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189 visa

New Permanent Residence Pathway for New Zealand Citizens from 1 July 2017

Residence Requirement

The new pathway is only available to NZ citizens who started living in Australia on or before 19 February 2016. You will need to show that you were usually resident at this time. If you were in Australia for a short visit for a holiday or business would not suffice. On the other hand, if you were temporarily outside Australia on 19 February but were usually resident before this, you may well be eligible.

You will need to show that you have been usually resident in Australia for a continuous period of at least 5 years prior to applying. This continuous period of residence would need to have started on or before 19 February 2016. Showing that you are usually resident would normally involve 2 factors:

  • Physical presence in Australia; and
  • An intention to reside in Australia

Short visits outside Australia (eg holidays) would be acceptable, providing there is an intention to reside in Australia and you spend a significant amount of time in Australia. If you take up a job or permanent home outside Australia, this could affect your ability to show continuous usual residence in Australia.

You would need to have held a Special Category Visa (SCV Subclass 444) for the 5 years - this is the visa NZ citizens are usually granted on entry to Australia.

Income Requirement

You would need to provide ATO Notices of Assessment showing that you have earned annual taxable income at least equivalent to TSMIT (Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold) for the last 5 financial years.

The TSMIT has been $53,900 since 1 July 2013, but was $51,000 from 1 July 2012 to 30 June 2013.

Limited exemptions to the income requirement will apply - those currently announced include:

  • Maternity, paternity or carers leave - application of this exemption is discretionary; or
  • Inability to depart Australia due having been assigned primary care of a child by the Family Court of Australia and the child cannot be removed from Australia; or
  • Currently receiving compensation for injury and ongoing rehabilitation or compensation would be discontinued if departing Australia

Age Requirement

Unlike other skilled visas, there is no age limit for the NZ stream of the 189 visa. The age limit for the subclass 189 visa will otherwise reduce to 45 from 1 July 2017, and will be reducing to 45 for permanent employer sponsored visas by March 2018 so this is a significant advantage for older applicants.

Including Family Members

Even if they are not NZ citizens, spouses and dependent children can be included in the application. If applying onshore, they must hold a substantive visa or Bridging A, B or C visa.

Health and Character Requirement

All family members included in the application must meet health and character requirements.

The waivable health criterion 4007 applies - this means that if you have a health condition which involves significant cost or use of scarce medical or community services, you can still be granted permanent residence provided the cost is not undue. For instance, if you have significant assets or solid health insurance, and can prove that you can meet your own medical costs, you may still be successful in your application.

Most other permanent visas require family unit members to complete health and character, whether they are included in the application or not. This is not the case for the new application pathway - only family members included in the application need to complete health and character.

Application Fees

Application fees are in line with current fees for the Skilled Independent Subclass 189 visa. However, only 20% of the application fee needs to be paid at lodgement. The balance of fees would only be payable once you have met all other criteria and are likely to be granted the visa.

Fees payable are below:

Main Applicant
At Lodgement $720
Prior to grant $2,880
Total $3,600

Dependants 18 or over
At Lodgement $360
Prior to grant $1,440
Total $1,800

Dependants under 18
At Lodgement $180
Prior to grant $720
Total $900

Unlike other permanent skilled visa types, there is no English Language Charge for applicants with less than Functional English.

Conclusion

For NZ citizens who were living in Australia on or before 19 February 2016, the new permanent residence pathway is extremely beneficial. In particular:

  • There is no English language testing, skills assessment, points test, or sponsorship by an employer
  • There is no age limit
  • The income level is relatively moderate - and exemptions apply for people on parenting or carer leave
  • There is a health waiver for applicants and family members with health conditions
  • The bulk of the application fee is only payable once the requirements have been assessed and the visa is about to be granted

New Zealand Citizens who meet the criteria should consider applying for the new pathway as it offers very favourable access to permanent resident status. Given the current political climate, the opportunity may only be available for a limited time.

Age Limit for 189 Visa Points Tested Stream Lowered to 45 Years

Recent legislation has lowered the age limit at the time of invitation for subclass 189 points tested independent skilled visas to 45 years, requiring an applicant to be under 45 years of age at the time of invitation in order to make a valid application for this visa under the points tested stream.

Transitional arrangements in the legislation still allow for a person over 45 but below 50 to respond to an invitation if the invitation has already been issued by DIBP, however it is anticipated that with the passage of the new legislation, no further invitations will be issued to applicants who are 45 years of age or older for the points tested stream of this visa.

While the age has been lowered for applicants for the points tested stream of the subclass 189 visa, there is no age limit for the new NZ stream of the subclass 189 visa which NZ citizens holding a subclass 444 visa may be eligible for after being usually resident in Australia for 5 years and meeting income requirements.

Contact Nevett Ford Lawyers Melbourne today for advice and assistance.