Malcolm Turnbull clarifies Dutton ruling on New Zealanders’ citizenship fears

A spokesman for the New Zealand prime minister, Bill English, says Malcolm Turnbull, pictured, confirmed the pathway to citizenship for New Zealanders had not changed. (Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP)

Prime minister confirms last year’s deal offering Kiwis a fast track to citizenship will stand, despite Peter Dutton’s insistence new rules apply to all

Malcolm Turnbull has assured his New Zealand counterpart that the recently announced citizenship changes will not undermine the fast-tracking of Kiwi applications.

The New Zealand prime minister, Bill English, had previously expressed disappointment about the changes, saying he was not forewarned of the Australian government’s plan, which appeared to undermine an agreement between the two nations made last year.

That agreement meant New Zealanders could apply for citizenship after one year of permanent residence, provided they arrived in Australia between 2001 and 2016, and earned at least A$53,900 a year for five consecutive years.

On Monday, the office of the immigration minister, Peter Dutton, said the changes would apply to all citizenship applications, including those involving New Zealanders. That would have forced New Zealanders to wait another three years before qualifying for citizenship.

But English’s office released a statement on Friday, saying the New Zealand prime minister been assured otherwise by Turnbull.

A spokesman for English said he had been assured the changes would not affect New Zealand citizens who had moved to Australia between February 2001 and 2016.

“Prime minister Turnbull confirmed that the pathway to citizenship for eligible New Zealanders, announced in February 2016, has not been changed,” the spokesman said. “It remains in place and on track, and is separate from the citizenship changes which Australia announced last week.

“Prime minister English has thanked prime minister Turnbull for this confirmation.”

English’s office confirmed this meant those eligible New Zealand citizens would not need to wait four years before qualifying for citizenship.

The chairman of the Oz Kiwi advocacy group, Tim Gassin, said the news would provide relief to the tens of thousands of New Zealanders who were fearful of losing their pathway to citizenship.

“It is a great relief to know that that won’t happen because so many people who have been here up to 16 years thought, ‘Finally, we have a pathway to citizenship’, and then that was tinkered with,” Gassin told Guardian Australia.

He said he suspected the Australian-New Zealand agreement had not been at the forefront of the federal government’s mind when it announced the citizenship changes this week.

“I wouldn’t want to presume their intentions but you’d have to think that this was not at the front of their minds when they were putting this together,” he said.

But Gassin said there were concerns about those who had applied for citizenship through other channels, who would be left in limbo. He said he would be raising the remaining concerns with the federal government.

Comment has been sought from the immigration minister.

Read the Guardian article].

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