New Zealand citizens can move to Australia to live and work without needing to apply for a visa of any kind (see the exceptions below). When you arrive in Australia and pass through border control, a Special Category Visa (SCV) is electronically assigned if you have a New Zealand passport. This lets you to live in Australia for as long as you need to.
There’s actually no mention of this visa at all when you go through Australian border control, it all happens electronically when the immigration official swipes your passport or when you go through the new SmartGate systems being introduced throughout Australian airports.
It's important to understand that the SCV is considered a temporary, unprotected visa. When you see the word temporary, you might think this means there is a limit to how long you can live and work in Australia but that is not the case - there is currently no limit to how long you can stay in Australia. But who knows if this might change in the future - the Australian Government is generally clamping down in 2017 on immigration from countries other than NZ.
The other thing to know about the SCV is that it does not give you the same rights as an Australian permanent resident or citizen. For example, living in Australia on an SCV means you cannot:
- access many of the social welfare payments, such as the unemployment benefit
- get a student loan
- vote in Australian elections
- work for the Australian Government on an ongoing basis
- join the Australian Defence Force (ADF)
To qualify for these things, you must become an Australian permanent resident or citizen.
The Australian Immigration web site features this fact sheet about New Zealanders in Australia, which discusses the special visas granted to New Zealanders to allow us to live and work there.
Another excellent source of information about special visas granted to New Zealanders travelling to Australia is this page of the Australian High Commission, NZ website.
Note that New Zealand permanent residents are not entitled to the Special Category Visa. It applies only to New Zealand citizens. If you are a New Zealand permanent resident you will need to apply for a visa to be able to live and work in Australia. See the Australian Immigration website to research a visa that might apply to you.
Exceptions To SCV Eligibility
There are two situations where New Zealand citizens may not be able to get a Special Category Visa (meaning you can't simply move to Australia to live and work without making some sort of application for residency).
- Criminal convictions. If you have criminal convictions you need to apply for permission to enter Australia from the Australian High Commission. Read more about what you need to do and grab the consent of disclosure form here. Undeclared criminal convictions are taken very seriously by the Australian authorities and can result in deportation and/or imprisonment.
- Tuberculosis. If you have untreated tuberculosis you may not be allowed to enter Australia. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for further advice.
When Is It Necessary To Apply For A Permanent Resident Visa?
The SCV is an unprotected visa. Living as a NZ citizen in Australia on this visa means you do not have the same rights as permanent residents or citizens of Australia.
Our situation of simply wanting to live and work in Melbourne did not require us to apply for permanent residency, but you will need to if you:
- Intend to apply for unemployment or sickness benefits. These benefits cannot be received until two years after successfully applying for permanent residence in Australia.
- Intend to become an Australian citizen.
- Intend to sponsor family members in their applications for permanent residency.
We've written more about Australian permanent residency and citizenship if this is of interest to you.
Becoming An Australian Citizen
Although New Zealand citizens can live and work in Australia indefinitely on an SCV, you must still apply to become an Australian citizen. The first step in becoming a citizen is to become a permanent resident.
As there are multiple pathways to becoming a permanent resident, it can be a bit overwhelming at first. We've researched this for you and have written about it on our page about Australian permanent residency and citizenship.
Still have questions about visa requirements in Australia? Check out our discussion forum where you can ask questions that can be answered by us and other readers.