Westminster debates easing visa restrictions for Australians (and others) to the UK

I do not normally read or write about News Corp. articles, but I read one this morning that piqued my interest. The Herald Sun reported today that UK parliamentarians were debating the visa restrictions for Commonwealth countries to the UK and that there was an exaggerated focus benefitting EU countries over those who are or were subject to Her Majesty’s reign.

Some politicians have suggested that Commonwealth countries should have ‘special privileges’ afforded to its citizens so they could migrate easily to the UK and perhaps stay on a permanent basis.

Setting aside UK immigration laws, you may want to ask yourself ‘Do UK citizens have “special privileges” or a separate visa to come to Australia?’ The answer is, ‘No.’

A couple of times I have been asked by UK citizens about applying for a permanent visa to Australia and I recall one client asking if there was a special visa to Australia, because, you know, we (the UK) colonised you (Australia). My courteous reply was, ‘You are unfortunately about 50 years too late.’

Similar to the article’s statement that the UK has a special immigration relationship for neighbouring countries in the EU, Australia does have a special visa but not for UK citizens. Instead, these are for New Zealand citizens. Provided they meet health and character requirements, NZ citizens should be eligible for a Special Category (subclass 444) visa, which will entitle them to come to Australia and stay as long as they remain NZ citizens, so practically indefinitely, without subject to visa conditions. This is, by far, the most beneficial temporary visa to hold.

The next best temporary visa to hold, in my opinion, is the NZ Citizen Family Relationship (subclass 461) visa, which is a five year temporary visa (with few visa conditions) for members of a New Zealand citizen’s family unit.

As for NZ citizens becoming permanent residents of Australia, well, despite some rumblings, they must apply for and meet the criteria for a permanent visa in its own right, unless they were a person known as an eligible NZ citizen.

An eligible NZ citizen is a person who met certain health and character requirements and was either:

  • in Australia on 26 February 2001 as a holder of a Special Category (subclass 444) visa that was valid on that day; or
  • outside Australia on 26 February 2001, but who had spent an aggregate of at least one of the two years immediately preceding 27 February 2001 in Australia as the holder of a Special Category (subclass 444) visa; or
  • outside Australia on 26 February 2001, but who has been issued, by Centrelink, with a certificate under the Social Security Act 1991 stating that the person was residing in Australia on a particular date for the purposes of that Act.

These lucky people have many rights in common with Australian permanent residents, including the ability to sponsor non-citizens for certain temporary and permanent visas.

Considering the critical date to be an eligible NZ citizen was almost 14 years ago, these people are becoming few and far between among the NZ citizens who have travelled to Australia since that time.