Australia makes historic citizenship changes, restores rights to Kiwis living across the ditch

Australia has announced a new direct pathway to citizenship for eligible New Zealanders.

It means in a few months Kiwis living in Australia for over four years will be able to go straight to citizenship without needing to be a resident.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said the changes are the "biggest improvement" in the rights of New Zealanders living in Australia in a generation.

The changes restore most of the rights Kiwis had in Australia before they were revoked in 2001 and bring them more in line with Australians living in New Zealand.

From July 1, all Special Category Visa holders will be able to apply directly for citizenship without becoming permanent residents first, as long as they meet a four-year residence and other eligibility requirements. These requirements include passing a character check, adequate knowledge of Australia, a basic English competency, will continue to reside in or have a connection with Australia and attending a citizenship ceremony.

There is no minimum income requirement or health requirement and the fee will cost AU$490.

The changes also allow Kiwi children born in Australia to become citizens at birth, rather than waiting until they turn 10 years old. Children born in Australia since July 1, 2022 to a New Zealand parent living there will also automatically be entitled to citizenship.

The changes are also retrospective since 2001.

"We know that many New Zealanders are here on a Special Category Visa while raising families, working and building their lives in Australia. So I am proud to offer the benefits that citizenship provides," Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said in a statement.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins welcomed Australia's historic decision, saying it will bring the two countries closer together.

"Most of us know someone who's moved across the Tasman. They work hard, pay taxes and deserve a fair go. These changes deliver that and reverse erosions that have taken place over 20 years," Hipkins said in a statement.

"Successive New Zealand Prime Ministers have advocated for this change for two decades. It's pleasing that the close relationship between leaders of two like-minded governments was instrumental in reaching this outcome."

Hipkins will officially celebrate the new policy alongside Prime Minister Albanese at a citizenship ceremony in Brisbane on Sunday followed by a community barbeque.

The pair will also be visiting a cemetery in Brisbane to attend the unveiling of plaques for the previously unmarked graves of soldiers who served during the two World Wars.