Last updated 28 June 2016
Most New Zealand citizens who enter Australia on a New Zealand passport are automatically issued with a Special Category Visa. This allows New Zealand citizens to live and work in Australia. However, it is not a permanent visa and therefore they are not entitled to receive social security benefits unless they are considered a ‘Protected Special Category Visa’ holder or are eligible for payments under the International Social Security Agreement between New Zealand and Australia.
Protected Special Category Visa holders
The criteria that Centrelink looks at to determine the ‘protected’ status are complex, however, some basic criteria require a person to have:
- resided in Australia on 26 February 2001 and to have entered Australia on a New Zealand passport
- resided in Australia for periods totalling 12 months at any time between 26 February 1999 and 26 February 2001, while holding a Special Category Visa
- received an Australian social security benefit between 26 February 2001 and 26 February 2004, while holding a Special Category Visa
- resided in Australia on 26 February 2001 but temporarily spent time overseas. If so, was the person receiving an Australian social security benefit while overseas and did the person return to Australia during the period the Australian social security benefit remained payable
- commenced or recommenced residing in Australia after 26 February 2001 but before 26 May 2001. If so, did the person apply to Centrelink before 26 February 2004 for a determination that the person was residing in Australia
- resided in Australia on 26 February 2001 but temporarily spent that day overseas, and has not received an Australian social security benefit. If so, did the person return to Australia by 26 February 2002, and did the person apply to Centrelink before 26 February 2002 for a determination that they were residing in Australia?
If the person was in Australia on 26 February 2001 and held a Special Category Visa at that time, they may have automatically acquired Australian citizenship. It is recommended that they enquire with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
International Social Security Agreement
Under the International Social Security Agreement (sch 3 Social Security (International Agreements (Act) 1999 (Cth)), New Zealand citizens can claim Age Pension, Disability Support Pension and Carer Payment from Centrelink if they hold a Special Category Visa and reside in Australia. The date that they entered Australia is not taken into consideration.
In order to be paid the Age Pension, the New Zealand citizen must be over 65 years and have resided in Australia and New Zealand for 10 years. The period of residence in New Zealand is only from age 20 to 64 years of age (e.g. a citizen residing in New Zealand from age 60 to 64 must have lived in Australia for six years before they are eligible for the Age Pension in Australia).
To be paid the Disability Support Pension, the person must be assessed as severely disabled and have a total of at least 10 years residence in Australia and New Zealand. The person must also have become severely disabled while living in Australia or New Zealand and have resided in New Zealand for at least one year before the date they became severely disabled. ‘Severely disabled’ is defined as a person with a physical, psychiatric or intellectual impairment that makes that person unable to work more than eight hours per week or unable to benefit from a rehabilitation program for the next two years.
In order to be paid the Carer Payment, the person must be caring for a partner who receives the Disability Support Pension. The person must have lived in Australia and/or New Zealand for at least two years.
Special Category Visa holders who have resided in Australia for 10 continuous years may apply for Youth Allowance, Newstart Allowance and Sickness Allowance for a period of up to six months.
New Zealand citizens may also be eligible for the following payments: Family Tax Benefit, Baby Bonus, Maternity Immunisation Allowance, Child Care Benefit and the Double Orphan Pension. A 104-week waiting period generally applies to a Low Income Health Care Card or a Senior Health Card application. It is best for the New Zealand citizen to contact Centrelink’s International Services to get further advice on eligibility.