in Australia for four years and meet
the income test. This card provides access to discounted medicines under the
Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and access to concessions provided by
state and territory governments and some private businesses. Non-protected SCV
holders who are receiving the maximum rate of Family Tax Benefit Part A are
automatically entitled to a Health Care Card and do not need to serve a waiting
period. Non-protected SCV holders who have a Family Tax
Benefit child (that is, a child who meets the care and other child
eligibility requirements for FTB) can be eligible for a Low-Income Health Care
serving the waiting period even if they do not actually receive Family Tax
Non-protected SCV holders who are over age pension age, not
in receipt of pension payments and who have resided in Australia for four years
may qualify for a Commonwealth
Seniors Health Card (CSHC). The card provides access to discounted
medicines under the PBS, transport and other concessions. Where the individual
has been a CSHC cardholder continuously from 19 September 2016, they may also
receive the Energy Supplement payment worth $366.60 per annum for a single
person and $551.20 for a couple (combined).
The Australian health system comprises both publically
funded and privately funded health care. The public system includes Medicare,
public hospitals and the PBS,
while the private system includes private hospital treatment and treatments not
covered by Medicare, which can be covered through private health insurance. For
more information, see the Parliamentary Library publication Health
in Australia: A Quick Guide.
Generally speaking, in order to be entitled to Medicare a
person must be an Australian citizen or permanent resident. However, New
Zealanders who are residing in Australia are also eligible
for Medicare and can be issued with a
Medicare card upon presentation of documentation proving residence. Since New
Zealand citizens who are lawfully residing in Australia are entitled to
Medicare, they must also pay the Medicare levy and the Medicare
levy surcharge (if their income is above
the base income threshold and they do not have an appropriate level of private
patient hospital cover).
Under Australia’s Reciprocal
Health Care Agreement with New Zealand,
New Zealand residents visiting Australia are also entitled to services as
public patients in a public hospital for medically necessary treatment and some
prescription medicines under the PBS. They are also eligible for the Private
Health Insurance Rebate if they purchase eligible health cover during their
stay and meet the income test.
National Disability Insurance
The National Disability
Insurance Scheme (NDIS) provides
individualised support for eligible people with permanent and significant
disability, their families and carers, as well as associated referral services
The NDIS has similar residence
requirements as those applying to
Australia’s social security system. To access the NDIS, a person must be an
Australian citizen, hold a permanent visa or be a protected SCV holder. This
means that New Zealand citizens who arrived in Australia after 26 February
2001 may not access the NDIS.
The NDIS is partially funded through an increase
in the Medicare levy from 1.5 per cent
to 2.0 per cent of taxable income. As noted above, New Zealanders residing in
Australia are required to pay the Medicare levy. This has led to the complaint that while New Zealanders residing in Australia
as non-protected SCV holders are responsible for partially funding the NDIS
through the Medicare levy, they are not entitled to access its services.
In Australia, school education is funded by both federal and
state and territory governments, but enrolment matters fall under the
jurisdiction of state and territory governments. Government schooling is free
for Australian citizens and permanent residents. New Zealand citizens are
regarded as local students and therefore entitled to free public schooling in
all states and territories (for example, see information on enrolment in
government schools in the Australian
Capital Territory and South
Australia). New Zealand citizens are also eligible for Australian Government per student recurrent
funding which is paid to both government and non-government schools.
All New Zealand citizens are considered
domestic students for the purpose of taking up Commonwealth supported places
in universities. New Zealand citizens are also considered domestic students for
the purposes of higher degrees by research and therefore eligible for Research
scholarships. In the vocational education and training (VET) sector,
New Zealand citizens have access to government-subsidised places in some states
Higher Education Loan Program
The Australian Government provides financial assistance to
tertiary education students (university and VET) through the Higher
Education Loan Program (HELP) and student income support. New
Zealanders are eligible providing they:
- hold an SCV
- first entered Australia as a dependent minor aged under 18 years
have been ordinarily resident in Australia for the previous ten
years (that is, physically present in Australia for at least eight out of the
past ten years) and for 18 months of the last two years at the time of
- meet other HELP eligibility criteria.
An interesting consequence of these eligibility criteria is
that New Zealand citizens may only access HELP loans if
they hold an SCV. If they hold any other type of visa (for example a
permanent skilled or family visa), they are no longer eligible for HELP. This
means that New Zealanders who take up permanent residence as a means of
pursuing Australian citizenship become temporarily ineligible for HELP, but
become eligible again once they become an Australian citizen.
Student income support
Protected SCV holders are able to access student income
support payments, such as Youth Allowance and Austudy, under the same
conditions as Australian citizens and permanent residents. Non-protected SCV
holders who have resided in Australia for at least ten years since 26 February
2001 can qualify for a one-off Youth Allowance payment for up to six months if
they meet other Youth Allowance qualification requirements.
What are Australians in New Zealand
New Zealand Government has a webpage
of information for Australian citizens considering moving to New Zealand
including an overview of rights and entitlements. Australian citizens are
granted an Australian
Resident Visa on arrival, subject to character and entry conditions
(Australian permanent residents are also eligible for this visa but must have a
New Zealand Electronic
Travel Authority prior to travel). Like the SCV, it allows indefinite stay
with work and study rights, and expires if the holder leaves New Zealand, but
unlike the SCV, it is a resident class visa (under the Immigration Act 2009
(NZ)), not a temporary entry visa.
Holders of an Australian Resident Visa may apply for New
Zealand citizenship after five years’ residence, as per requirements for
most other nationalities.
Holders of resident class visas are considered permanent
residents for the purposes of New Zealand social security payments.
Claimants for New Zealand social security benefits must be considered ‘ordinarily
resident’ in New Zealand at the time they make a claim: this is defined as
someone ‘who is normally and lawfully in New Zealand and intends to stay here.
That is, they consider New Zealand to be their home’.
The following are the main
social security benefits available in New Zealand and the main eligibility
criteria relevant to Australian citizens:
Support (for the unemployed and those unable to work due to a health
condition or disability aged 18 years or over or, if they have dependent
children, 20 years or over): Australian citizens and permanent residents may be
eligible for Jobseeker Support if they have been continuously resident in New
Zealand for at least two years and if they fulfil other eligibility criteria.
Recipients must reapply after 52 weeks.
Parent Support (for singles aged 19 years or over with a dependent child in
their care under the age of 14): Australian citizens and permanent residents
may be eligible if they have been continuously resident in New Zealand for at
least two years and if they fulfil other eligibility criteria.
Living Payment (for people with disabilities or their carers): Australian
citizens and permanent residents may be eligible for the Supported Living
Payment if they have been continuously resident in New Zealand for at least two
years and if they fulfil other eligibility criteria.
Zealand Superannuation (that is, the age pension): Australian citizens or
former residents (including New Zealanders returning after living in Australia)
may be eligible for the age pension if they meet eligibility criteria.
Generally, eligibility is based upon residency in New Zealand for not less than
ten years since the age of 20, including five years or more since the age of
50. Under the social security agreement between Australia and New Zealand,
periods of residence in Australia may be recognised for the purposes of
eligibility for New Zealand Superannuation. New Zealand Superannuation is not income
or assets tested, but receipt of an Australian pension may affect payment
Payment (for people aged 16 or 17 years old undertaking full-time education
or training): Australian citizens and permanent residents may be eligible for
the Youth Payment if they have been continuously resident in New Zealand for at
least two years and if they fulfil other eligibility criteria.
Parent Payment (for parents aged 16–19 years old undertaking full-time
education or would be available to but meets an exemption criteria): Australian
citizens and permanent residents may be eligible for the Youth Payment if they
have been continuously resident in New Zealand for at least two years and if
they fulfil other eligibility criteria.
Allowances (for full-time students aged 18–65 at start of study at approved
education providers): eligibility requires a claimant to be a New Zealand
citizen or entitled to reside indefinitely in New Zealand (which includes
Australian citizens and permanent residents). From 1 January 2014, claimants
must have lived in New Zealand for at
least three years (prior to 2014, a two-year residency requirement
applied). Residency periods do not need to be continuous but can be added
together to meet the three-year requirement.
Benefit may be provided to Australian citizens residing in New Zealand, if
those citizens have no other means of supporting themselves and are ineligible
for another benefit (in a similar way to Special Benefit in Australia).
under the Australia–New Zealand social
security agreement apply in relation to certain New Zealand payments,
including New Zealand Superannuation, Veterans Pension and Supported Living
Extra or supplementary benefits are payable to eligible
recipients of the above payments and the same residency criteria apply.
Australian citizens and permanent residents can access the Childcare
Subsidy, an income tested child care fee assistance payment, if they meet
the relevant eligibility requirements. There are no residency period
for Families Tax Credit program consists of four tax credits:
- In-work tax credit: an income and work-tested tax credit for
those with dependent children
Minimum family tax credit: an income and work-tested tax credit
for families with a low income after tax—intended to ensure families have a
minimum basic income
- Family tax credit: payable in respect of each dependent child in
the family and
Best Start: paid for newborns up to the age of one, or up to the
age of three where family income is below a certain threshold.
Australian citizens and permanent residents qualify
for Working for Families Tax Credits if they are considered a New Zealand tax
resident. A New
Zealand tax resident is someone who:
- is in New Zealand for more than 183 days in any 12-month period
and hasn’t become a non-resident or
- has a ‘permanent place of abode’ in New Zealand or
is away from New Zealand in the service of the New Zealand
Recipients of the social security benefits listed in the
previous section can be paid their family tax credit or best start tax credits
with their benefits (via the Ministry of Social Development). Tax credits are
normally paid via Inland Revenue.
Access to health
Australians in New Zealand is generally equivalent to New Zealanders’
entitlements in Australia. Under the Reciprocal
Health Care Agreement (RHCA), Australian citizens and permanent residents
temporarily in New Zealand may access necessary public hospital treatment,
pharmaceuticals and maternity services on the same terms as New Zealand
citizens. Publicly funded health care beyond that provided for under the RHCA
is available to Australians who are resident in New Zealand for two years or
more, or who can demonstrate an intention to reside in New Zealand for two
years or more.
Australian citizens in New Zealand are classified as domestic
students and do not require student visas. Australian citizens and New
Zealand permanent residents need to have lived in New
Zealand for at least three years before they are eligible for tertiary student
allowances and student loans.
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