Kiwis not applying for permanent residency because of citizenship uncertainty

NZ & Aust flags Crikey


18 October 2017

The proposed citizenship changes will not be implemented after the Citizenship Amendment Bill was struck down by the Senate today. Oz Kiwi can now confirm that current citizenship law applies.

30 August 2017

Sally Whyte – Political reporter, Crikey

The proposed plan to extend the wait for citizenship is giving New Zealander’s currently considering becoming permanent residents the runaround, particularly if they are considering enrolling in university.

New Zealanders in Australia have withdrawn applications for permanent residence in Australia due to the uncertainty caused by the government’s plan to extend the wait from one year to four years to obtain citizenship, a Senate committee has heard.

The Australian government’s tough new citizenship laws will have unintended consequences for New Zealanders living and working in Australia, the Oz Kiwi Association told the committee on Friday.

Deputy chairperson of the Association Joanne Cox says families with school-aged children were most affected by the changes, as their plans to gain citizenship and have access to Commonwealth supported higher education were now in disarray.

“It means that their future is on hold. The families are terribly distressed.”

“At this point, students are having to apply now for next year’s intake at university, so if they were hoping to become a citizen in the second half of this year or even next year in time to start university in 2018, that has been put on hold. We have been contacted by families who have withdrawn their application for permanent residence for their child, because it means that child is going to be in limbo.”

The government’s new citizenship changes involve a more difficult English test and a requirement for permanent residents to hold that status for four years, much longer than the current requirement of one year.

“They will not become a citizen for some three or four years more, which means their university education is most likely on hold because, despite the government’s intention of opening up the higher education loan scheme to all permanent residents, it is out of the question for most families to pay $30,000 per year for each of their university-age children,” Cox said.

A young New Zealander living in Australia, Matthew (his surname wasn’t provided to the committee) said the changes meant he would be in Australia for more than 10 years before being eligible for citizenship under the new system.

“The earliest possible date I would get Australian citizenship is when I turn 28, after having been here for 14 years. I came here when I was 14. If I get on the New Zealand stream, I will be 30. That’s the main impact of the extended general residence requirement on me.”

The representations by New Zealanders to the committee come after the NZ PM Bill English criticised the changes in April, calling them “disappointing” for Kiwis. It was just last year when Malcolm Turnbull and then NZ Prime Minister John Key had announced a new pathway for New Zealanders arriving in Australia between 2001 and 2016 to obtain permanent residency if they lived in Australia for five years and earned more than $53,900 per annum, with the option of citizenship opening one year after permanent residence was granted. That came into effect in July this year.

Changes introduced by John Howard in 2001 have started more than 10 years of tension when it comes to the citizenship status of New Zealanders in Australia, which have led to New Zealanders being unable to access social security and other benefits, and a low take-up of permanent residency among those who have arrived since 2001.

The Labor Party and the Greens have committed to block the changes, meaning the government needs the support of the crossbench. The changes have been roundly criticised on many fronts, including how they affect stateless children and refugees.

[Read the Crikey article].

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