189 Visa New Zealand

Unlike Australians in New Zealand, New Zealanders in Australia do not immediately receive the equivalent of permanent residency upon arrival. Despite the migration arrangements not being reciprocal, many people wrongly assume that a Subclass 444 visa is permanent residency of which the holder would qualify Australian Citizenship. This is simply not true because a Subclass 444 is not permanent residency which lead you to an Australian citizenship in the future.

Nevertheless, the Australian Government allowed concessions for those currently living and working in Australia on the Special Category (subclass 444) visas (SCV) through a separate stream for skilled independent migration. To qualify, you must have been usually resident in Australia since before 19 February 2016. Those who commenced residing in Australia after 19 February 2016 does not qualify for the 189 visa for New Zealand citizens. Furthermore, eligibility is restricted to those who have made positive commitment and contribution to Australia for the last five years.

Unfortunately, no other New Zealand citizens-specific independent permanent residency pathway is open to those who commenced being resident in Australia after 19 February 2016. If you do not satisfy the residency criterion for the 189 visa under this stream, it is best to consult with a migration solicitor to discuss alternative visa options for you and your family.

Eligibility Criteria

In summary, you must:
  • Hold a Special Category (subclass 444) visa;
  • Have been usually resident in Australia for a continuous period of 5 years, commencing on or before 19 February 2016;
  • Have a taxable income at or above the income threshold for four (4) of the five years prior to your application; and
  • Meet the mandatory health, age, character and national security checks.
Your family members who are constituents of your family unit, including your partner, can be added to your application. These family members do not need to meet any income threshold nor do they need to be New Zealand citizens. If your partner is a holder of a different temporary visa, including the Subclass 461 visa, they can also be included in your application. Health and character requirements still need to be satisfied by secondary applicants.

Income Threshold

In assessing your skilled independent 189 visa eligibility, the Department of Home Affairs will look at your taxable income over the five years immediately before said application. In the last 4 of the 5 most recently completed financial years prior to your application, one must evidence a taxable income in excess of the Income Threshold of $53,900. This figure only encompasses the total taxable income and excludes superannuation contributions. In establishing this requirement of the New Zealander visa, only notices of tax assessment are accepted as proof of income.

Exemptions to the Income Test Exemptions

Not all applicants are required to satisfy the minimum income test for the purposes of this visa stream. Below are the 3 primary exemptions to the income requirement of Subclass 189 under the New Zealand stream. These exemptions operate on a per-year basis, meaning an exemption will only apply for specific financial years immediately before the date of application.
  • Exemption 1: Family Court/ Parenting Plan
  • ​Where the Family Court of Australia has given you primary care of a child and you are not allowed to take the child out of the country, you may be exempted for the financial years in which the order was operative. In other words, one may seek an exemption on this ground by claiming that he or she cannot leave Australia because of an order assigning primary care of a child to you and disallowed you from taking the child out of the country. A New Zealand citizen making an application of this type should seek legal advice before applying for the skilled independent 189 visa. It is imperative that the court order upon which your application is based contains provisions which have the effect required by this exemption.
  • Exemption 2: Compensation Claim
  • The grounds for this exemption exist if:

    • The applicant is being compensated for an injury that prevents from meeting the threshold; and
    • The compensation (or rehabilitation) would cease with departure out of Australia.

    This provides some reprieve to New Zealand citizens who would have met the threshold for a given year but for an unforeseen injury. Once again, to ensure your compensation arrangement meets the requirements of this exemption, it is important to seek legal advice before commencing your skilled independent visa application.

  • Exemption 3: Parental or Carer’s Leave Waiver
    • The grounds for this exemption are present if the applicant:

      • Is on approved parental or carer’s leave; and
      • Earned no less than the income threshold immediately before the applicant went on leave; and
      • Has resumed (or will resume) earning an income no less than the threshold.

      Once again, visa requirements incorporate concessions for those who would have met the income requirement but for unforeseen circumstances. When applying for the visa, difficulties may arise in establishing your likelihood to resume earning an income of the kind specified. To avoid the risk of visa refusal, applications contingent on the above exemption are best pursued with the assistance of a migration solicitor.

    Relevant Public Interest Criteria

    4001, 4002, 4003, 4004, 4007, 4020 and 4019 (if applicable)


    Unlike most Australian visas, the 189 New Zealand stream visa application requires that applicants must hold new and valid police certificates and undergo the requisite health checks prior to submission of their application. With valid excuse, one may delay their health examination until after lodging. In any event, failure of any health or character requirement will result in visa refusal. If you suspect that you or your family member may not meed the health or character requirement, ensure you consult with a migration solicitor.

    Visa Conditions

    The applicant must be in Australia and holding a Subclass 444 visa at the time of application.

    Visa Condition 8515 may be imposed whereby the secondary visa holders must not marry or enter into a de facto relationship before entering Australia.

    Application Charges

    The New Zealand stream application fee is divided into two installments. The first is payable upon lodging the application with the second payable on request from the Department of Home Affairs prior to grant.

    First installment payable at the time of application;

    • Base application charge: $810
    • Additional visa applicant charge for an applicant who is at least 18: $405
    • Additional visa applicant charge for an applicant who is less than 18: $205

    Second installment payable prior to visa grant;

    • Primary applicant: $3,235
    • Additional visa applicant charge for an applicant who is at least 18: $1,615
    • Additional visa applicant charge for an applicant who is less than 18: $810

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