Win for Kiwi expats over Australian citizenship changes

Prime Minister Bill English has secured confirmation from Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull that recent immigration changes will not affect a special pathway to citizenship for Kiwis. Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

New Zealanders on the pathway to Australian citizenship have been given a boost, with news they are exempt from immigration reforms announced by Malcolm Turnbull’s government last week.

The changes, including a four-year wait between permanent residency and citizenship instead of one year, had angered expats who have battled for years to receive the same rights as Australians.

The four-year waiting period was seen as undermining a new, streamlined “pathway to citizenship” for Kiwis living in Australia as announced by the two countries last year.

As reported by Newsroom, there were also fears that teenage applicants could lose out on eligibility for student loans while at university, due to a quirk of the rules and the longer waiting period.

However, in a statement released today, a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Bill English said he had spoken to Turnbull and confirmed the pathway to citizenship would not be affected by the recent announcement.

“It remains in place and on track, and is separate from the citizenship changes which Australia announced last week.”

That means New Zealanders who meet the eligibility criteria - having arrived in Australia between 2001 and February 2016, lived there for the five years before applying, and earning more than AU$53,900 - will only have to wait one year between permanent residency and citizenship.

However, those who arrived after February 2016 will be subject to the new criteria.