New Zealand v Australia – with immigration also!6 Mar 2024

There has always been great rivalry, and comradery, between New Zealand and Australia. Such competition, currently continuing on the cricket pitch, also extends to the world of migration. In the year to June 2023 Australia had a net migration gain of 518,000 people, while New Zealand recorded a gain of 126,000 people in the year to December 2023. During this year New Zealand also had a net loss of 47,000 NZ citizens, with over half moving to Australia.

There are many factors for migrants to consider when looking to move “down-under”, with the two countries’ immigration policies a primary factor. For families looking to make a permanent move, their focus is on obtaining resident visas which allow then to live indefinitely in the country, and to potentially become citizens.

Both countries have skilled residence programmes to attract qualified workers and to fill workforce gaps, and have similar requirements for good health, character and English language. So, what are the main differences between New Zealand and Australia’s skilled resident visa policies?

New Zealand’s flagship work-based residence visa is the points-driven Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) for which points can be claimed for qualifications or occupational registration or high income, and additional points for up to 3 years of NZ skilled work experience. There are also a number of skill-shortage roles on the Green List Tier 1, which can enable a straight-for-residence application (no points required). Additional roles on the Green List Tier 2, and in some sectors (e.g.: care workforce) also provide a pathway to residence after 2 years of work. All applications require skilled employment in New Zealand.

Australia has a large number of work-based Permanent Residence visa categories, with many different streams fed into by different categories of temporary visas. The main, and more streamlined, permanent visa options are visa subclasses 189, 190 and 186 (Direct Stream). Subclasses 189 and 190 are points-driven with a more complex points system than New Zealand’s SMC. While New Zealand requires every applicant to have skilled employment, this is not the case in Australia, where there are options for state-sponsorship and recognition of skills/contribution which do not require employment.

Two other significant differences between the countries’ skilled residence policies relate to age, and long-term residence. New Zealand residence applicants must be under 56 years when applying, while applicants for Australian residence must generally be under 45 years. New Zealand applicants are also normally issued with Resident Visas which allow travel as a resident for 2 years initially and then there is the ability to obtain a Permanent Resident Visa – a PRV is a lifelong residence visa with no expiry date. In contrast Australia issues a 5 year “permanent resident visa” which must be renewed every 5 years. New Zealand resident visa holders are also eligible to vote in general elections, which is not the case in Australia.

Another key difference is in the criteria to become citizens. In Australia a person must hold a valid visa for 4 years with the last year as a permanent resident, whereas New Zealand requires someone to have been a resident for 5 years.

So, while the Trans-Tasman rivalry continues on the cricket pitch, and the rugby fields, it also continues with our immigration policies as both countries seek to attract much needed skilled migrants.

Link: First Published in the Waikato Business News March 2024 Edition, Page 10