On the eve of New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins’ arrival, Australia announced a direct path to citizenship for New Zealanders residing in the nation, overturning contentious immigration regulations.
Hipkins, who is scheduled to visit Brisbane, the capital of Queensland state, on Sunday, described the move as “the biggest improvement in the rights of New Zealanders living in Australia in a generation.”
The reforms, which took effect in July, meant that New Zealand nationals who had lived in Australia for four years or more may seek for citizenship without first becoming permanent residents, according to Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
“We know that many New Zealanders are here on a Special Category Visa while raising families, working and building their lives in Australia. So I am proud to offer the benefits that citizenship provides,” Albanese added.
New Zealand has long campaigned for changes since visa rules were altered in 2001, making it tougher for Kiwis in Australia to get citizenship.
The reform would bring New Zealanders’ rights more into line with those of Australian expats living in New Zealand, Australia’s Labor government said.
“Kiwis taking up Australian citizenship will still retain their New Zealand citizenship. These dual citizens are not lost to New Zealand – but draw us closer together,” Hipkins said in a statement.
The changes also meant children born in Australia since July to an Australia-based New Zealand parent would be automatically entitled to Australian citizenship, he said.
“This will make critical services available to them,” he said, adding the changes delivered on an Albanese promise that no New Zealander be left “permanently temporary” in Australia.
Around 670,000 New Zealand citizens live in Australia, while there are around 70,000 Australians in New Zealand, according to Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil ruled out the changes being extended to other migrant groups, saying it was a “special arrangement with New Zealand”.
The reform was about ensuring the “strong friendship we have is reflected properly in law”, she told ABC television.