People from New Zealand who have lived and worked in Australia for over five years will, in future, have easier access to citizenship following a new agreement between the leaders of the two countries.
However the meeting between Malcolm Turnbull, the Australian Prime Minister and his Kiwi counterpart, John Key, did not find agreement on the offer from New Zealand to resettle 150 refugees from Australia’s detention camps each year.
Applying the citizenship deal will pertain to those holding a special category visa, which allows New Zealanders to work and stay in Australia even though they maintain their original citizenship status. Mr Turnbull said such a category-holder earning over $54,000 a year could look to become an Australian citizen. This will widen the numbers of New Zealanders who are qualified to apply for citizenship, he explained. The Australian Prime Minister believes this move – subject to the normal security and health checks – is another recognition of the ties between the two countries.
Mr Key said the new step will be of benefit to tens of thousands of people who potentially could become citizens in Australia. Describing them as “fine Kiwis,” he said they will make “fine Australian citizens,” adding that both countries will seek to claim them.
According to the Guardian newspaper, it is estimated by the Australian authorities, that between 60,000-70,000 people qualify under the new agreement. Up to now, the deportation of New Zealand citizens, some of whom had lived most of their lives in Australia, had been a source of considerable tension in relationships between the countries. Legislation passed two years ago allowed deportation of non-citizens who were sentenced to jail terms of a year or more.
Mr Turnbull said that such a law was not targeted specifically at New Zealand but at everybody, be they from Britain, Romania or America or anywhere else.