NZ officials asking questions about Australia citizenship changes for expat Kiwis

Prime Minister John Key and Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull announced a special pathway to citizenship for long-term Kiwi expats last year.

Sam Sachdeva – 21 April 2017

Up to 60,000 Kiwis could be impacted by the changes, which have increased the time people must wait to get citizenship.

New Zealand officials are trying to clarify how tighter Australian immigration rules will affect a special pathway to citizenship for Kiwis living across the ditch.

Expats have raised fears that the changes will “shift the goalposts” on the process for tens of thousands of Kiwis who have lived in Australia for many years without full rights.

Last year, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a streamlined pathway to citizenship for Kiwis who had arrived in Australia between February 2001 and February 2016, lived there for at least five years and met income and character tests.

Previously, New Zealanders living in the country on Special Category Visas (SCVs) could work and live in Australia indefinitely, but had limited access to government services and no pathway to citizenship.

Under the new pathway policy, eligible Kiwis could receive permanent residency and then apply for citizenship one year later.

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However, changes announced by Turnbull and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton on Thursday mean all new citizenship applicants must have been permanent residents for at least four years, while introducing a more stringent citizenship test.

Tim Gassin, the chairman of expat lobby group Oz Kiwi, said the change was a setback for Kiwis who had been deprived of rights while contributing to the country.

“This is just Australia walking all over New Zealand again – you’d had John Key and then Bill English out there selling it as a great success, ‘Look at how our quiet diplomacy worked so well’, but this is what they get in return.”

A spokesman for Prime Minister Bill English referred queries about any New Zealand concerns to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT).

An MFAT spokesman said the special pathway to citizenship “still stands”, although he understood the changes announced by the Australian government would apply to all nationalities.

“New Zealand officials are seeking clarity on how the proposed changes to citizenship rules will operate in conjunction with that pathway.”

However, the spokesman said the issue was “obviously a matter for the Australian government to determine”.

“New Zealanders’ entitlements to live and work in Australia are more generous than those applicable to citizens of any other country.”

A spokeswoman for Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection said the policy shift “in no way changes Australia’s commitment to implement a pathway to permanent residency for thousands of New Zealanders living in Australia”.

However, it confirmed the four-year permanent residency criteria would apply to New Zealand citizens who applied after the Government’s announcement on April 20.

[Read the Stuff article].

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