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Changes announced for Skilled Independent visa (subclass 189) for New Zealanders living in Australia


If you are a New Zealand citizen living in Australia and you have considered applying to become an Australian permanent resident or have already applied for it, this information is for you.

On entry to Australia, New Zealand passport holders who do not have health concerns or criminal convictions are automatically granted a Special Category Visa Subclass 444 on presenting their NZ passport through immigration clearance. This visa allows New Zealanders to live and work in Australia indefinitely, however, as it is a temporary visa, it does not provide all of the benefits of permanent residence.

The Skilled Independent visa (subclass 189) – New Zealand stream lets eligible New Zealand citizens who have demonstrated commitment and contribution to Australia, live and work in Australia permanently.

However, the Australian government has announced some changes to the visa subclass 189 that came into effect on 10 December 2022 until 1 July 2023.


What are the changes?

The Australian government has set a temporary pause on new applications of the New Zealand stream of the Skilled Independent (subclass 189). This means that a new application cannot be made from 10 December 2022 until 1 July 2023, whilst the government considers future migration and citizenship pathways for New Zealand citizens in Australia.

The Department of Home Affairs has advised that during this period, they will finalise the majority of applications that are currently being processed as a matter of priority, due to many New Zealand applicants have been waiting several years for their visa application to be finalised due to the limited number of places allocated to this group in recent years.

Considering this and acknowledging the close ties between Australia and New Zealand and the fact that most New Zealanders living in Australia have been working and contributing to Australia’s economy, especially throughout and post the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government has also amended the migration regulations to enable existing applications currently being processed to no longer be required to meet:

  • A period of residence in Australia
  • The income threshold
  • The health criteria (given that all New Zealand citizens in Australia already have access to Medicare)


This means that the only criteria to be met by primary applicants and their family members are the existing common and public interest criteria for the Subclass 189 (Skilled – Independent) visa such as character, security, and certain other matters.

The purpose of these changes is to enable the Department to finalise all on-hand applications as soon as possible.


What will happen after 1 July 2023?

Although it is expected that the criteria for the Skilled Independent visa (subclass 189) – New Zealand stream will revert to the previous settings (pre-10 December 2022), there is still no complete certainty of what will happen after 1 July 2023 when this visa re-opens, as the Government could decide to provide new beneficial arrangements for New Zealand citizens beforehand.


For further information, please email to arrange an online consultation.

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