Government's immigration tweak sees overseas Asians out, integrated Kiwis in
Allowing NZ residents the skilled independent visa effectively crowds out applicants from other countries.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has slowed Australia's immigration intake - and he didn't need to get a submission through Cabinet.
The country's headline migration figure will be lower in coming years than it would have been otherwise, thanks to New Zealanders already in Australia taking visas that previously went to immigrants overseas.
This new information arrives in the same week Government ministers revealed fewer permanent visas than the stated "ceiling" would be granted for the second year in a row.
Forty four thousand places in Australia's skilled independent visa program have traditionally gone to applicants who are mostly Asian and living overseas.
But now as many as 10,000 Kiwis who are already living and working in Australia will be part of this annual allocation.
The change is a result of a decision by the Government to merge a new Kiwi visa with the existing skilled independent program, without increasing the number of visas in the scheme.
Fewer overseas visa arrivals
The Department of Home Affairs confirmed to the ABC that New Zealanders receiving the new visa are already counted as residents, reducing the number of people coming to Australia as a result of the program.
From Asian migrants to the neighbourhood Kiwi
The tweak has also changed Australia's migration mix.
It has substituted the mostly skilled Asian workers living overseas with Kiwis already working in Australia.
The skilled independent visa - traditionally assessed on points based on a worker's experience - counts for approximately one quarter of Australia's permanent visa program: a ceiling of 44,000 individuals each year.
Alongside the employer-sponsored program, it is Australia's main source of skilled migrant workers.
Last year, three out of five successful applicants in the program were granted visas while living overseas.
Nine thousand New Zealanders had applied for the new visa in the first eight months of the scheme's operation, according to the department.
Wayne Parcell, immigration partner at EY, said Australia could expect around 10,000 Kiwi applications this year and noted that these visas were not restricted to specific occupations.
"The criteria for the new visa would seem to have more to do with the context of the Australia-New Zealand relationship than a predetermined impact on the skill segment of the migration program."
Points-based component shrinks
This influx of New Zealanders has coincided with a shrinking of the old points-based component.
Thirteen thousand, two hundred invitations to apply for one of these visas had been issued in 2017-18 by the end of February, down by almost 10,000 across the same period in the previous year.
New visa proves popular
Between 60,000 and 80,000 Kiwis are eligible for the new visa, according to different estimates.
The visa requires an applicant to live in Australia for five years and maintain an income over $53,900.
At the end of February 1,512 of the new visas had already been granted and around 7,500 were still being processed.
Applications only opened in July, and the process typically takes at least three months.
The new permanent visa gives Kiwis access to more welfare services and, unlike the standard visa available to New Zealand visitors, provides a pathway to citizenship.