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Australia's citizenship changes: 140,000 Kiwis set to be collateral damage (Video)

'It seems a bit unfair' - thousands of Kiwis in Australia left in limbo following citizenship changes

In 1973, the Australian and New Zealand governments signed the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement (TTTA), formalising decades of peaceful movement and guaranteeing free steps between the two countries.

Unlike treaties between European countries that guarantee social rights to citizens who make the journey across countries, the TTTA contains no language that fortifies any rights whatsoever.

The reason these were not thought to be included is likely that Australia and New Zealand had shared a special relationship for many decades and both countries would have felt safe in trusting the other.

New Zealanders living in Australia are demanding politicans here put pressure on the Australian government to back off from proposed new citizenship laws

That trust has become undermined in the way Australia now treats New Zealanders who arrive on its shores under the TTTA.

READ MORE:
NZ officials asking questions about Australia citizenship changes for expat Kiwis
Australia crackdown 'shifts goalposts' for Kiwis
Australia opens citizenship door to Kiwis
Kiwi expats in Australia welcome agreement
Citizenship breakthrough: Kiwi winners and losers

Since February 26, 2001, Kiwis arriving in Australia have been at a very nasty disadvantage.

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This week, when Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a raft of new waiting periods and restrictions to Australian citizenship, Kiwis began to panic.

Fourteen months ago, Australia announced that many long-term New Zealanders cut off from citizenship by its prime minister John Howard in 2001 would be given a "streamlined pathway to citizenship".

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection estimated that 120,000-140,000 people would be eligible come July 1, 2017.

New Zealanders cheered, and Australia paraded their decision around as if it was the world's biggest favour.

Then, on Wednesday April 1, Australia made the deal practically worthless because it forces some New Zealanders to wait four more years to achieve citizenship rather than the 12 months that was promised under current law.

One of the major issues of this, aside from the obviously massive increase in wait time to 2021, are in young Kiwis who are thinking of studying in Australia, or those who are already studying.

In 2016, the Australian government began allowing long-term Kiwi kids access to student loans (called FEE-HELP in Australia). The law as written only allows for Special Category Visa Holder New Zealanders to access this. Permanent residents of Australia cannot access the scheme.

Where a New Zealander is granted a permanent visa, they automatically lose FEE-HELP loan access and can't get that back until they apply for citizenship.

There is only a 12-month window between being granted a permanent visa and applying for citizenship - which is not itself a major disadvantage.

Kiwis who have spent three years or more in Australia on the Special Category Visa can use that time to meet the four-year requirement.

With these changes blowing it out to four years from gaining a new visa, the unpalatable options for Kiwi families who want to apply for the new "pathway to citizenship" means they have to choose between two very important and personal things.

Either, include their teenage children in their permanent visa application so they can all become Aussies one day, but lose four years of higher education opportunities. Or, exclude their children and leave them on a never-ending temporary visa so they can get a FEE-HELP loan and hopefully a degree.

By now a lot of Kiwis in Australia who arrived in the last 16 years are aware they exist on what's termed a "non-protected" Special Category Visa. Many are becoming aware that any changes in immigration law will not take into account their "special" status.

This makes those of us living in Australia a population of nervous and vulnerable migrants.

Our "special" visa is now going to cause up to 140,000 New Zealanders who had hopes of becoming Australian citizens next year to be placed in limbo.

The responses from Kiwi's on a popular advocacy page, 'Oz Kiwi' who are urging their almost 42,000 followers to get angry and contact the offices of both countries' Prime Ministers vary, but they are all littered with feelings of defeat and anger.

In 1994, when our visa was created, the government called it "Special Category" because at the time New Zealanders were seen as special - like family.

In 2017, it is becoming clear that our visa doesn't deserve its name. There is nothing special about being indefinitely temporary in a country, vulnerable to the whims of individual governments and ministers.

Stuff Nation

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