Special category Visa

Important information for New Zealand Citizens living in Australia on the Subclass 444 Special Category Visa (SCV)

As a New Zealand citizen, when you enter Australia you are issued with what is known as a Subclass 444 Special Category visa (unless you’ve already applied for and been granted another type of visa). If you’re a Kiwi currently living in Australia on a subclass 444 visa, you should be aware of potential issues that can arise if you are convicted of a criminal offence or have previous convictions that haven’t been declared before.

If you are convicted of a criminal offence in Australia

If you are convicted of a criminal offence or otherwise breach the Department’s character provisions, the Department of Immigration has the power to cancel your visa. Before the Department commences the process of cancellation, it will issue a ‘Notice of Intention to Consider Cancellation (NOICC)’ and request your responses/explanations to the notice.

Should you provide a reasonable explanation and persuade the Department NOT to cancel your visa subclass 444, you will be able to continue living and working in Australia. However, it’s important you understand that this is only a temporary visa and it ceases when you leave Australia.

Previous Convictions Not Disclosed

If you’ve entered Australia previously on a subclass 444 visa and you did not disclose criminal convictions from overseas (even if they are considered ‘spent’ convictions), you may run into problems if you have to leave Australia and try to re-enter, as the Department of Immigration now has the facilities to check your criminal history (including ‘spent’ convictions).

For ALL Subclass 444 visa holders

Should the Department of Immigration & Border Protection confirm that you do not meet the character criteria to enter Australia you may face the following scenario:

  • When you leave Australia even for a short time (e.g. to go back to New Zealand to see family), you will no longer hold that same subclass 444 visa and so when you re-enter Australia a new 444 visa will be issued upon arrival.
  • Once you are confirmed to be a person with character concerns, you will no longer be eligible for a subclass 444 visa as you will be unable to meet the character requirements. You may consider other visa options to Australia.
    However, bear in mind, you may still be refused for other visa applications, due to the failure of meeting character criteria.

Family members

Family members, travelling together, who are New Zealand citizens are granted their own Subclass 444 as an individual applicant.

There are four potential ways for non-New Zealand citizen family members of New Zealand citizens to enter, or remain in, Australia:

  1. Apply for a New Zealand Citizen Family Relationship visa, Subclass 461. This is a temporary five-year renewable visa;
  2. If your New Zealand citizen family member is eligible for permanent residence, you as a dependent family member can be included as a secondary applicant.
  3. If your New Zealand citizen family member becomes an Australian permanent resident or Australian citizen, the family member/s could apply for a visa with sponsorship by the family head (eg a Spouse or Child visa) or
  4. Apply for a visa independently (e.g. a skilled visa, an employer nominated visa, regional employer sponsored visa).The family member will need to meet the criteria for the relevant subclass of visa applied for.

Do New Zealand citizens need to apply for a permanent visa?

The Subclass 444 is a temporary visa, and it allows a New Zealand citizen to remain indefinitely in Australia to live, work or study.

The Subclass 444 is not a permanent visa and visa holders do not have the same rights and benefits as Australian citizens or Australian permanent residents.

Neither Australian permanent residents nor Subclass 444 holders are able to:

  • vote in Australian government elections
  • access student loans
  • join the Australian Defence Force

New pathway for New Zealanders living in Australia

On 19 February 2016, the Australian government announced a new pathway for New Zealanders living in Australia from 27 February 2001 to apply for Australian citizenship. For further information please access our article ‘Australian Permanent Residency and Citizenship for New Zealanders’.

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Do you still have questions about your eligibility for Australian Citizenship?

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