For New Zealand Citizens

Under the current trans-Tasman arrangement, New Zealand citizens are eligible Special Category Visas (444) as long as they meet certain character and health requirements.

The 444 is basically an open work visa that does not require an offer of employment or sponsorship. It allows the holder to remain indefinitely but is considered a temporary visa and does not lead to residency.

A 444 holder has limited access to social benefits. However, there are some available – click here

Another interesting fact is that the 444 ceases every time the holder departs Australia. This makes it particularly difficult when applying for jobs while outside Australia. If an employer attempts to view a New Zealand citizen’s work rights when they are not in Australia, the system shows they hold no valid visa.


A few key changes in Australian immigration law affected New Zealanders:

1st July 1981 – New Zealanders are required to travel with a passport to Australia

1st September 1994 – The birth of the 444 visa and New Zealanders arriving in Australia after this date were no longer considered     permanent residents of Australia.

26th February 2001 –  If a 444 holder was in Australia on this date, or for 12 months in the last 2 years prior to this date, or was considered a “Protected SCV Holder” before the 26th of February 2004, they would be considered an “Eligible New Zealand Citizen” and have similar rights as an Australian permanent resident.

19 February 2016 – 444 holders who were living in Australia on or before this date have the opportunity at gaining permanent residency through subclass 189 New Zealand Stream.


This makes the 444 ideal for those wanting to live and work in Australia short term. However, we recommend that you take a look at your permanent residency options before moving.


Common Australian permanent residency options for New Zealanders

Resident Return Visa

If you arrived in Australia prior to the 1st of September 1994, even if it was for a holiday, you may be eligible for this visa. You must make this application while in Australia.


Skilled Independent visa (subclass 189) New Zealand stream

For this type of application you must have:

  • have started living in Australia on or before 19 February 2016 and;
  • hold a Special Category (subclass 444) visa and;
  • have lived in Australia for at least the last 5 years and;
  • have a taxable income at or above an income threshold for each of the four completed income years prior to lodging an application if the application was lodged prior to the 1st of July 2021, or for each of the three completed income years if the application is lodged on or after the 1st of July 2021.


2011-12 $49,330 2018-19 $53,900
2012-13 $51,440 2019-20 $53,900
2013-14 $53,900 2020-21 $53,900
2014-15 $53,990
2015-16 $53,900
2016-17 $53,900
2017-18 $53,900
There are a few exemptions to the income requirement such as:
  • Family court restrictions
  • Injury
  • Parental or Carer’s leave
Skilled Independent visa (subclass 189) Points Test

For this type of application you must have:

  • An occupation on the relevant Skilled Occupation List; and
  • A Skills Assessment; and
  • Meet English criteria; and
  • Meet the Points criteria; and
  • Complete an Expression of Interest and be invited to apply for this visa
This application does not require an offer of employment or sponsor.


Skilled Nominated Visa (subclass 190)

For this type of application you must have:

  • An occupation on the relevant Skilled Occupation List; and
  • A Skills Assessment; and
  • Meet English criteria; and
  • Meet the Points criteria; and
  • Be nominated for this visa by an Australian state or territory government agency.
  • Complete an Expression of Interest and be invited to apply for this visa
Similar to the 189, the 190 allows you to gain additional points for nomination. However, you may be required to work in the nominated state or territory for a period of time.


Employer Nomination Scheme Visa (subclass 186)

There are three streams of this visa:

  • Direct Entry
  • Labour Agreement (must have an employer with a labour agreement)
  • Temporary Residence Transition Stream (must hold a 457, 482, or related bridging A, B C visa)

New Zealand citizens would normally be considering the Direct Entry stream. For this stream you must have an occupation on the relevant Skilled Occupation List and have three years relevant work experience.

New Zealand citizen’s who have worked for the nominating employer is the same position for at least 2 years in the last 3 years may not need to complete a Skills Assessment. This makes this option a bit simpler that the 189 Points Tested visa.


Australian Visa application with criminal history

Having a criminal history can complicate your travel plans. Even minor convictions can cause you to have a less than pleasant experience at the Australian border. However, having a criminal history does not instantly exclude you from ever visiting or living in Australia. VisaAide has extensive experience in dealing with character issues and we ensure our service is strictly confidential to enable you to discuss your matters in private.

Convictions in New Zealand

If you have not been sentence to more that 12 months imprisonment or suspended imprisonment, but you have a conviction history in New Zealand, you are best to complete a Consent to Disclosure of Information form. This form releases the conviction history to the Australian authorities for them to assess whether you are eligible for a 444 visa.

Consent to Disclosure

Convictions in Other Countries

If you have convictions in other countries, you will need to obtain a police certificate from those countries and present it to your nearest Australian immigration office or Visa Application Centre with a letter explaining that you are a New Zealand citizen wanting to know if you are able to enter Australia on a 444 visa.


Character Assessments

If you are unable to obtain a 444 visa due to your convictions you will need to apply for a visa and undergo a character assessment. This can really restrict your visa options as you must meet a visa category just like every non-New Zealand citizen. For example, if you want to work, you may need to look at a subclass 482 work visa and have an employer sponsor you.

A character assessment assess the circumstances of your offending and takes into consideration your situation at the time of the offense, and what your situation is like currently. Things like the type of the offense, how long ago the offense was, whether there are multiple offenses and how long you have been conviction free, are all taken into consideration. The assessment  is done “on the papers” meaning you do not attend an interview in most cases. You need to provide all your evidence that you want considered with your application for a visa.

Be aware that character assessment processing can be lengthy. At this stage, we find applications for visitor visas are taking around 12-15months to be assessed.

Deported, Refused Entry or Removed from Another Country

If you are ineligible for a 444 due to being deported, refused entry, or removed from another country other than Australia, you will be required to apply for a visa but would not normally need to undergo a character assessment.

444 Cancelled/Removed from Australia

If you have previously had your 444 cancelled under character grounds and you have been removed from Australia, in most cases the exclusion from Australia is permanent. In compelling and compassionate circumstances this can be waived by the Minister of Immigration for the grant of a visa. The waiver only applies to that particular visa and does not guarantee that another waiver will be granted.

Australian visa applications for partner’s of New Zealand citizens

If your partner is not a New Zealand citizen, a subclass 461 visa may be just the visa you’re looking for. This subclass of visa is a temporary visa that allows a member of a New Zealand citizen’s family to live, work and study in Australia. It is a very popular visa which, together with the right New Zealand visa can give the holder the flexibility to travel between New Zealand and Australia as many times as they like over a period of five years. The visa can also be “rolled over” which means that you can extend it.

Find out more about Subclass 461.


Click here if you are just starting out and seeking helpful information to get started!