Home Affairs facing growing calls to refund Kiwis over permanent resident visa ‘money grab’


A migration agent is “pleading” with the Department of Home Affairs to refund the cost of her New Zealand clients’ permanent resident visas, after they were approved just months before the government revealed it would scrap the need for them. 

Morunga Migration director Erina Morunga said she had lodged “a number” of refund requests, with no success. 

An e-petition calling for visa application refunds and a “demonstration of goodwill” has also been submitted to federal parliament. 

“We are pleading with the department to consider these are extraordinary circumstances,” she said. 

“That would be a show of good faith, that the government did not intend to hurt New Zealanders, because it’s just rubbing salt in the wound, really.” 

The government first flagged possible changes for New Zealanders to become Australian citizens in July last year, but there was little detail about the process. 

In December, the department put a pause until July 1 on new applications for the Skilled Independent visas (subclass 189) — a type of permanent residency visa with a specific stream for New Zealanders — while it “considered future migration and citizenship pathways for New Zealand citizens in Australia”.

At the same time, it began fast-tracking applications already lodged — something the government briefly mentioned in the October budget — and many in the queue were asked to finalise their visa payments in January.

The department had more than 5,700 applications for New Zealander families at the time of the pause in December, comprising more than 12,300 people.  

Then in April, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese unveiled a direct pathway to citizenship for New Zealanders which means from July 1, the $4,000 permanent visa they paid for will not be required in order to become Australian citizens and access support.

Last month the ABC revealed many New Zealanders believed they were unfairly targeted in a cash grab, and since then has been contacted by many more who were frustrated by the lack of transparency with the process.

Ms Morunga, a New Zealander herself, said she had loaned almost $20,000 to clients for visas.

“They’re single parents. They were in a really bad way financially,” she said.

“They’re slowly paying me back, but they could have avoided the worry. Why make them pay for it?”

A change to citizenship pathways for New Zealanders was announced a couple of months after Prime Minister Chris Hipkins (left) visited Australia.()

No visa refunds or free citizenship

Rebecca, who did not want to include her surname to protect her identity, received a notice to pay the final instalment, 80 per cent, of her visa charge in January.

She said she asked for a payment extension until April 25, because she had read media reports about an announcement regarding citizenship pathways being made by Anzac Day.

“They advised me that they had been told to push through the backlog of applications, and if I didn’t pay the instalment within 30 days, then I would risk having to pay and go through the process again,” she said.


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