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New Zealanders able to apply for Australian citizenship in July

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced a new direct pathway to Australian citizenship for eligible New Zealand citizens just before New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins arrived in Australia over the weekend.

Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs Andrew Giles said that this announcement will make a significant difference to the lives of people already living and working and in our communities. It also removes a point of division between Australia and New Zealand which hampered relations between the countries.

Changes in 2001 made it more difficult for New Zealanders in Australia to attain citizenship but from 1 July 2023, New Zealand citizens living in Australia will have a direct pathway.

Before 2001 New Zealanders were automatically granted permanent residency but then the Howard government changed the rules making new arrivals go onto a special visa which allowed them to live and work in Australia indefinitely but limited their access to welfare and Medicare. It also meant that they had to apply for permanent residency before seeking citizenship.

With this change, Special Category Visa holders will be able to apply directly for citizenship without becoming permanent residents first if they meet a four-year residence and other eligibility requirements. Children born in Australia of New Zealand parents who meet certain criteria will be offered automatic Australian citizenship.

It is estimated that around 350,000 New Zealanders in Australia will be able to apply to become Australian citizens.

Around 70,000 Australians live in New Zealand and are eligible to vote, receive unemployment benefits and work, including work in defence roles.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he would consider extending voting rights to New Zealanders. Though once Australian citizens, New Zealanders will automatically have voting rights in Australia.

According to the government, this is a fair change for New Zealanders living in Australia and brings their rights more in line with Australians living in New Zealand. This is consistent with our ambition to build a fairer, better managed and more inclusive migration system.

“Australia and New Zealand have a deep friendship, which has been forged through our history, shared values and common outlook,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said.

“As we mark the 50th anniversary of the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement, I look forward to strengthening our relationship.

“We know that many New Zealanders are here on a Special Category Visa while raising families, working and building their lives in Australia. So, I am proud to offer the benefits that citizenship provides.”

Many New Zealand citizens choose to live and contribute to Australia, so it is reasonable they have the opportunity to become Australian citizens and enjoy the rights and obligations that come from citizenship.

“Today’s changes will strengthen ties with our closest neighbour and will mean the many people already living and working in our communities can enjoy the benefits of citizenship.

“Anthony Albanese is ensuring the deep, strong connection between our two countries is reflected in how we treat Kiwis living in Australia,” Minister for Home Affairs Clare O’Neil said.

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