RRV or the NZ 189 visa?

Australian permanent visa
Australian Kangaroo road sign (Photo: Google Images)
Date last modified: 06 September 2019

Please note

New Zealanders applying for 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.

The position of New Zealanders who seek citizenship through other visa pathways, including those who have already been granted permanent visas is, however, still not entirely clear.

22 February 2016

Before applying for a Resident Return Visa (RRV), or the NZ 189 visa, you must to consider your family situation, cost and processing times for each visa and citizenship. Citizenship applications take 20 to 24 months to be processed, including attending your ceremony.

Do you need to sponsor family members? Are your children about to start university?

Resident Return Visa

If you entered Australia as a New Zealand citizen prior to 1 September 1994 you are eligible to apply for a Resident Return Visa (RRV) provided you are now residing in Australia.

It can take up to 77 days to be processed if you haven’t been lawfully present in Australia, on a permanent visa, for two of the last five years. Note: time spent overseas does not count towards the two years. The Special Category Visa is a temporary visa.

You cannot include your family on your RRV application, they can submit their own application if eligible. Otherwise, you’ll need to sponsor your partner or dependent children for a permanent visa.

Fees for RRV and sponsorship:

  • RRV application fee $405
  • partner sponsorship fee $7,715
  • dependent child, included on the partner application, $3,860 if aged 18 to 24, and $1,935 if aged under 18
  • If you are only sponsoring a dependent child/children the fee is $2,665 per child

NZ 189 visa

The new permanent visa for New Zealanders, available from 1 July 2017, is called the Skilled Independent 189 (New Zealand) Stream. The Department of Home Affairs aim to process 90 per cent of New Zealand 189 visa applications within 15 to 19 months.

To be eligible for the new visa pathway the primary applicant must:

  • be a non-protected Special Category Visa-holders (SCVs); and
  • have commenced residing in Australia on or before 19th February 2016; and
  • have resided in Australia for the five years immediately prior to applying; and
  • have either earned the taxable income threshold OR meet the criteria for an income exemption; and
  • meet the standard health, character and security checks.

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.

Fees for the new visa:

  • $4,045 primary applicant
  • $2,020 partner 
  • $2,020 each dependent child aged 18 to 22 (when the application is submitted)
  • $1,015 each child under 18

New Zealand Citizen Family Relationship visa (461)

Family relationship 461 visas are only granted to family members of Special Category Visa-holders. Once you become a permanent resident you cannot renew a 461 visa. You will need to sponsor your partner or dependent children for a permanent visa when their current 461 visa is due to expire.

HELP loans

If your child is due to begin university in the next couple of years bear in mind that becoming a permanent resident means they cannot access a HELP loan until they become a citizen.

You must decide what is best option for your family given the cost, time taken to process the new visa, be granted citizenship including attending a citizenship ceremony. 


Once you are granted a permanent visa you can apply for citizenship after 12 months, provided you have resided in Australia for four years immediately prior to applying. It can take 20 to 24 months or more for applications to be approved and attend a citizenship ceremony.

Processing times

The following processing times are an indication:

  • Resident Return Visa – 3 to 77 days
  • Partner sponsor visa – 21 to 28 months
  • Child sponsor visa – 13 to 16 months
  • Family Relationship visa – 27 to 29 months
  • Citizenship, including attending a ceremony, 20 to 24 months
  • New Zealand 189 visa – 15 to 19 months

The Department of Home Affairs reports the latest processing times on its website.

Additional Information

Find out more about Eligibility for a Resident Return Visa and the Additional pathway to permanent residence for New Zealanders.

Apply for a Resident Return Visa

Apply for citizenship, please note you must be a Protected Special Category Visa-holder or have been granted a permanent visa.

Have a question?

Email the 189 (NZ) stream processing team, phone the Department of Home Affairs on 13 18 81 or contact them via social media. Please do not provide your personal details on a public forum.


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