Many New Zealand Citizens present here in Australia are unaware of their Australian immigration status. On arrival in Australia, most New Zealanders are automatically granted a Special Category Visa (SCV). This visa is a temporary visa which allows the holder to remain and work in Australia indefinitely for as long as they remain a New Zealand Citizen.
After arrival at an airport in Australia, New Zealand Citizens simply present their NZ passports fpr immigration clearance and they are considered to have applied for the SCV. Subject to health and character considerations they automatically receive the SCV which is recorded electronically, so the only evidence of the SCV is the entry stamp on their passport.
It is not necessary for a New Zealand Citizen to become an Australian permanent resident as the SCV allows for an indefinite stay with full work rights.
On 26th February 2001 however, in conjunction with a new bilateral social security arrangement between Australia and New Zealand, changes were made regarding NZ citizens in Australia. It was announced that a NZ Citizen who arrived after 26th February 2001, will need to apply for permanent residency if they wish to access certain Australian social security payments, obtain Australian Citizenship or sponsor family members into Australia for permanent residence.
Under transitional provisions these changes do not affect NZ Citizens who were in Australia on the 28th Feb 2001 as SCV holders, or who were absent on this date, but spent twelve months in Australia in the 2 years prior to that date. If you are a NZ Citizen who was in Australia on these dates then you are eligible to apply directly for Australian Citizenship, may access certain social security payments and may sponsor family members for permanent residence to Australia.
If you are a NZ Citizen who arrived in Australia on or after 27th Feb 2001 and you intend to apply for Australian Citizenship, access certain social security payments or sponsor family members to Australia for permanent residence, then you will need to apply for and have a permanent residency visa granted first. There are various permanent residency visa options that may be able and you can seek advice from a registered migration agent to discuss your visa options.
At 30 June 2012, an estimated 647,863 NZ Citizens were present in Australia.