Know your rights before moving to Australia

New Zealanders moving to Australia should know exactly what they are getting into (Photo: Fairfax/NZ).

Morgan Blake – 28 July 2016

There is a lot of talk on both sides of the Tasman about the rights New Zealanders enjoy in Australia.

Generally this focuses on welfare but there is a lot more to it. I believe people should know exactly what they are getting into, especially if they decide to take their young children who will grow up in Australia under the current rules.

My first point is that once New Zealanders begin living in Australia their visa status makes them more vulnerable compared to people who hold a permanent visa.

You are a permanent resident in the casual sense that you can live in Australia without a time limit. This has no legal force, but is usually how most New Zealanders identify themselves, particularly those who have spent many years there.

You are not a permanent visa-holder. This means you are legally a temporary visa holder. The visa you are given at the airport is called a Special Category Visa (SCV) and is unique to New Zealand citizens.

You are allowed keep it while you are residing in Australia as a New Zealand citizen and maintain good character.

There are some issues emerging with this temporary/permanent confusion though.

A Kiwi couple living in Australia lodged a complaint of racial discrimination against ANZ to the New South Wales Anti-Discrimination Board after they paid $20,000 over nearly a decade for life insurance that would never pay out because of their residential status.

Essentially, if you apply for insurance or anything else in Australia, you must check whether they mention New Zealanders or define who is a “permanent resident”.

If the policy only covers permanent visa-holders you are screwed if something happens and you need to make a claim.

If it mentions the more ambiguous term “permanent resident of Australia” you have to ask the company for a definition. If you make a claim they may contend that as a temporary visa holder, you are not a permanent resident.

It does not matter if you have spent 50 years in Australia, ascan SCV you have a temporary visa.

If you take out international travel insurance you may not be covered because most policies require you to hold a valid visa. This affects New Zealanders because whenever a Kiwi departs Australia our visa expires and we would not meet the requirement of holding a current visa until we returned to Australia, in which case it would be too late.

I won’t go into the government services you can’t get because that should be something most people are aware of. The risk of being a temporary visa holder your whole life means that you become entirely dependent on the current government and businesses who decide whether certain services can be accessed by people, who are Australian citizens, or permanent visa holders.

Without explicitly including New Zealand citizens, this leaves room for abuse. For example, the National Disability Insurance Act (2013) which covers the New Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in Australia includes the following residency description:

“Australian citizen, permanent visa holder or protected special category visa holder.”

A Protected Special Category Visa-holder (PSCV) means a New Zealand citizen who was living in Australia before 26 February 2001 [who meets the February 2001 transitional arrangements]. So in this case, those half are covered but the rest of us are not.

While the government usually still protects the protected visa holders, companies are under no such obligation.

In any case, newer legislation such as eligibility for trade apprentice loans have removed Protected Special Category Visa-holders from the definition, leaving the absurd situation where New Zealanders are considered residents for some purposes in law, and not residents in others. It is very confusing for the average person to deal with, and the Department of Immigration wouldn’t know all of this either as it’s much too specific.

If you are a New Zealander who moved to Australia on 26 February 2001, or who meets the February 2001 transitional arrangements (Protected SCV) you are currently still allowed to apply for citizenship. Do it. You should secure your place, the rules can change at any moment.

If you are a New Zealanders who moved after that date, look into the options for gaining a permanent visa. You may be eligible for Resident Return Visa if you were inside Australia at all prior to 1 September 1994 as that makes you a former permanent resident.

It costs a few hundred dollars and is processed in days or weeks.

Australia is a nice country full of good people and many opportunities.

But there are drawbacks to being part of a minority who have no voting rights, as politicians mostly won’t care about your concerns. It’s nice to see so many Kiwis coming home from Australia lately, and I welcome the 8,000 Australians who are moving with them.

Read Morgan Blake’s Stuff article


If you are not a Protected SCV or eligible for RRVyou may be eligible for the new permanent visa for New Zealanders, the New Zealand Stream 189 Visa available from 1 July 2017.

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