We might relish the friendly competition between Australians and New Zealanders, but for the kiwis making the move across the ditch the feeling of goodwill is fading.
After nearly 100 years of arrangements designed to make it easy for citizens to flow freely between the two countries, a lot of kiwis now come to Australia on a Special Category Visa (SCV).
This visa allows them to live, work and study in Australia, but for those trying to build a permanent life here, it also has some very real restrictions.
What’s the deal with the SCV?
There are two types of SCVs, the kind issued before February 26, 2001 and all those that came after.
If you are a more recent NZ arrival, you would have been issued an “unprotected SCV” and that means your visa no longer grants you residency.
The new SCVs allows NZ citizens to be in Australia permanently, but they are still temporary visas. Neither protected or unprotected SCVs come with all the bells and whistles of permanent residency or citizenship.
In fact, they require holders to remain NZ citizens.
According to information published by the Immigration Department:
Holders of SCVs “are generally not able to”:
- Vote in Australian Government elections
- Access student loans
- Join the Australian Defence Force
- Obtain ongoing work for the Australian Government (the federal Public Service Act says it must not engage any person who is not an Australian citizen).
That means families who move here may not be able to access Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) loans for their children who graduate high school and are considering tertiary study.
The Federal Government has made some changes to the HELP program for NZ citizens recently, but strict eligibility requirements still apply.
What about Centrelink?
For kiwis who made the move after February 26, 2001 — unprotected SCV holders — there are few Australian welfare payments that they would be eligible for.
The key point is that the SCV no longer gives permanent residency status and that changes things when it comes to Centrelink.
“Unless they are regarded as a protected SCV holder, they are no longer entitled to Australian social security payments and are required to be the holder of a permanent visa in order to qualify for a social security payment,” information published by the Federal Government says.
The answer for many SCV holders is to start the process of applying for Australian citizenship.
For unprotected SCV holders, that means first securing permanent residency.
That process might require the services of a migration agent and is often unaffordable to Kiwis who have made the decision to move and are attempting to settle into life and overcome the restrictions of their visa.
Aren’t changes coming?
Yes, from July 1 next year there will be a new pathway for New Zealanders to become Australian citizens.
The Federal Government announced the reform earlier this year and says it will be available to SCV holders who have lived in Australia for at least five years.
However, any New Zealanders looking to use this pathway will need to be earning the equivalent of the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold – currently about $54,000 a year – and they will also need to pass health, character and security checks.
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