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New policy recommendations from the MWC call for the Government to re-instate the pathway to citizenship that formerly existed between Australia and New Zealand.

Background: In 1994, the Howard Government introduced a Special Category visa (subclass 444) for New Zealand citizens. This visa created additional steps for New Zealanders seeking to become permanent residents and citizens of Australia, and was sparked by xenophobic fears that New Zealand was becoming a ‘back door’ to Australia for migrants. New Zealanders who’ve arrived in Australia since 2001 are subject to lengthy visa processes to achieve permanent residency.

As of December 2022, there are 666,169 people on the 444 visa in Australia. Thousands of New Zealanders have fallen through the gap; being long term residents of Australia but unable to pursue permanent residency due to not meeting age, income or employment requirements of a broken temporary migration system. New Zealanders on the subclass 444 visa are excluded from social safety nets such parenting payments, unemployment benefits, youth allowance and NDIS access. Non-Australian family members of New Zealanders on 461 visas also face instability.

The Migrant Workers Centre recommends:

  1. A pathway to permanent residency should be open to all New Zealanders in Australia
  2. The New Zealand pathway program should be made available to people of all occupations, income levels, and health conditions
  3. The validity of the 461 family visa should be based on the family relationship instead of the arbitrary five year period and Medicare should be offered to the family members of New Zealanders.


“Nearly three decades ago, the Howard government introduced the subclass 444 visa with the misguided fear that migrants would use New Zealand citizenship to seek access to Australia. 3 decades on, it is New Zealanders and their family members who pay the price – living in limbo in Australia on long visa wait times, many with no chance at permanency.

“Being on an insecure visa and having no social safety nets means being unable to speak up in exploitative work environments for fear of losing your jobs.”

“Giving New Zealanders a pathway to citizenship in Australia brings us one step closer to creating a fair migration system with permanency and security at its heart.”

For more information, please contact Omar Ghazala, Digital and Communications Officer via email [email protected]


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