Prime Minister Turnbull has clarified that the new pathway to citizenship will not be affected by the changes to citizenship eligibility announced on 20 April 2017. Those who apply under this pathway should still be eligible for citizenship after one year.
A new permanent visa, the Skilled Independent 189 (New Zealand) Stream is available from 1 July 2017 for some non-protected Special Category Visa-holders (SCV). If you are eligible, start preparing your supporting documents.
After the 1 July 2017 you can apply online by creating an ImmiAccount.
The primary applicant must either meet the income threshold in each of the five years, or be eligible for an income exemption.
Not all New Zealanders will be eligible to apply, including students, retirees, carers of children and some people unable to work due to an injury. Being made redundant, becoming unemployed, salary sacrificing and negative gearing are not grounds for an income exemption.
If the primary applicant does not meet the income threshold/income exemption criteria they cannot apply.
The new permanent visa does not change Kiwi’s eligibility for RRV, nor does it affect the Special Category Visa that many Kiwis in Australia reside on. If you are not eligible for the new permanent visa you can continue to reside on the Special Category Visa.
Who is eligible?
To be eligible for the new visa, the primary applicant must:
- be a non-protected Special Category Visa-holder
- have started residing in Australia on or before 19 February 2016
- have resided in Australia for the last five years immediately prior to applying
- have earned at least the taxable income threshold in each of the last five financial years or qualify for an income exemption
- meet the standard health, character and security checks.
If you arrived in Australia on 19 February 2016, you can apply after five years, provided you meet the other eligibility criteria. If you were not in Australia on 19 February 2016, but can demonstrate you were usually resident you will also be eligible to apply.
There are some limited income exemptions (see below).
There has been no mention of a maximum age restriction when applying for the Skilled Independent 189 (New Zealand) Stream.
The primary applicant can include their partner and dependent children on the application. Partners and children only need to meet the health, character and security checks.
If you are also eligible to apply for a Resident Return Visa, and have a partner and/or dependent children to sponsor, you must consider whether RRV or the new visa is the best option for your family. If your child becomes a permanent visa-holder they will not be eligible for a HELP loan until they attend their citizenship ceremony.
Only you can decide what is the best option for your family given the cost, time taken to process each visa, be granted citizenship and attend a citizenship ceremony. Oz Kiwi cannot advise on the best pathway for your family.
Family Relationship 461
Once you are granted the new visa you cannot renew a Family Relationship 461 visa as you are no longer an SCV-holder. You will need to include family on your application for the new visa, or sponsor them for a Partner visa or dependent Child visa when their current 461 visa expires.
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). You must provide copies of at least four ATO Notices of Assessment from the five income years immediately prior to application (with the tax file number removed or obscured).
Ask your accountant or tax agent for copies of your tax assessments, or log into the My Gov website.
Income threshold for the past five years (Source: DIBP)
You are eligible for an income exemption if you are prevented by an Australian authority from leaving Australia to return to New Zealand. This includes:
- a court order preventing you from removing a child from Australia; or
- receiving compensation/rehabilitation for an injury that would be discontinued if you returned to New Zealand.
You are also eligible for an income exemption for periods of maternity, paternity or carers leave during the qualifying period. Assessment is on a case-by-case basis including whether you resumed/intend to resume earning the income threshold within a reasonable timeframe.
If applying for an exemption or waiver to the income requirement you will also need:
- evidence of exemption to the income requirement such as a court order, parenting plan or compensation claim; or
- evidence of parental leave/carers leave such as a letter from your employer.
Start preparing your certified supporting documents ahead of 1 July 2017. In particular you will need:
- your passport photo page
- your rates notice or rental agreement as proof of residing in Australia
- a full New Zealand criminal record for all visa applicants aged 18 or older when they arrived in Australia
- an Australian National Police Check for all visa applicants aged 16 or older
- either ATO Tax Assessment Notices or evidence of income exemption for the primary applicant
- their passport photo page
- proof of your relationship (even if you are married) ie marriage certificate, family photos, joint bank accounts, shared property etc
- evidence of any name change, ie by marriage or deed poll (if applicable)
- children’s birth certificates
New Zealand Police check
Request a New Zealand criminal conviction history for each visa applicant aged 18 or older when they came to Australia. Tick the box at step 3 of the form – ‘Full record of convictions’ to request your full record. There is no fee, it remains valid for 12 months, and takes 1-3 months to be processed.
Australian National Police Check
Request an Australian National Police Check for each visa applicant, aged 16 or older, who has resided in Australia more than 12 months within the last 10 years. You do not need to provide finger prints. The fee is $42, and it usually takes 15 working days to be processed. When completing the form, in:
- Section 1: Type of check required – tick the box Name Check Only
- Section 8: Purpose of Check – select code 33 For Immigration/Citizenship.
All criminal convictions must be declared in the visa application, including historical or minor sentences. There is no “clean slate” when applying for a visa or citizenship.
Failure to declare convictions will see your application declined. You will also fail the character requirements if you have been sentenced to 12 months or more in prison, including historical offending or multiple short sentences totalling more than 12 months. A suspended sentence, ie no jail time was served, is still a prison sentence.
All members of the family will need to undergo a health examination. If an applicant fails to meet the health requirement you will be notified if a health waiver is going to be considered. If there are significant costs or services are in short supply the applicant will probably not meet the health requirement.
A medical examination and chest x-ray costs between $300 and $387 depending on your location.
The primary applicant can include their partner and dependent children on the visa application. The Visa Application Charges (VAC) are:
- $3,600 primary applicant
- $1,800 partner
- $1,800 each dependent child aged 18 to 22
- $900 each child under 18
Child’s age when the application is submitted.
Applicants are required to pay 20 percent of the VAC when they lodge their application. DIBP will request the remainder to be paid before granting the visa.
The Skilled Independent 189 (New Zealand) Stream fees are likely to increase by between $20 to $70 from 1 July 2017.
The processing time for the new visa is unknown at this stage, but it may take 4 to 6 months.
More information about the additional pathway to permanent residence is available on the Department of Immigration website.
Have a question?
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The above “Preparing for the new permanent visa” information should not be relied on as an alternative to advice from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, or a professional immigration services provider.
If you have any specific questions about an immigration matter, you should consult the Department of Immigration and Border Protection or a professional immigration services provider.