bill english
New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English speaks in Wellington, New Zealand. Reuters/Charlotte Greenfield

NZ Prime Minister Bill English has expressed his concern to his country's citizens who currently lives in Australia. He said that his goverment was trying to understand exactly the decision of Turnbull government on changing the Australian citizenship policy. He said that he was disappointed about the changes and he was concerned that the Pathways to Citizenship arrangment would be threatened by the new policy.

The Pathways to Citizenship arrangement has allowed Kiwis earning AU$53,000 annually for five years but arrived in Australia between February 2001 and 2016 to apply permanent residence from July 2017. The arrangement was made to open up the Kiwi pathway to Australian citizenship that acknowleged the special bilateral relationship of the two countries. However, English said that they were not formally informed about Turnbull government's announcement.

There would be 60,000 Kiwis who would benefit from the Pathways to Citizenship arrangement for non-protected special category visa (SCV) holders. However, the new announcement were expected to affect ten of thousands of New Zealand expats which would demand that an Australian citizenship applicant should have lived in Australia as a permanent resident for at least four years up from the current one year.

Permanent residents have different benefits from the citizens. Permanent residents can be deported for committing even minor crimes. They do not have the right to vote, run for Parliament and access university HELP loans.

"This is just Australia walking all over New Zealand again – you'd had John Key and then Bill English out there selling it as a great success, 'Look at how our quiet diplomacy worked so well', but this is what they get in return," chairman of expat lobby group Oz Kiwi Tim Gassin told Fairfax Media. He said that the changes hurt the Australia-based Kiwis.

Pathways to Citizenship requirements

Mandatory residence, contribution and community protection criteria were among the requirements for the visa pathways. Applicants should have been resident in Australia for five years immediately prior to visa application. The applicant's income tax returns should show contribution to the country. Mandatory health, character and security checks were included in the requirements.

Turnbull government has allowed limited exemptions to the income test requirement. It would be applied to vulnerable New Zealand citizens including primary carer of children who as an SCV holder was unable to access working age payments. Primary carer of children who were unable to return to New Zealand with their children for reason of a court order would be considered as vulnerable individuals.

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The Sydney Morning Herald/Youtube