189 visas: NZ streamlined pathway created; points-tested maximum age reduced to 45 on 1 July 2017

The much-anticipated skilled streamlined pathway for New Zealand citizens to apply for an Australian permanent visa will come into effect on 1 July 2017. The regulations for this visa have now been revealed.

The way the new system will work is that the General Skilled Migration (GSM), Subclass 189 – Skilled Independent visa will have two streams: a Points-tested stream and a New Zealand stream. The NZ stream will have a significantly reduced initial visa application charge of 20 per cent of the usual cost of applying, with the remaining 80 per cent payable prior to approval.

Among other requirements, the primary NZ applicant must hold a Subclass 444 (Special Category) visa. Secondary applicants in Australia, must hold either a substantive visa or a Bridging visa A, B, or C.

The primary applicant must:

  • Have been usually resident in Australia for a continuous period of at least 5 years immediately before the date of the application, and that continuous period started on or before 19 February 2016,
  • Provide notices of Australian tax assessments of their income tax liability in relation to the four most recently completed income years before the date of the application (during the period of 5 years immediately before that date), and
  • For each of the four completed years, the taxable income is no less than specified, or be in a class exempt if they have earned less in that year and can provide relevant evidence.

As previously reported, the minimum taxable income is expected to be the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT). For the previous financial years, the TSMIT has been the following, by financial year:

  • Year ended 30 June 2013: $51,000
  • Year ended 30 June 2014: $53,900
  • Year ended 30 June 2015: $53,900
  • Year ended 30 June 2016: $53,900
  • Year ending 30 June 2017: $53,900

Importantly, as part of the public interest criteria, applicants under the NZ stream will have access to apply for a health waiver. The rationale is because they would have already spent considerable time living in Australia.

The other major change from 1 July 2017, is that the Points-tests stream’s maximum age will be reduced from 50 to 45. Age is assessed at the time of invitation. The primary reason is to better target migrants who will be productive (read, contributing more tax) for longer.