444 Visa: Special Category Visa

June 5, 2024
Myer Lipschitz

The Special Category visa, also known as the Subclass 444 visa, is specifically for citizens of New Zealand who wish to live and work in Australia. It allows New Zealanders to enter Australia to work, study or live indefinitely, provided they meet the specific eligibility criteria. One of the key features of this visa is that it’s automatically granted upon arrival to New Zealand citizens who travel to Australia, which means there is no need for a prior application or approval before entering the country.

While the 444 visa provides many freedoms, it’s important to note that it is a temporary visa. Despite offering the ability to stay in Australia for an indefinite period, the Subclass 444 visa does not equate to permanent residency status. Holders of the visa are able to leave and re-enter Australia freely, work in any occupation and study, but they must maintain their New Zealand citizenship to retain these privileges.

Australia’s close relationship with New Zealand is underscored by the Subclass 444 visa, which reflects the two countries’ efforts to allow citizens to move across borders with ease. The visa stands as a testament to the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement between Australia and New Zealand, which has promoted a free flow of people since it was established in 1973. This reciprocal arrangement continues to strengthen the social and economic ties between the two nations.

Allow Immagine Immigration to walk you through the eligibility & application process, rights & conditions, and pathways to permanent residency & citizenship. 

Migrate to Australia

Our immigration lawyers and registered migration agents in Melbourne will be able to find you the best visa for your unique situation. You’ll be in good hands.

Eligibility and Application Process

In applying for the 444 visa, New Zealand citizens must meet certain eligibility criteria and may sometimes be required to provide sufficient evidence during the application process. The Department of Home Affairs manages the visa procedures, emphasising compliance with character and health requisites.

Subclass 444 Special Category Visa Details
Category Details
Eligibility Criteria – Must be a New Zealand citizen.
– Must possess a valid New Zealand passport.
– Must not hold a permanent visa or another Special Category Visa (subclass 444) upon entry to Australia.
– Must complete an Incoming Passenger Card upon arrival.
Application Process – Arrive in Australia with a valid New Zealand passport.
– Complete an Incoming Passenger Card.
– Visa is automatically granted upon immigration clearance.
– No prior application or fees; visa is electronically linked to the passport.
Character and Health – Must meet Australian Government character requirements.
– May need to provide police clearance if requested.
– Must meet health criteria set by the Department of Home Affairs.
– Declare health conditions on Incoming Passenger Card.
Rights and Conditions – Can live, work, and study in Australia indefinitely.
– Work without restrictions; not eligible for HELP or Commonwealth supported places for study.
– Visa allows indefinite stay and re-entry as long as they remain New Zealand citizens.
Visa Conditions and Limitations – Not a permanent visa; does not directly lead to permanent residence.
– Family members who are not New Zealand citizens need a separate visa.
– Must meet ongoing health and character requirements.
– Visa can be cancelled for non-compliance.
Pathways to Permanent Residency and Citizenship – Skilled Independent Visa (subclass 189) New Zealand Stream for committed SCV holders.
– Employer-Sponsored Visas requiring Australian employer sponsorship.
– Family Visas through relationships with Australian citizens or permanent residents.
Australian Citizenship Requirements – Must first become an Australian permanent resident.
– Must meet the general residence requirement.
– Must apply for citizenship, pass a test, and attend a ceremony.
Protected SCV and Family Relationship Visa – Protected SCV status for those who arrived before February 26, 2001.
– New Zealand Citizen Family Relationship Visa (subclass 461) for non-New Zealand family members, renewable every five years, can lead to permanent residency.

Eligibility Criteria

To qualify for a 444 visa, individuals must:

  • Be a New Zealand citizen.
  • Possess a valid New Zealand passport.
  • Not be a holder of a permanent visa or a Special Category Visa (subclass 444) at the time of entry to Australia.
  • Complete an Incoming Passenger Card must upon arrival in Australia, as it forms a part of the visa issuance process.
  • Must not be a health or behavioural concern.
a traveler at an airport terminal

Application Requirements

Application for the Subclass 444 visa is generally straightforward:

  1. Arrive in Australia carrying a valid New Zealand passport.
  2. Complete an Incoming Passenger Card, which is provided during the flight or on arrival.
  3. The visa is granted automatically upon immigration clearance, with no need for prior online application or fees.

The Department of Home Affairs records the visa electronically linked to the passport, so no visa label is required.

Character and Health Requirements

Meeting the character and health standards is crucial:

  • Character Requirements: Applicants must comply with the Australian Government’s character requirements. This may include providing a police clearance if requested.
  • Health Requirements: They must also be assessed as having a level of health that meets the criteria set out by the Department of Home Affairs.

It’s essential for individuals to declare any health conditions on their Incoming Passenger Card as part of the entry procedures.

Rights and Conditions

The Subclass 444 Special Category Visa grants New Zealand citizens special privileges to live, work, and study in Australia with limited conditions.

Work and Study Rights

New Zealand citizens entering Australia on a Subclass 444 Special Category Visa can work and study in Australia indefinitely. This visa allows them to:

  • Work: They may seek and obtain employment without restrictions, akin to Australian permanent residents or citizens.
  • Study: Visa holders are permitted to enrol in courses of study as domestic students but are not eligible for the Commonwealth-supported places or Higher Education Loan Program (HELP).
University students in a classroom

Visa Conditions and Limitations

This temporary residence visa, tailored for New Zealand passport holders, doesn’t come with any restrictions or conditions, however, there are some very important features to consider:

  • Duration and Travel: It allows them to stay indefinitely as long as they remain New Zealand citizens, but it’s not a permanent visa. Visa holders can leave and re-enter Australia freely.
  • Family Members: Family members who are not New Zealand citizens must apply for a separate Australian visa to stay with the Subclass 444 visa holder.
  • Health and Character: Applicants must meet health and character requirements as stipulated by the Australian immigration authorities.
  • No Further Stay: While it allows one to live in Australia, it doesn’t lead to permanent residence directly; restrictions could apply to transition pathways.
  • Visa Cancellation: The Australian Government reserves the right to cancel the visa if conditions are not met or if the holder engages in behaviour inconsistent with their visa status.

Pathways to Permanent Residency and Citizenship

Holders of the Special Category Visa (subclass 444) (SCV) who are citizens of New Zealand have pathways available to transition to Australian permanent residency and citizenship. These pathways require adherence to specific criteria and applications under various visa and legislative frameworks.

Permanent Visa Options

New Zealand citizens on a Subclass 444 visa may consider several permanent visa options to become Australian permanent residents.

  • Skilled Visas: These include the General Skilled Migration Visa (subclass 189/190/491) which is points tested and allows the government to invite skilled candidates to apply.
  • Employer-Sponsored Visas: These require a job offer and sponsorship from an Australian employer. New Zealand citizens have concessions under this program including no age limits and waiver of skills assessments.
  • Family Visas: Eligible New Zealand citizens may apply for visas through family relationships with Australian citizens or permanent residents.
Employees working at their desks in an office

Australian Citizenship Requirements

A recent change to New Zealand citizens and their eligiblity for Australian citizenship was announced in 2023. To become an Australian citizen, New Zealand citizens must live in Australia for four years.

Following this, they can make an application for Australian citizenship on this basis, without first having to become Australian Permanent Residents.

The application will include sitting a citizenship test, attending an interview, and eventually attending a citizenship ceremony within their local council.

As Australian citizens, you will have full rights including the right to vote, work for the federal government, and obtain benefits reserved for Australian citizens such as unversity fee help.

Protected SCV and Family Relationship Visa

Protected SCV: New Zealand citizens who arrived in Australia on a SCV prior to February 26, 2001, may have ‘Protected SCV’ status, which grants rights akin to permanent residents.

New Zealand Citizen Family Relationship Visa (subclass 461): Allows non-New Zealand family members of a New Zealand citizen to live in Australia. It lasts for five years and can be renewed. This can lead to permanent residency if the holder lives in Australia with the New Zealand citizen and complies with relevant visa requirements. Namely where the New Zealand citizen gains citizenship, and can sponsor their partner for a permanent visa.

Migrate to Australia

Our immigration lawyers and registered migration agents in Melbourne will be able to find you the best visa for your unique situation. You’ll be in good hands.

Discover More about The 444 Visa with Immagine Immigration

If you’d like to learn more about the Subclass 444 visa, simply contact our Registered Migration Agents in Melbourne to arrange a consultation.

Discover more about other Australian work visas in the following guides: 

myer lipschitz


Myer Lipschitz

Myer Lipschitz was born in Johannesburg and is a graduate of the University of the Witwatersrand. In 1985 he was conferred the degree Bachelor of Laws. Myer completed his Articles of Clerkship with Ivor Trackman, Attorneys and was admitted as an Attorney to the Supreme Court of South Africa in 1988. Myer immigrated to New Zealand in 1989 and was admitted to practice law in New Zealand as a Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand...

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