ANZAC Day is a time to remember, reflect and pay tribute. 2016 is of particular significance, marking the 100th year of commemorations. As a New Zealander first and an immigration lawyer second, it is a poignant reminder of a century old connection, a shared military heritage that heralded the strong kinship that has been forged between Australia and New Zealand.
Since the landmark battle at Gallipoli, our countries have strengthened this relationship through integrated trade and economic ties, close political contact, keen competition on the sporting fields, strong people-to-people links and an open door policy of travel to visit, work and live in each other’s country without restrictions.
We share a unique relationship and are undeniably natural allies today, as we were 101 years ago. But the landscape is changing.
In 2014, amendments to section 501 of Australia’s Migration Act 1958 were introduced to strengthen the character and visa cancellation provisions within the Act and reform Australia’s approach to the cancellation of visas of non-citizens who are or were in prison. The broadened definition of substantial criminal record at s501(7) and the introduction of mandatory visa cancellations at s501(3A) has resulted in hundreds of New Zealand citizens being interned in immigration detention centres, having their visas cancelled and being deported from Australia after failing to meet the character test.
These events have brought a short, sharp end to the easy indifference with which New Zealanders reside in Australia. I am guilty of the indifference. In the years I have lived in Australia I have never considered applying for permanent residency or citizenship given that “one day I will go home”. With unintended complacency, and an unconscious reliance on the close kinship of our countries, I have always believed the special category subclass 444 visa (SCV) automatically granted to New Zealand citizens upon arrival at the Australian border provided they meet security, character and health requirements, would operate indefinitely and allow me to live and work in Australia with rights comparable to an Australian citizen, until I chose otherwise.
The amendments to section 501 have changed that thinking. In fact, I am beginning to wonder if the recent legislative changes and the 1 July 2017 proposed new pathway to permanent residency are a precursor to abolishing the SCV altogether.
What I, and perhaps many other New Zealanders, have failed to pay proper attention to is the fact that Australia and New Zealand are sovereign nations. Despite the long standing alliance between our countries, each must make their own laws to protect their people, and each must enforce those laws. Current world events have provoked the need for tighter border security in every nation, and because of this it is wholly understandable that Australia has made legislative changes to provide wider powers of visa refusal and cancellation. The protection of its citizens must be paramount.
An unfortunate consequence is that by 31 August 2015, 80 New Zealanders had been deported from Australia while 184 more were being held in Australian detention centres after their SCV’s were cancelled. This is only the tip of the iceberg. Current statistics suggest up to 5000 New Zealanders could be detained or deported over the next five years due to substantial criminal records or past and present criminal conduct.
Don’t be one of the 5000. Positive forward-thinking action is needed. New Zealanders hoping to remain in Australia indefinitely must take steps to secure permanent residency and citizenship now.
Nomos is committed to helping you
For New Zealanders:
• resident in Australia on 26 February 2001, with no criminal record, we will provide a citizenship kit so you can prepare and lodge your application for citizenship yourself.
• who arrived after 26 February 2001, with no criminal record or long-term health problems, we will advise you of the most direct pathway to permanent residency as your first step toward citizenship.
For New Zealanders with criminal records, you should contact us now. Once you receive a notice of intention to consider cancelation (NOICC) or your visa is cancelled under the mandatory cancellation provisions of section 501(3A), strict time limits are imposed. Time is of the essence in lodging submissions against cancellation or seeking a revocation of the cancellation decision.
Nomos will be holding free community information sessions for New Zealanders to provide information about permanent residency and citizenship options. Please contact us if you would like to attend one of these free sessions. You can also contact us to arrange a consultation to discuss your personal circumstances.