FAQs - New Zealand Special Category Visa holders

For additional information, please also read the Higher Education Providers: Addendum to the Administrative Information for Providers – incorporating HELP eligibility for certain New Zealand Special Category Visa Holders.

Higher Education Providers: Addendum to the Administrative Information for Providers

Higher Education Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2015

  1. Can we have clarification on what constitutes a New Zealand SCV holder? From information available online it seems all NZ citizens are SCV holders.

New Zealand citizens who arrive in Australia using a New Zealand passport and, in the absence of a valid Australian visa, automatically receive a Special Category Visa (SCV) provided they meet certain security, character and health requirements. There are no prior forms, fees, or applications required for this. They can then stay and work in Australia indefinitely. It’s a temporary visa in that it expires as soon as the New Zealand citizen leaves Australia, but it remains in place for as long as they remain in Australia. Specific enquiries about the Special Category Visa, and other visas, should be directed to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (www.border.gov.au).

A New Zealand citizen must be an SCV holder on the day that they apply for HELP. This means they would need to be in Australia on the date that they apply. As the SCV is a temporary visa which automatically ceases when a person leaves Australia, a person cannot apply for HELP while they are not in Australia.

Note that there are other eligibility requirements that must be met in addition to the SCV requirement for an SCV holder to access a HELP loan.

  1. What sort of evidence do providers need to collect?

Providers should confirm a person’s citizenship or visa status (which are actions that are already undertaken for all existing HELP and CSP recipients). Consistent with the approach for Australian citizens and permanent humanitarian visa holders, providers must be satisfied that an applicant meets the eligibility criteria as a New Zealand SCV holder.

Eligible New Zealand SCV holders will need to fill out a Request for Commonwealth assistance form for the type of HELP loan for which they are applying. This form will include a declaration that the applicant meets the eligibility criteria. This means that the applicant must:

  • Have first entered Australia as a dependent minor aged under 18 years; and

  • At that time did not have a spouse or de facto partner; and

  • Have been physically present in Australia for at least eight out of the past 10 years and 18 months out of the past two years; and

  • Meet the other eligibility criteria for a HELP loan under the Higher Education Support Act 2003 (HESA).

The form also notes that students will be required to provide evidence that they began living in Australia as a child at least ten years before applying for HELP. Students will not be required to attach this evidence to their Request for Commonwealth assistance form, but will need to provide evidence to their provider on or before the census date for their unit/s of study. Providers will be required to store this information as a Commonwealth record subject to the Archives Act 1983 and retain a copy (paper or electronic) for seven years, in accordance with the requirements of that Act.

As a guide, proof of residency may include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Australian academic transcripts (including VET transcripts) dated when the applicant was a minor
  • School reports or certificates
  • Enrolment papers from when the applicant was a minor
  • Australian proof of age card from when the applicant was a minor
  • Australian student ID card or concession card
  • Stamped passport
  • Payslips or payment summaries from when the applicant was a minor
  • Completed Certificate of application for a Tax File Number form, Tax File Number advice or notification of assessment of income tax dated from when the applicant was a minor.

If necessary, applicants can also obtain copies of their international movement records from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship by lodging a Request for International Movement Records form (available at www.border.gov.au).

The test day for assessing eligibility against the residency requirements is the first day the student successfully applies for a HELP loan. The test day is related to the loan only, not to any previous or ongoing access to Commonwealth supported places.

A provider should be satisfied that the applicant meets the citizenship criteria and has provided evidence of the eligibility criteria. A provider will need to ensure the student has provided relevant documents, however it will not be required to verify student documentation. However, where a provider becomes aware of potentially fraudulent activity, it should contact the department to determine what action should be taken.

 

  1. Will the HECS ten per cent upfront payment discount apply to eligible New Zealand citizens?

Yes.

The discount applies ‘if a student is entitled to an amount of HECS-HELP assistance for a unit of study with a higher education provider’ (s 96 HESA). So, if a New Zealand Special Category Visa holder is eligible for a HELP loan they are also eligible for the HECS-HELP ten per cent discount.

Note: this discount will no longer apply to any students from 1 January 2017.

  1. Would an eligible NZ citizen lose their HELP eligibility should they become a permanent resident?

Yes.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has confirmed that NZ citizens who gain permanent residency (PR) would lose their SCV status. The number of affected people is expected to be very small. Note that a holder of a PR visa is generally on a pathway to Australian citizenship. Australian citizenship would confer eligibility to access a HELP loan.

That is, if a person loses their SCV status for any reason, they would become ineligible for HELP for all units of study with census dates after the date their SCV status is lost.

  1. What happens if the student gains PR status but does not notify their provider. Is this fraudulent?

This is no different from other instances where students gain benefits by intentionally or unintentionally being misleading. Students will need to be advised of their obligations to inform the institution of any change in citizenship or visa status. Institutions will be required to act on this information when they become aware, and should ensure that it does not continue to allow the individual to access HELP loans if they are ineligible.

Where an institution becomes aware of potentially fraudulent activity, it should contact the department to determine what action should be taken.

  1. Can a New Zealand SCV holder access OS-HELP?

Yes. Eligible New Zealand SCV holders will be able to apply for OS-HELP just like the other HELP schemes.

An eligible New Zealand SCV holder may access OS-HELP if they are resident in Australia at the time they apply for OS-HELP and meet all other eligibility requirements. An eligible SCV holder will only be able to be paid their OS-HELP loan amount before they leave Australia. Once the student has been deemed eligible and has been paid their OS-HELP loan amount while in Australia, the student cannot subsequently be assessed as ineligible as a result of their SCV being removed once they leave Australia.

Please note that if a student wishes to apply for a second OS-HELP loan they must be resident in Australia at the time of application, as they cannot hold an SCV while overseas.

  1. Do we use the previously provided Commonwealth assistance form PDFs to create our 2016 eCAFs?

Yes.

Due to the timing, the PDFs already provided for 2016 are to be used to update your eCAFs.

The small number of newly eligible NZ SCV holders will be able to complete a hard copy CAF for 2016.

  1. Do we order both the addendum to the Commonwealth support and HECS-HELP form for NZ citizens and the updated 2016 CAFs with NZ eligibility through heenquiries@education.gov.au?

Yes.

The forms will not be available for general order on HITS and, for 2016, providers should email the department at heenquiries@education.gov.au to request the NZ forms.

  1. Is there a deadline for providers to place orders for these forms?

No.

The NZ SCV forms will be available any time during 2016 by emailing heenquiries@education.gov.au.

  1. I assume there will only be an addendum for the HECS-HELP and OS-HELP form? NZ citizens would not have completed a FEE-HELP, SA-HELP or VET FEE-HELP form to date and therefore do not need an addendum.

Correct.

The addenda are only for continuing students who are newly eligible for HECS-HELP and OS-HELP. Students who are newly eligible  for all other available schemes (FEE-HELP, VET FEE-HELP, SA-HELP) will fill out the relevant Request for Commonwealth assistance form, not an addendum.

Similarly, commencing students will fill out a Request for Commonwealth assistance form, and will not require any addenda.

  1. Will there be changes in HEPCAT to accommodate the NZ eligibility?

The validations in HEPCAT and HEIMS will be updated to enable providers to report New Zealand citizens who are eligible to access a HELP loan from 1 January 2016. You can find more reporting information on the HEIMSHELP website. (Please note that the measure does not change current reporting processes.)