Special Category visa (subclass 444)

Features

This visa lets New Zealand citizens visit, study, stay and work in Australia.

Requirements

You might be eligible for this visa if you:

  • are a New Zealand citizen who holds a New Zealand passport that is in effect and
  • meet specific health and character requirements

About this visa

The Special Category visa (subclass 444) is a temporary visa that lets you stay and work in Australia as long as you remain a New Zealand citizen.

You might be able to get this visa on arrival to Australia if you:

  • are a New Zealand citizen
  • present a valid New Zealand passport
  • present a completed incoming passenger card
  • meet specific health and character requirements.

What this visa lets you do

This visa allows you to:

  • enter and stay in Australia and
  • work and study in Australia.

Before travelling to Australia and applying for this visa

You should:

  • have a valid New Zealand passport
  • be a citizen of New Zealand
  • ensure you are not a behaviour concern non-citizen or a health concern non-citizen.

Behaviour concern non-citizens and health concern non-citizens

If you are assessed as a behaviour concern non-citizen, you might not be entitled to a Special Category visa and might be refused entry into Australia. Circumstances where you might be assessed as a behaviour concern non-citizen include, but are not limited to, where you have been:

  • convicted of one or more crimes that have resulted in sentences of imprisonment that add up to at least one year, or
  • previously removed from Australia, or
  • previously removed or deported from another country.

For more information about New Zealand citizens with criminal convictions, refer to the Australian High Commission New Zealand website.

See:
Frequently Asked Questions

You are ineligible for the grant of a Special Category visa if you are assessed as a health concern non-citizen. For Special Category visa purposes, you might be considered to be a health concern non-citizen if you suffer from tuberculosis (TB) and are not carrying and taking appropriate medication.

You will be interviewed and assessed to determine if you are a health concern non-citizen prior to consideration for grant of a Special Category visa if you declare when you enter Australia that you:

  • have TB, or
  • are otherwise known to have previously had TB, or
  • are suspected to have TB.

If you are assessed as a behaviour concern non-citizen or health concern non-citizen you might not be eligible for grant of a Special Category visa on arrival to Australia. However, you might be eligible for grant of another visa. Before travelling to Australia, you should consider whether you might be a behaviour concern non-citizen or health concern non-citizen. You can check whether you would be a behaviour concern non-citizen or health concern non-citizen by contacting the nearest Australian immigration office.

See: New Zealand contact information

Your passport

You must have a valid New Zealand passport to apply for this visa. If you plan to get a new passport, you should do so before applying for your visa. Your visa is linked to the passport number you use in your application.

For visa applicants

This information tells you what you need to do to apply for a Special Category visa (subclass 444).

Who could get this visa

You might be able to get this visa on your arrival to Australia if you:

  • are a New Zealand citizen and you do not hold another visa
  • present a New Zealand passport that is in force
  • are not a behaviour concern non-citizen or health concern non-citizen.

You must meet certain health requirements.

Health insurance

Although Australia has a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement with New Zealand, you might consider taking out additional health insurance for items not covered by the agreement. Your health insurer can be in either Australia or overseas.

Character requirements

You must meet certain character requirements. You must be prepared to provide a police certificate from each country you have lived in for 12 months or more during the past 10 years after you turned 16 years of age. Do not arrange for police certificates until we ask you to.

This applies to all applicants who are older than 16 years of age.

Provide biometrics

You might be asked to provide biometrics (a scientific form of identification) as part of the application. Countries and visa subclasses included in the biometrics program has more information.

Applying for a visa

This information explains what you need to do to apply for a Special Category visa (subclass 444). You apply for this visa on your arrival to Australia and in some circumstances the visa can be applied for after your arrival in Australia.

Lodge your application

In Immigration Clearance

You are considered to have lodged and applied for a Special Category visa on arrival in Australia if you:

  • arrive without a visa
  • show your valid New Zealand passport

You will also need to complete your Incoming Passenger Card.

Subject to you meeting health and character requirements, you will be granted a visa.

This visa is recorded electronically and your passport is stamped (if you do not use SmartGate), showing the date of arrival in Australia.

If you use the SmartGate automated border processing system at an Australian airport, you will be advised by SmartGate that you have been granted a visa. You also can request to have your passport stamped by an Australian Customs and Border Protection officer after proceeding through SmartGate.

See: Fact Sheet 71 – SmartGate Automated Border Processing

In Australia (not in Immigration Clearance)

There are limited circumstances where you can apply for a Special Category visa, such as you:

  • become a New Zealand citizen after your arrival in Australia, or
  • enter Australia on a passport other than a New Zealand passport, or
  • enter on another temporary visa that is about to cease. 

If you hold a visa that has a ‘no further application’ condition you are barred from applying for the Special Category visa while you remain in Australia.

If the limited circumstances apply to you, you can apply for a Special Category visa at one of our offices in Australia.

Generally, you cannot apply for a Special Category visa before you travel to Australia. If you do not meet the eligibility requirements for a Special Category visa, you will need to apply for and be granted an alternative visa before you travel to Australia.

Cost

There is no application charge for this visa.

Other costs

You might have to pay other costs, such as the costs of health assessments, police certificates, or any other certificates or tests. You are responsible for making the necessary arrangements.

More information

There is more information to help you prepare your application, such as certifying and translating documents into English, communicating with us, using a migration agent, authorising another person to receive information from us, and receiving assistance with your application.

After you have applied for this visa

Wait for a decision

In relation to applying for a Special Category visa in Australia (not in immigration clearance), the department has service standards relating to the time it takes to process visa applications. Processing times can be affected by a number of factors, including where you lodge your application, and how it is lodged (eg: by post or in person).

Provide more information

You can provide more information to us, at any time until a decision is made on the application. If you want to correct information you provided, use:

We could also ask you for more information. You will have to respond by a set date. After that date, we can make a decision about your application using the information that we have.

If another person gives us information that could result in you being refused a visa, we will usually give you the opportunity to comment on the information.

You might also be interviewed. If you are asked to attend an interview in person, bring your passport or other identification and any requested documents to the interview.

Withdrawing your application

You can withdraw the application at any time before we make a decision about it. To do this, send us a letter or email to ask for the withdrawal. Your request must include your full name and date of birth. You should also include the number we gave you when you applied, if you know it – this could be a file reference number, client ID, or a Transaction Reference Number.

If you are 18 years of age or older, you must sign the letter of withdrawal or send a separate email or letter.

Visa decision

At the border on arrival to Australia

On arrival to Australia the grant of a Special Category visa is dependent on you meeting requirements for the visa. If you meet these requirements you will be granted the visa and be immigration cleared for entry into Australia.

On grant of a Special Category visa the visa is recorded electronically and your passport is stamped (if you do not use SmartGate), showing the date of arrival in Australia.

If you use the SmartGate automated border processing system at an Australian airport, you will be advised by SmartGate that you have been granted a visa. You also can request to have your passport stamped by an Australian Customs and Border Protection officer after proceeding through SmartGate.

See: Fact Sheet 71 - SmartGateAutomated Border Processing

If you do not meet the requirements for grant, you may be refused entry into Australia and returned to your country of origin.

In Australia

If the visa is granted, we will either inform you verbally, or provide you with a letter or email with:

  • the date the visa starts
  • the visa grant number
  • any conditions attached to the visa.

If the visa is refused, we will either inform you verbally or send you a letter or email stating why the visa was refused.

For visa holders

This information is for people who have already been granted a Special Category visa (subclass 444). It explains your rights and obligations.

You can use Visa Entitlement Verification Online (VEVO) for free to check your visa details and entitlements.

How long your visa lasts

The Special Category visa is valid from time of grant (usually upon arrival to Australia) to time of departure from Australia, so long as you remain a New Zealand citizen while you are the holder of the visa. The validity of a Special Category visa ceases when you leave Australia. You need to apply for a new Special Category visa each time you arrive in Australia.

If you are seeking to apply for and be granted a Special Category visa on arrival to Australia you must, on every arrival to Australia, meet the eligibility criteria to be granted this visa.

What this visa lets you do

This visa lets you:

  • enter and stay in Australia and
  • work and study in Australia.

The Special Category visa is a temporary visa and you do not have the same rights and benefits as Australian citizens or permanent residents. If you are seeking to become an Australian permanent resident, there are a range of visa options available to you that you can apply for in and outside Australia. Alternatively, you might choose to explore the option of applying for Australian Citizenship.

Further information
The following links provide further information about permanent visa options and Australian Citizenship.
See:
Visas, Immigration and Refugees
New Zealand citizens
New Zealand citizens living in Australia
Fact sheet 17 - New Zealanders in Australia
Information on Australian citizenship for New Zealand citizens

Your obligations

You must remain a New Zealand citizen while holding a Special Category visa for it to remain valid for the period of your stay in Australia. If your citizenship status changes (other than becoming an Australian citizen) and you have not applied for, or have been granted an appropriate visa to facilitate the rest of your stay, you might become unlawful. 

Please contact us if your citizenship status changes (other than becoming an Australian citizen). 

Last modified Monday 10 November 2014