Australia to fast track citizenship for New Zealanders

Australia has announced plans to make it easier for hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders living in the country to become Australian citizens.

From 1 July, they can apply for citizenship as long as they have lived in Australia for four years or more and arrived after 2001.

They will also no longer need to apply for permanent residency first to be eligible for citizenship.

New Zealand has campaigned for reform since visa rules toughened in 2001.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese made the announcement on Saturday, a day ahead of a visit by his New Zealand counterpart Chris Hipkins.

“We know 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,” Mr Albanese said in a statement.

It is expected to affect up to 350 000 New Zealanders currently residing in Australia.

New Zealand’s Chris Hipkins, who is due to visit Brisbane on Sunday, hailed the changes as “the biggest improvement in the rights of New Zealanders living in Australia in a generation”.

It also “restores the rights Kiwis had in Australia before they were revoked in 2001,” he said in a statement.

New Zealand has long been calling for these changes since visa rules for their nationals living in Australia were toughened more than two decades ago.

In 2001, a special category visa was introduced restricting New Zealanders’ access to certain health and welfare support.

It also required them to apply for permanent residency before seeking citizenship – an often lengthy and costly process.

Authorities in Australia say the changes now put the rights of New Zealanders living in Australia on a level playing field with Australians living in New Zealand.

About 670 000 New Zealanders currently live in Australia, with about 70 000 Australians in New Zealand. (BBC)


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