Campaigning for the fair treatment of New Zealanders living in Australia

Direct pathway to citizenship FAQs

27 June 2023

What has changed?

Non-protected Special Category Visa-holders (SCVs) who have resided in Australia for at least the past four years can apply for citizenship from the 1 July 2023, without needing to apply for a permanent visa.

From 1 July 2023 New Zealand citizens holding an SCV will be considered permanent residents for citizenship purposes. If their SCV was granted:

Children born in Australia on or after 1 July 2022 to a Special Category Visa-holder will automatically acquire Australian citizenship at birth.

Note:

Eligibility criteria new citizenship pathway:

You must be a New Zealand citizen holding a non-protected Special Category Visa (SCV) and:

There is no income threshold or health check required.

Watch a video explainer

Australian Home Affairs Minister Clare O'Neil has recorded a video explaining the new direct citizenship pathway.

Applying for citizenship cheatsheet

The Department of Home Affairs has provided us with some advice for citizenship applicants.

Frequently Asked Questions

Special Category Visa

What visa do I have?

New Zealand citizens entering Australia are automatically granted a Special Category Visa (SCV) unless they hold a permanent visa such as the Resident Return Visa or NZ Stream 189 visa. The direct pathway to citizenship is only for post 26 February 2001 arrivals, referred to as non-protected Special Category Visa-holders (NPSCV).

Protected SCVs can already apply for citizenship, subject to meeting the usual eligibility criteria.

Can I look up my visa status or visa number?

Check your visa details using the Department of Home Affairs VEVO system. Call 131 881 and ask for a VEVO password. You will need your passport details.

Will the Special Category Visa be a permanent resident visa for new arrivals post 1 July 2023?

The SCV is a temporary visa allowing New Zealand citizens to live and work in Australia subject to meeting health and character requirements. It will remain a temporary visa under the Migration Act 1958.

From 1 July 2023 SCV-holders will be deemed permanent residents for citizenship purposes only. They can apply for citizenship if they have usually resided for four years immediately prior to applying.

Will the Special Category Visa still exist for short term residents and holiday makers?

Yes, the SCV will continue to be granted automatically to New Zealand citizens on arrival in Australia. Citizenship applicants will remain an SCV until attending their citizenship ceremony.

Do I need to apply for permanent residency before I can get citizenship?

No, the SCV will be considered PR for citizenship purposes from 1 July 2023. You are eligible for citizenship provided you have resided for the four years immediately prior to applying. See the Department of Home Affairs website for the eligibility criteria and application process

Residency requirement

How long do I have to reside in Australia before I can apply for citizenship?

Citizenship applicants must reside for four years immediately prior to applying. You can be outside of Australia for up to 365 days within that four-year period, including no more than 90 days in the 12 months before applying. Use the Home Affairs Residence Calculator to see if you meet the residency requirement.

Am I eligible for the direct citizenship pathway if I was not in Australia on 1 July 2023?

New Zealand citizens who were overseas on 1 July 2023, who held an SCV or special purpose visa as an airline crew member or airline positioning crew member immediately before last leaving Australia, are eligible to apply for Australian citizenship. They must be granted an SCV and meet the general residence requirement when they return to Australia.

I went overseas and could not return to Australia due to the Covid-19 closure. Is there a residency exemption for this?

There is no residency exemption for the Covid-related border closure. Overseas absences must be no more than 365 days in the four years prior to applying, and no more than 90 days total in the period of 12 months as a permanent resident. Use the Home Affairs Residence Calculator to see if you meet the residency requirement.

Due to the nature of my employment I spend most of the year offshore. How can I apply for citizenship?

There is a special residence requirement for people who work in certain occupations, or who are engaged in activities to benefit Australia. Usually people who hold a Distinguished Talent or Global Talent visa, or athletes seeking to represent Australia at Commonwealth or Olympic Games. They will need to have spent the specified minimum amount of time in Australia. Refer to Exemptions and special circumstances under the Residence requirement information on the Home Affairs website.

Does time previously spent living in Australia count towards the four years residency?

Citizenship applicants must reside in Australia for the four years immediately prior to applying for citizenship. If you are outside of Australia for 12 months or more, you must re-start the four years residency. Use the Home Affairs Residence Calculator to see if you meet the residency requirement.

Does an overseas holiday mean I have to reside for another four years?

No, provided you are not outside of Australia for more than 365 days within the four years prior to applying for citizenship, including no more than 90 days in the 12 months before applying. Use the Home Affairs Residence Calculator to see if you meet the residency requirement.

Will the direct citizenship pathway be open to new arrivals post 1 July 2023?

Yes, SCVs who first arrive after 1 July 2023 are considered permanent residents from their date of arrival. They are eligible for Australian citizenship after residing for four years, provided they meet the usual citizenship criteria.

Will new arrivals be able to apply for an Australian residency visa / permanent resident (PR) visa?

There is no need to apply for PR as from 1 July 2023 non-protected SCVs will be considered PRs under the Citizenship Act. New Zealanders holding a non-protected SCV can apply for citizenship after residing in Australia for the four years immediately prior to applying.

Applying for citizenship

How do I apply for citizenship?

Apply online, if you can, to avoid paying the $80 non-internet application fee.

The Home Affairs website provides the eligibility criteria, application process, and required supporting documents.

Familiarise yourself with the Become an Australian citizen information on the Home Affairs website, especially the Step-by-step tab, before starting your application.

Can I use a paper application form?

Only use the paper application if you:

Paper applications are not given priority processing. There is an additional $80 non-internet fee to submit a paper application when you are eligible to apply online.

Note: Check the Design date at the bottom of each page to ensure you are using the latest version of the paper application before submitting it. Old forms will not be processed.

The form is on the Step-by-step tab:

  1. Scroll to Step 3 - Apply for citizenship.
  2. Click the Show Steps button.
  3. Click the See how button beside Paper application.

Can someone help me with my citizenship application?

Only a registered migration agent can assist you with a visa or citizenship application.

It isn't necessary to use a migration agent when applying for citizenship. They are expensive and you still have to provide all the required information and supporting documents.

Before you apply, we recommend reading our citizenship FAQs and the information on the Home Affairs website, especially the Step-by-step tab. Make notes and gather your supporting documents before starting the online application.

Note: paper applications are not prioritised and incur an additional $80 fee if you are able to apply online.

See our Cheatsheet or use the Ask a Question function on Home Affairs website for further assistance.

How much is the citizenship application fee?

The fee structure is the same as for other citizenship applicants. At July 2023 applicants aged 18 to 59 $540, aged 16, 17 or 60 and over $330. Children aged 15 and under can make their own application for $330 or be included on a parent’s application at no cost. There are also some fee concessions for pension card holders. See Home Affairs website for details of the application fees.

Do I need a valid passport to apply for Australian citizenship?

No, provided you have sufficient documents that collectively show your photograph, signature, current residential address, birth name, date of birth and gender. An expired passport may also be provided as a form of identity when applying for citizenship by conferral.

If you have already requested your travel records you can upload them as proof of your arrival date. Note: Home Affairs are receiving a higher than usual number of requests for international travel movement records. If you are applying for citizenship estimated travel dates, dates of first arrival or visa grant dates, will be accepted and the processing officer will confirm the exact dates using their systems after you lodge your application.

What if I do not have a passport?

Home Affairs need to be satisfied of your identity. Provide photo ID such as a driver's licence or school ID, an official letter, utility bill or other document with your address. You could ask someone working in an occupation on the Identity Declaration form 1195, who has known you for 2 years, to sign a statutory declaration stating how they know you, how long etc.

With a child you can ask their school Principal, doctor etc to complete a statutory declaration stating how long they have known the child. Ideally, not the same person who endorses their photo and signs the Identity Declaration.

Note: Children born in Australia before 1 July 2022 who have not entered Australia on a New Zealand passport must apply for New Zealand citizenship by descent and a passport (up to 50 days processing time), then apply for an SCV online.

If they do not hold an SCV they are not eligible to apply for Australian citizenship under the direct pathway from 1 July 2023.

Can I travel overseas after applying for citizenship?

Yes. Notify Home Affairs of your travel dates via your ImmiAccount if you are planning to travel outside Australia while your application is being processed, or while you are waiting for your ceremony. Your application cannot be approved while you are outside Australia. You must also make the Australian Citizenship pledge within 12 months of your application being approved, or the approval may be cancelled.

How long does citizenship processing take?

In 2023 Home Affairs recruited 100's of additional staff to process citizenship applications, and they have the lowest number of applications on hand in six years. You can look up current citizenship processing times on the Home Affairs website.

How long will it take to be invited to my citizenship ceremony?

Citizenship ceremonies are usually organised by local government councils. You will receive a letter of invitation to attend your ceremony about four weeks before the event. Find out the number of approved applicants and ceremony wait times for your local council.

Can my citizenship application be fast-tracked?

The Home Affairs regularly receives requests from citizenship applicants seeking to expedite their application. Due to the high volume of applications received and the need to maintain a fair and consistent process, the Department does not offer priority processing. However, if you believe you have exceptional or compelling circumstances requiring urgent finalisation of your application, provide details and upload supporting evidence to your ImmiAccount for consideration. The Department will invite you to an interview.

Please note, overseas holidays, visiting sick relatives, business trips, working overseas, access to first home-owner grants or home builder grants, access to HECS-HELP study loans, and general employment opportunities are not considered exceptional or compelling circumstances.

Do I need to sit the citizenship test?

Applicants aged between 18 and 59 are required to sit the citizenship test at their appointment. The test consists of 20 multiple-choice questions. You need to get 15 of the 20 questions correct and are given 45 minutes to complete the test. You will need to select your nearest Department of Home Affairs test centre.

Prepare for the test by downloading the Australian Citizenship - Our Common Bond PDF, listening to the Our Common Bond podcast, or trying some practice questions.

If you have a disability, poor computer skills, or need assistance to sit the test, refer to the Citizenship test rules.

Children applying

Can a child apply for citizenship online?

Children aged 15 years or younger and applying on their own, or aged 16 or 17 need to use the paper application form. Provide certified copies of supporting documents.

Identity documents for children under the age of 16

Parents including children aged under 16 on their citizenship application form need to provide the following documents for each child:

If you cannot provide a birth certificate provide evidence you have attempted to apply for one, such as a letter from Births Deaths & Marriages. Also complete Form 1195 Identity declaration and provide endorsed photos.

Is a child born in Australia to Special Category Visa-holder parents an Australian citizen?

Children born in Australia to an SCV parent on or after 1 July 2022 will be an Australian citizen from birth. They can apply for Evidence of Australian citizenship. Once you have the certificate you can apply for your child's Australian passport.

Children born in Australia before 1 July 2022 who are aged 10 or older are nominally an Australian citizen if they have usually resided in Australia until at least the age of 10. They are not eligible for citizenship under the new pathway, they need to apply for Evidence of Australian citizenship. Applications only take a few days to be processed and cost $265.

Children born in Australia who are not eligible for Evidence of Australian citizenship can be added to their parent's citizenship application at no cost or make their own application for $300 if their parent is already a citizen. Note: if they turn 10 before the application is processed the application will be declined if they are eligible for Evidence of Australian citizenship.

Does my child need to reside in Australia for four years before applying for citizenship?

Children aged under 18 at the time of application do not need to meet the general residency criteria but must be a permanent resident. If aged 15 and under they can be included on their parent’s citizenship application at no cost.

Note: Children born in Australia before 1 July 2022 who are aged 10 or older are nominally an Australian citizen if they have usually resided in Australia until at least the age of 10. They are not eligible for citizenship under the new pathway, they need to apply for Evidence of Australian citizenship ($265). If the child has not usually lived in Australia until age 10, or they have not yet turned 10, they can be added to their parent's citizenship application at no cost or make their own application for $300 if their parent is already a citizen.

If they turn 10 before the application is processed the application will be declined if they are eligible for Evidence of Australian citizenship.

Can I include my child who was born in Australia on my citizenship application after 1 July 2023?

A parent can include a dependent child aged 15 years or younger in their application for citizenship by conferral at no cost.

Note: Children born in Australia before 1 July 2022 who have not entered Australia on a New Zealand passport must apply for New Zealand citizenship by descent and a passport (up to 50 days processing time), then apply for an SCV online. If they do not hold an SCV they are not eligible to apply for Australian citizenship the direct pathway from 1 July 2023.

Children born in Australia who are aged 10 or older are nominally an Australian citizen if they have usually resided in Australia until at least the age of 10. They can apply for Evidence of Australian citizenship, as they are not eligible for the new citizenship pathway.

Can someone aged under 18 years of age apply for citizenship by themselves?

Children aged 16 or 17 must make their own application for $330. Children aged 15 and under can also make their own application for $330, however, there is no cost if they are included on their parent’s citizenship application.

Children require a valid passport and full birth certificate.

What happens if an applicant turns 16 or 18 while their citizenship application is being processed?

Their citizenship application will be assessed according to their age at the time the application was submitted. However, applicants who have turned 16 to 18 years of age since lodgement of the application will be requested to provide an Australian police check.

Supporting documents

What supporting documents are required when applying for citizenship?

Expand Step 2 Prepare your documents on the Home Affairs website for full details of the required supporting documents for your citizenship application. You can upload additional documents after submitting the application.

Some of the supporting documents required are:

What can I do if I do not know anyone working in a profession or occupation listed on the Identity Declaration form?

You only need to know the person signing the Identity Declaration form 1195 in a professional capacity. If you have children in school, have used the same bank, or been registered with a medical or legal professional, dentist, vet, or accountant etc for more than a year they can vouch for your identity. Show your photo ID, birth certificate, and a utility bill with your current address when they sign your passport photo and form 1195.

What can I do if I do not have Identity documents?

If you cannot provide a birth certificate provide evidence you have attempted to apply for one, such as a letter from Births Deaths & Marriages. Also complete Form 1195 Identity declaration and provide endorsed photos.

You may be invited to an interview to establish your life history if identity documents are not available.

Where appropriate, you may be asked for written consent for a Home Affairs representative to speak to other family members or long-term acquaintances to establish your life history and support your identity.

What if I am unable to provide supporting documents or information?

If you do not have current photographic identification, or are unable to obtain supporting documents such as birth, marriage, or divorce certificates; change of name documents; or a correctly endorsed photograph; upload a statement or statutory declaration outlining the reasons why the information is unable to be provided. You can also provide evidence that you have attempted to obtain the required document or information.

It is important that you respond to the Department if you receive a request for documents or information, even if you are unable to provide what has been requested.

Do my supporting documents need to be certified?

Only if you have to use the paper application form. You will need to take the original documents to your citizenship interview.

Do I need to complete Personal Particulars Form 80?

No, only if Home Affairs request it.

Police checks

Do I need to provide a New Zealand or Australian criminal record check?

The Department of Home Affairs will request your New Zealand police check from the NZ Ministry of Justice Home Affairs. You must give consent for them to do so in the citizenship application form. They will also obtain an Australian National Police check.

Do I need to provide a criminal record check from any other country?

Regardless of how long you have lived in Australia, if you have spent 90 or more days in any country other than Australia since you turned 18, you will need a criminal record check from that country.

Some countries will only provide a criminal record check to residents or citizens. If you are unable to obtain a criminal record check contact Home Affairs. You can also provide evidence that you have attempted to obtain one.

It is important that you respond to the Department if you receive a request for documents or information, even if you are unable to provide what has been requested.

You can upload additional supporting documents after submitting your application.

Do I have to declare historical offending?

You must tell Home Affairs about any convictions resulting in jail time, suspended sentencing, a fine or good behaviour bond. On the spot speeding or parking fines are not considered a conviction. You may be asked to provide information about spent convictions.

461 visa-holders

Can I include my 461 partner/child on my application for citizenship under the new direct pathway?

The direct citizenship pathway is only open to New Zealand citizens who arrived in Australia after 26 February 2001. Once the SCV-holder becomes an Australian citizen they can sponsor 461 visa family members for a permanent visa if they wish to remain in Australia beyond the term of their current visas. This is the same situation for Australian citizens with foreign born partners.

A 461 visa-holder over the age of 18 and no longer a dependent child is unable to be sponsored for a new subclass 461 visa unless they have a spouse or de facto partner who is also an SCV holder. They will need to apply for another visa.

Resident Return Visa

Do I have to wait 12 months after being granted a Resident Return Visa (RRV)?

If you have an RRV you are already a permanent resident (PR) and cannot access the new pathway. You will have to wait 12 months from the date you were granted PR before applying for citizenship. Note, you will have to reside in Australia for four years immediately prior to applying for citizenship including the last year as Permanent Resident.

Should I apply for the Resident Return Visa or the new direct pathway?

Applying for RRV would only be beneficial if you are a recent arrival and require access to the NDIS, or if you spent at least four years residing in Australia prior to 26 February 2001 and you require access to Centrelink benefits. If you apply for citizenship while holding an RRV you must maintain your PR status at least until your citizenship application is approved, or until you have your citizenship certificate to remain eligible for the NDIS and Centrelink. If you sponsor your non-NZ citizen partner for a permanent visa, ensure you do not enter Australia with an expired travel facility until the partner visa application is approved.

I was granted a Resident Return Visa but now hold a Special Category Visa after re-entering Australia with an expired travel facility. Can I apply for citizenship under the new direct pathway?

You can, subject to meeting the four years residency requirement. Note: if your RRV ceased while you were overseas, and you entered Australia on an SCV on or after 1 July 2022, you need to wait 12 months from the date your SCV was granted before you can apply for citizenship.

If you had already submitted your citizenship application prior to travelling overseas you need to hold a new RRV or have returned to Australia on an SCV prior to the citizenship application being decided.

Social security payments

Can I access social security as a Special Category Visa-holder?

From 1 July 2023 non-protected SCVs will be permanent residents for citizenship purposes only. They are eligible for some social security payments.

After attending your citizenship ceremony you will have the same access as other Australian citizens. Note: Australian citizens are exempt from the Newly Arrived Residents Waiting Period (NARWP), however, some payments also have a 2 year qualifying residence period.

Protected Special Category Visa-holders have been considered Australian residents since 26 February 2001 under the Social Security Act. They have full access to social security benefits, the NDIS, and Australian citizenship, and this access will continue after the changes on 1 July 2023. They do not have access to a Trade Support Loan.

Can non-protected Special Category Visa-holders access the NDIS or a Trade Support Loan?

No. Non-protected SCVs will only be able to access the NDIS or a Trade Support Loan after applying for citizenship and attending their citizenship ceremony.

Studying

Can I still access Study Assist or a student loan as a Special Category Visa-holder?

SCVs will remain eligible for Study Assist under the current criteria. Once granted Australian citizenship you can access student loans as per Australian citizens.

What happens if I am studying or intend to study and want to apply for citizenship?

You will remain an SCV until you are granted citizenship so your access to Study Assist for a student loan will remain the same. Once granted Australian citizenship you can access student loans the same as other Australian citizens.

Other questions

Do New Zealand citizens get any other privileges before citizenship, such as voting rights or applying for Australian Federal government jobs?

Permanent residents must wait four years to be eligible for social security, however, non-protected SCVs who become Australian citizens are able to access to social security. Other rights such as voting in State and Federal elections, accessing Study Assist, working for the Federal government, or joining the ADF are available once you are granted Australian citizenship and have attended your citizenship ceremony.

If another political party takes government, can they reverse back these changes?

The direct pathway to citizenship for New Zealand citizens residing in Australia as non-protected SCVs is a legislative amendment under the Australian Citizenship Act 2007. As it is an amendment to the regulations it does not require a vote in Parliament. The direct pathway to citizenship for has no ‘sunset’ clause meaning it does not need to be reviewed in 3, 5 or ten years. The Australian Labor Government’s intention is that this reform cannot be reversed or removed.


Disclaimer:

The above “Frequently Asked Questions” 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.


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