A day before Chris Hipkins, the prime minister of New Zealand, visited Australia, the government announced on Saturday that residents of New Zealand residing there would have a clear road to citizenship.
Hipkins praised the decision as “the biggest improvement in the rights of New Zealanders living in Australia in a generation” as he prepared to go to Brisbane, the state capital of Queensland, on Sunday.
New Zealanders who have lived in Australia for four years or longer are now eligible to seek for citizenship without first becoming permanent residents, according to Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. The reforms took effect in July.
“We are aware that many New Zealanders are establishing families, careers, and lives in Australia while they are on Special Category Visas. Therefore, I am happy to deliver the advantages that citizenship offers,” Albanese said.
Since 2001, when visa regulations were changed to make it more difficult for Kiwis living in Australia to get citizenship, New Zealand has fought for improvements.
The Australian Labour government said that the legislation will more closely align New Zealanders’ rights with those of Australian expats there.
Kiwis who choose to become citizens of Australia keep their New Zealand citizenship. These dual citizens are not lost to New Zealand; rather, they strengthen our bonds, according to a statement from Hipkins.
In addition, he added, the reforms meant that New Zealanders born in Australia since July would automatically be granted Australian citizenship.
He said that the reforms fulfilled an Albanese vow that no New Zealander would be left “permanently temporary” in Australia. “This will make critical services available to them,” he said.
According to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, there are around 70,000 Australians and 670,000 New Zealanders living in Australia.
Clare O’Neil, Australia’s minister for home affairs, said that since it was a “special arrangement with New Zealand,” other immigrant groups could not benefit from the reforms.
She told ABC news that the revision was intended to make sure that the “strong friendship we have is properly reflected in law.”