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Eligibility for social housing – residency

1. Proof of citizenship or permanent residency

Clients applying for housing assistance, to be considered for social housing must provide proof of Australian citizenship or permanent residency for every person on their application who is aged 18 years and over. If the client or their partner is under 18 years of age they must also provide proof of income and assets, for more information see item 4 and 5 on the Evidence Requirements Information Sheet.

Proof that the client receives a primary support payment from Centrelink is sufficient to demonstrate Australian citizenship or permanent residency. The following Centrelink payments are not considered primary support payments for the purpose of this policy:

  • Special Pension
  • Foreign Pension
  • Family Tax Benefits
  • Paid Parental Leave
  • Child Support
  • Income from interest, allocated pensions, etc.

If a client who was born in Australia or has a right to Australian citizenship is unable to provide a birth certificate or proof of a Centrelink primary support payment, the social housing provider will refer them to the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages for information on how to obtain a birth certificate. An Australian birth certificate is an essential status document and the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages can provide birth certificates where the birth has been registered. The Registry also provides a flexible system which allows people to confirm their birth by late registration if registration never occurred.

2. Exceptions to the permanent residency rule

Partners who are temporary residents

Partners and dependent children who are temporary residents awaiting permanent residency may be included in the household of an eligible client who is an Australian citizen or permanent resident.

Sponsored migrants

Sponsored migrants are not eligible to be considered for social housing while under sponsorship or assurance of support arrangements even though they may be permanent residents. However, they may be included in the household of an eligible client.

People escaping domestic or family violence

In exceptional circumstances temporary residents may be considered for a few days of temporary accommodation if they are escaping family or domestic violence (including where a child has been assessed to be at risk of significant harm from this situation) if no other accommodation options are available.

3. New Zealand Special Category Visa holders

At the time of presenting their passports for immigration clearance New Zealand citizens are considered to have applied for a visa and, subject to health or character considerations, will automatically receive a Special Category Visa, which is recorded electronically. Their New Zealand citizens' passports are stamped, showing the date of arrival in Australia. This is the only evidence provided or necessary to show the New Zealand citizens are holders of a Special Category Visa.

A person issued with a Special Category Visa is entitled to live and work in Australia, although it is not a permanent visa. However, if a person meets the criteria for a Protected Special Category Visa, they are considered to be a permanent resident under Australian citizenship law.

Protected Special Category Visa holders are New Zealand citizens who:

  • were in Australia on 26 February 2001 as Special Category Visa holders, or
  • were outside Australia on 26 February 2001, but were in Australia as a Special Category Visa holder for a total of 12 months in the two years prior to that date, and subsequently returned to Australia, or
  • have a certificate, issued under the Social Security Act 1991, stating that they were residing in Australia on a particular date.

Non-Protected Special Category Visa holders (New Zealand citizens who do not meet the protected criteria) are not considered permanent Australian residents, and are therefore ineligible for social housing assistance.

Non-Protected Special Category Visa holders approved for the NSW Housing Register prior to 2 July 2012 will retain their existing entitlements; however when they enter into a tenancy they will be charged rent in accordance with existing policy, whereby clients who are not entitled to a Centrelink income are deemed to be receiving a basic Centrelink income and assessed accordingly.

More information is available on the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Guide to Social Security Law.

4. Compelling reasons to waive the NSW residency rule

A social housing provider may waive the NSW residency rule for any of the following compelling reasons:

  • The client lives in a NSW border area such as Albury-Wodonga, Tweed Heads-Coolangatta.
  • The client lives outside a border town but accesses medical, educational, or commercial facilities in NSW.
  • The client needs to move to NSW for specialist medical treatment that is not available in the State they are currently living in.
  • The client needs to move to NSW to escape domestic or family violence, serious harassment or threats of violence.

Clients are required to provide proof of their NSW residency or demonstrate why they need to live in NSW, for more information see item 2 on the Evidence Requirements Information Sheet.

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Last updated: 22 Oct 2018
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