19 Feb 2016

NZ'ers in Australia could get easier citizenship path

6:04 pm on 19 February 2016

Moves to make it easier for some New Zealanders to get Australian citizenship have been announced this afternoon.

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Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Prime Minister John Key at a joint press conference in Sydney today. Photo: AFP

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull made the announcement after a two-hour meeting in Sydney with Prime Minister John Key.

Under new rules New Zealanders in Australia on Special Category Visas earning over $A53,000 a year for five years would be eligible for what he called the new pathway to citizenship, Mr Turnbull said.

More than 300,000 New Zealanders are thought to be living in Australia on special category visas.

"This applies to New Zealanders who are living here as of today and so in the future New Zealanders who wish to become Australian citizens have other visa categories to use."

Mr Turnbull said the change recognised the close ties between Australia and New Zealand.

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Photo: AFP

"It's an important step and in recognition of the advocacy that John Key has made on behalf of the many New Zealand citizens who are in Australia, who are working here and part of our community."

The rights issue has been a sticking point in the trans-Tasman relationship since Australia made changes in 2001 denying New Zealanders living there access to welfare and other entitlements.

Mr Key said the new pathway option was a very positive step and could affect up to 100,000 New Zealanders living in Australia.

"It takes place up to today, effectively if someone came here yesterday to Australia, then they could work through over the next five years and apply," he said.

However, anyone moving to Australia from tomorrow needed to be aware that the changes would not apply to them, Mr Key said.

The leaders' meeting at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices got under way just after 11am New Zealand time.

Opening the meeting, Mr Turnbull said it would be a broad discussion, focusing on security, immigration and investment.

"Well John, welcome to Sydney, it is great to see you and your colleagues. We're looking forward to a very constructive discussion on a range of issues.

"We pay a lot of attention to what happens in New Zealand."

Mr Key said it was great to be back in Australia.

"Thanks for having us here and hosting us in Sydney. It is a great opportunity to exchange views on all the things we are doing," Mr Key said.

Mr Key said he would be raising the issues of deportation and rights of New Zealanders living in Australia.

It is election year in Australia, and the law change that has resulted in hundreds of New Zealand criminals having their visas cancelled was a popular one.

Under the new laws, anyone who has served a prison sentence of 12 months or more in Australia and was not a citizen can be deported. Non-citizens without criminal convictions could also have visas cancelled on character grounds.

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