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Kiwis separated from citizenship crackdown

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 28/04/2017
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull arrives in Laos ahead of the East Asia summit: Australian Prime Minister&nbsp;<span style="font-size:13px;">Malcolm Turnbull&nbsp;</span> © Getty Images Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull 

Malcolm Turnbull has assured his New Zealand counterpart Bill English that a citizenship deal between the two countries won't be affected by a crackdown announced in Canberra last week.

The prime minister's guarantee appears to be at odds with a statement released by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton earlier this week.

Under the Trans-Tasman deal, Kiwis who arrived in Australia between February 2001 and February 2016 and earned more than $53,000 for five consecutive years can apply for permanent residency from July and citizenship next year.

"Prime Minister Turnbull confirmed the pathway to citizenship for eligible New Zealanders, announced in February 2016, has not been changed," a spokeswoman for Mr English said on Friday after the two leaders discussed the issue.

"It remains in place and on track, and is separate from the citizenship changes which Australia announced last week."

Australia has tightened its rules around citizenship, requiring people to be permanent residents for four years years before being eligible, up from one year.

But New Zealand says this won't apply to Kiwis covered by the agreement. However, Mr Dutton on Monday indicated there was no such exemption for New Zealanders tied to the citizenship changes.

"The citizenship changes announced last week come into effect immediately, and will apply to all applications for citizenship received from that date onwards," a spokesperson for the minister said.

His comments came after Mr English took aim at Australia's "disappointing" citizenship changes, flagging concerns the crackdown could affect Kiwis living abroad.

The prime minister and immigration minister have both been contacted for comment.

On Monday, Mr Dutton noted Australian visa arrangements for New Zealand citizens were more generous than those for citizens of any other country. "

Australia and New Zealand have a strong relationship, and will continue working together to enhance bilateral arrangements," his spokesperson said.

"Last year Australia introduced a pathway to permanent residency for thousands of New Zealanders living in Australia.

"For the past five years, New Zealand nationals have been in the top 10 nationalities of persons who have acquired Australian citizenship."

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