Australia announced on Saturday a direct pathway to citizenship for New Zealanders living in the country, reversing controversial visa rules a day before a visit by New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins.
Hipkins, set to visit Queensland state’s capital Brisbane on Sunday, hailed the move as “the biggest improvement in the rights of New Zealanders living in Australia in a generation”.
The changes, effective from July, meant New Zealand citizens living in Australia for four years or more could apply for citizenship without having to become permanent residents first, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said in a statement.
“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,” Albanese added.
New Zealand has long campaigned for changes since visa rules were altered in 2001, making it tougher for Kiwis in Australia to get citizenship.
The reform would bring New Zealanders’ rights more into line with those of Australian expats living in New Zealand, Australia’s Labor government said.
“Kiwis taking up Australian citizenship will still retain their New Zealand citizenship. These dual citizens are not lost to New Zealand – but draw us closer together,” Hipkins said in a statement.
The changes also meant children born in Australia since July to an Australia-based New Zealand parent would be automatically entitled to Australian citizenship, he said.
“This will make critical services available to them,” he said, adding the changes delivered on an Albanese promise that no New Zealander be left “permanently temporary” in Australia.
Around 670,000 New Zealand citizens live in Australia, while there are around 70,000 Australians in New Zealand, according to Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil ruled out the changes being extended to other migrant groups, saying it was a “special arrangement with New Zealand”.
The reform was about ensuring the “strong friendship we have is reflected properly in law”, she told ABC television.