The new pathway will be available to eligible NZ citizens who have lived in Australia for more than four years.
Estimates put the number of kiwis living in Australia at around 700,000, of whom about 530,000 were born in New Zealand.
Speaking from Australia where he is currently on a trade mission, PM Chris Hipkins said, ‘This is the biggest improvement in the rights of New Zealanders living in Australia in a generation.’
Australian PM Anthony Albanese said it was, ‘a fair change for New Zealanders living in Australia, and brings their rights more in line with Australians living in New Zealand. 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.’
Australian media called the development a ‘major win’ for New Zealand which has spent years protesting about the Howard government’s decision in 2001 to establish a new ‘Special Category’ visa for New Zealanders in Australia.
‘That visa allows New Zealanders to stay in Australia but restricts their capacity to access to some government payments and obtain citizenship without first getting permanent residence through the migration program,’ according to the ABC.
The change has largely reversed the policy that had been in place since 2001 allowing all New Zealanders on the Special Category visa to apply for citizenship without becoming permanent residents first.
Australian Home Affairs Minister Claire O’Neil said the change would correct an injustice because, ‘our Kiwi cousins are our very best friends in the world, and they deserve the same respectful treatment Australians get when they live in New Zealand.’