(Photo: Department of Home Affairs website)
Date last modified: 26 May 2021
04 June 2021
There are some changes to the income requirements for the New Zealand stream 189 visa. From 1 July 2021:
- the income threshold only has to be met in three of the last five years.
- There is a new income exemption if your 2019–20 income was affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. You must provide evidence to support the claim.
Find out more about the income changes to the NZ 189 visa.
Before starting your application
Consider whether a Resident Return Visa or the NZ 189 Visa is the best option for your family.
The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) have provided some advice about applying for the NZ 189 Visa. Failing to provide all the required information and supporting documents can delay your application by many weeks.
Applying for citizenship
You can apply online by creating an ImmiAccount.
The primary applicant must either meet the income threshold in each of the four most recent financial years, or be eligible for an income exemption. Note: from 1 July 2021 only 3 of the last 5 years income needs to meet the income threshold.
Not all New Zealanders will be eligible to apply, including students, retirees, carers of children and some people unable to work due to an injury. Being made redundant, becoming unemployed, salary sacrificing and negative gearing are not grounds for an income exemption.
If the primary applicant does not meet the income threshold or income exemption criteria they cannot apply.
The new permanent visa does not change Kiwi’s eligibility for RRV, nor does it affect the Special Category Visa that many Kiwis in Australia reside on. If you are not eligible for the new permanent visa you can continue to reside on the Special Category Visa.
Who is eligible?
To be eligible for the new visa, the primary applicant must:
- be a non-protected Special Category Visa-holder
- have started residing in Australia on or before 19 February 2016
- have resided in Australia for the last five years immediately prior to applying
- have earned at least the taxable income threshold in each of the last four financial years, or qualify for an income exemption Note: from 1 July 2021 only 3 of the last 5 years income needs to meet the income threshold, including the latest financial year.
- meet the standard health and character and security checks.
If you began residing in Australia on 19 February 2016, you can apply after five years, provided you meet the other eligibility criteria. If you were not in Australia on 19 February 2016, but can demonstrate you were usually resident you will also be eligible to apply.
There is no maximum age restriction when applying for the Skilled Independent 189 (New Zealand) Stream.
Resident Return Visa or NZ 189 Visa?
If you are also eligible to apply for a Resident Return Visa, and have a partner and/or dependent children to sponsor, you must consider whether RRV or the new visa is the best option for your family. If your child becomes a permanent visa-holder they will not be eligible for a HELP loan until they attend their citizenship ceremony.
Only you can decide what the best option for your family is given the cost, time taken to process each visa, be granted citizenship and attend a citizenship ceremony. Oz Kiwi cannot advise on the best pathway for your family.
Family Relationship Visa (461)
Once you are granted a permanent visa you cannot renew an NZ Family Relationship 461 visa because you are no longer a Special Category Visa-holder (SCV). You will need to include family on your application for the NZ 189 visa, or sponsor them for a Partner visa or dependent Child visa when their current 461 visa expires.
The taxable income threshold for the Independent Skilled 189 (New Zealand) Stream is $53,990, the same level as the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT).
The primary applicant’s ATO Notices of Assessment must show they have earned the TSMIT in each the four most recently completed income years immediately prior to application. Remove or obscure the tax file number when submitting copies of ATO Notices of Assessment. Note: from 1 July 2021 only 3 of the last 5 years income needs to meet the income threshold, including the latest financial year.
Ask your accountant or tax agent for copies of your tax assessments, or log into the My Gov website.
You are eligible for an income exemption if you are prevented by an Australian authority from leaving Australia to return to New Zealand. This includes:
- a court order preventing you from removing a child from Australia; or
- receiving compensation/rehabilitation for an injury that would be discontinued if you returned to New Zealand; or
- your 2019–20 income was affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. You must provide evidence to support the claim.
You are also eligible for an income exemption for periods of maternity, paternity or carers leave during the qualifying period. Assessment is on a case-by-case basis including whether you resumed/intend to resume earning the income threshold within a reasonable timeframe. Unfortunately, returning to work part-time and earning below the income threshold will probably see your application declined.
If applying for an exemption or waiver to the income requirement you will also need:
- evidence of exemption to the income requirement such as a court order, parenting plan or compensation claim; or
- evidence of parental leave/carers leave such as a letter from your employer.
Scan or photograph all your supporting documents in colour, one document per file. The scans and photos must be clear. If a document is more than one page, save it all as one file. Give files a descriptive name, for example, John Smith birth certificate.
Note: the ImmiAccount system will only upload jpg files smaller than 500 KB each.
Gather your supporting documents. In particular you will need:
- a certified copy of your passport photo page, passports must be valid for at least 12 months.
- your rates notice, rental agreement, utility bill as proof of residing in Australia
- your travel records (recommended)
- Identity documents
- your curriculum vitae (résumé)
- Form 80 Personal Particulars for Character Assessment and
- Form 1221 Additional personal particulars information (now requested for all visa and citizenship applications)
- a NZ criminal history check, regardless of how long you’ve lived in Australia (now only valid for six months).
- New Zealand Ministry of Justice Consent to Disclosure of Information form. The MoJ request ID number is shown on your NZ criminal history check.
- police certificates from any country you have resided in, aged 16 or older, for 12 months or more in the last 10 years
- military discharge papers if you have completed military service
- ATO Tax Assessment Notices for the five most recent tax years as proof of residency
- evidence of income exemption for the primary applicant, if applicable
- a health examination (valid for 12 months).
Including your partner and children
If including your partner and dependent children on the application, you will also need copies of:
- their passport photo page (certified), passports must be valid for at least 12 months.
- their travel records (recommended)
- Identity documents and documents for children aged under 18
- Form 80 Personal Particulars for Character Assessment, Form 1221 Additional personal particulars information and Form 47a Details of Child or Family member for any applicants aged 18 or over
- evidence of your relationship (even if you are married) ie marriage certificate, family photos, joint bank accounts, shared property etc
- evidence of any name change, ie by marriage or deed poll (if applicable)
- children’s birth/adoption certificates
- their NZ criminal history check if aged 16 or older (now only valid for six months).
- New Zealand Ministry of Justice Consent to Disclosure of Information form
- police certificates from any country applicants have resided in, aged 16 or older, for 12 months or more in the last 10 years.
- health examinations for all visa applicants (valid for 12 months).
Non-migrating family members
You are required to provide supporting documents for family members who are either an Australian citizen, not being included in the application or deceased.
Children about to turn 18
Prevent a delay in processing your application by providing the following documents if your child is aged 17 when the visa application is submitted:
- Form 47a Details of Child or Family member
- Form 80 Personal particulars for character assessment
- Australian National Police Check
Children aged 18 and over
Show proof your child is studying fulltime and financially dependent upon you. For example, paying their study fees, living and travel costs, clothing etc. If they live with you provide copies of their bank statements or ATO documents with your address.
Dependent children must be aged under 23 at the time the visa is being processed, which can take between 10 and 16 months. There is an exemption for a child aged over 23, who is unable to support themselves due to disability.
New Zealand Police check
Request a New Zealand criminal conviction history for each visa applicant aged 16 or older. The Department of Home Affairs may ask for one even if the applicant has resided in Australia for more than 10 years. Tick the box at step 3 of the form – Full record of convictions – to request your full record. There is no fee, it remains valid for six months, and takes 1-3 months to be processed.
Australian National Police Check
Request an Australian National Police Check for each visa applicant, over the age of 16, who has resided in Australia more than 12 months or more within the last 10 years. You do not need to provide finger prints. The fee is $42, usually takes 15 working days to be processed and is valid for 12 months. When completing the form, in:
- Section 1: Type of check required – tick the box Name Check Only
- Section 8: Purpose of Check – select code 33 For Immigration/Citizenship.
All criminal convictions must be declared in the visa application, including historical or minor sentences. There is no “clean slate” when applying for a visa or citizenship.
Failure to declare convictions will see your application declined. You will also fail the character requirements if you have been sentenced to 12 months or more, including historical offending or multiple short sentences totalling more than 12 months. A suspended sentence, ie where no jail time was served, is still a prison sentence.
All members of the family will require a health examination. Health checks are only valid for 12 months. Consider booking a few months after submitting your visa application as it can take more than 12 months to process the visa. You can also wait for Home Affairs to request your health check.
An applicant who fails to meet the health requirement will be notified if a health waiver is going to be considered. If there are significant costs or services are in short supply the applicant will probably not meet the health requirement. Where costs are covered by Medicare you can argue that the applicant will continue to receive treatment regardless of their visa outcome.
There are different health examination requirements depending on an applicant’s age. Anyone aged 15 and over must provide a medical examination, chest x-ray and HIV test.
Children aged 14 should also provide an HIV test. Home Affairs will request an HIV test if the child is aged 15 when the visa is being processed.
A medical examination, chest x-ray and HIV test costs between $350 and $460 depending on your location.
The primary applicant can include their partner and dependent children on the visa application. The Visa Application Charges (VAC) are:
- $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 aged under 18 (when the application is submitted).
Applicants are required to pay 20 percent of the VAC when they lodge their application. DHA will issue an invoice for the balance to be paid before granting the visa.
The Department of Home Affairs website reports the processing times for the New Zealand 189 visa applications.
Failure to provide all the required information and supporting documents when submitting your application can cause many weeks delay.
You do not need to tell Home Affairs of any planned overseas travel and you can be outside of Australia when the visa is decided.
Special Category Visa-holders do not need a Bridging Visa. Family members on a temporary visa, ie a 461 visa, will be granted Bridging Visa A which will come into effect if their current visa expires before the NZ 189 Visa is granted. They must then apply for Bridging Visa B before travelling overseas.
You can be outside Australia for up to 90 days each year or your visa will be cancelled. Speak to Home Affairs about work-related exemptions.
Keep a copy of your Visa Grant Notice with your passport.
More information about the Skilled Independent (subclass 189) (New Zealand) stream is available on the Department of Home Affairs website.
Have a question?
Thank you for your support.
The above “Applying for the New Zealand 189 Visa” information should not be relied on as an alternative to advice from the Department of Home Affairs, or a professional immigration services provider.
If you have any specific questions about an immigration matter, you should consult the Department of Home Affairs or a professional immigration services provider.