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skilled independent 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.

A reminder of the proposed visa for NZ citizens to be introduced in July 2017

An additional pathway to Australian Permanent Residence for ‘non-protected’ Special Category Visa (SCV) holders (subclass 444)

The Australian Government (Department of Immigration & Border Protection) will provide an additional pathway to Australian Permanent Residence, and therefore citizenship, for New Zealand Special Category visa (SCV) holders (subclass 444) who arrived after 26 February 2001, who have lived in Australia for the last five years and shown a commitment and contribution to Australia.

This additional visa pathway will be available from 1 July 2017, for New Zealand citizens who arrived post 26 February 2001, but on or before, the date of the announcement, 19 February 2016.

Estimated number of eligible applicants:

  • Approximately 60,000 – 70,000 of the 140,000 post 2001 SCV holders who have been in Australia for at least five years are expected to be eligible and we can assist.

How this pathway will work

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection will have responsibility for implementing the pathway.

The pathway will be made available within the Skilled Independent category of the General Skilled Migration (GSM) stream of Australia's annual Migration Program.

This pathway will allow SCV holders who have been living in Australia for the past five years, and have earned income at or above the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) as evidenced by their Australian Taxation Office Notice of Assessment throughout their qualifying residence period, to apply for permanent residency and thereafter citizenship.

The pathway requirements

Requirements for this visa pathway will include mandatory residence, contribution and community protection criteria. This includes:

  • have been resident in Australia for the five years immediately prior to visa application

  • contributed to Australia, demonstrated through income tax returns (Notice of Assessment) for the period of residence evidencing taxable income at or above the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT)

  • mandatory health, character, and security checks.

Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) and eligibility

The Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) is a salary threshold used by the Subclass 457 program as an indicator that an occupation is ‘skilled’ and to ensure that a visa holder has reasonable means of support whilst in Australia. It is currently set at AUD53,900 (excluding employer superannuation contributions).

This new visa pathway represents a clear concession over existing migration pathways and is consistent with the terms of the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement (TTTA) between Australia and New Zealand.

Exemptions to the income test

It is expected that limited exemptions to the income test requirement will be considered for particularly vulnerable New Zealand citizens.  These exemptions are not yet known but the details will be released by the Department in due course but what is known is that details of how applications for exemptions to the income test will be assessed will be determined between the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection and the Minister for Social Services. The mandatory residence criterion, including all other relevant criteria, will still need to be met before a visa could be granted.

Who will be considered a ‘vulnerable individual’

As an example, possible vulnerable individuals may include the primary carer of children who, for reasons of a court order are unable to return to New Zealand with their children, and who as an SCV holder is unable to access working age payments.

Will an applicant who has been on maternity/paternity leave during the qualifying period be ineligible?

If the applicant continued to be employed during that period the Department may take into account and have the capacity to consider other proof of income, for example, a statement from the applicant’s employer covering the period in questions.  There is no further detail on this point at this stage but apparently there is no intention to disadvantage applicants with a consistent record of income and employment but who have taken periods of parental leave.

Visa application charge (VAC)

There will be concessions to the visa application charge (VAC) solely for New Zealand citizens.  At this stage it is expected that the visa application charge will be consistent with the General Skilled Migration Programme:

  • AUD $3,600 per primary applicant with an additional AUD $1,800 for partners, AUD $1,800 per dependent child over 18 and AUD $900 per child under 18.

Applicants will only have to pay 20 percent of the VAC when they lodge their application, with the remainder to be paid before the visa is granted.

Steps to Australian citizenship

New Zealanders taking advantage of this new pathway will usually be able to apply for citizenship after one year of permanent residence, provided they meet the allowable overseas absences requirement.  Note: This requirement means, a person must not have been absent from Australia for more than one year in total in the four year period, including no more than 90 days in the year before applying.

The usual citizenship eligibility requirements will apply such as:

  • be of good character if 18 years of age or over

  • be likely to reside, or continue to reside, or maintain a close and continuing relationship to Australia

  • meet the identity requirement

  • pass the citizenship test if aged between 18 and 59 years or pass a citizenship interview.

What if someone arrived in Australia the day before, or on the day of the announcement, will they be eligible to apply in five years' time?

Yes. They could apply, but the grant of a visa will depend on whether they meet all relevant criteria.

Nevett Ford Lawyers includes a group of highly specialised Immigration Lawyers and Registered Migration Agents (including 2 Accredited Immigration Law Specialists).  We can assist with all visa types including this new category.

Call or email us today if you would like more information.  We offer ‘initial’ consultations if you would like to discuss your eligibility.