New Zealand still seeking answers from Australia on citizenship changes

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and former Prime Minister John Key signed a deal to make it easier for expat Kiwis to get citizenship last year.

Isaac Davison – 26 April 2017

Australia does not appear to have considered the impact of its immigration changes on Kiwi expats, Prime Minister Bill English says.

Nearly a week since Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced tighter citizenship requirements, the New Zealand Government is still seeking clarification from its closest neighbour on just how they will affect expats.

The changes will require all people seeking Australian citizenship to have held permanent residency for four years – up from one year.

English said today he had not spoken to Turnbull about the issue, though he noted “the time may come for that”.

“At the moment we’re still just establishing what their intent was, whether the policy lines up with that intent and whether they understood the impact it would have on New Zealand.”

Just last year, New Zealand signed a deal with Australia to make it easier for Kiwi expats to get citizenship if they arrived after immigration rules were tightened in 2001. That agreement could be undermined by the changes announced last week.

English said: “The indications are they may not have considered the impact on the deal it signed with New Zealand.”

The Turnbull-Key agreement allowed New Zealanders who arrived in the country between 2001 and February 2016 and earned at least A$53,900 for five consecutive years to apply for permanent residency. They could then apply for citizenship after a year.

Under the changes announced last week, Kiwis in this category would have to wait a further three years before they could apply for citizenship.

English said it was his “strong preference” for the original deal to be “carried through in the terms it was settled” at the time.

He rejected the suggestion that Turnbull could be taking advantage of a new Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister.

“What’s probably happened here is that a political decision’s been made, and there wasn’t consideration about the impact on this particular arrangement with New Zealand.”

There could be still be opportunities for New Zealand to appeal the changes or seek an exemption.

An MFAT spokesman said the Australian Government expected to introduce legislation on the proposed reforms by the end of the year, and it would need to pass both Houses of Parliament.

“There is still time for discussions about the implications for New Zealanders to play out before then,” he said.

MFAT was still seeking clarification on how the reforms would operate in conjunction with the pathway to permanent residency and citizenship agreed to last year, the spokesman said.

[Read the NZ Herald article].

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