HELP Loans for Special Category Visa HoldersThe Australian Government has recently passed legislation to provide Higher Education Loan Programme (HELP) loans to New Zealand citizens who are Special Category Visa (SCV) holders and meet the requisite criteria.

The current arrangements for eligible New Zealand citizens are in the higher education sector, New Zealand citizens will have access to subsidised higher education places whilst in the vocational education and training sector, the New Zealand citizens also have access to government-subsidised places in some states and territories. However, in most cases, New Zealand citizens are not eligible to access any Higher Education Loan Programme (HELP) loans.

Whilst children born in Australia to parents who are New Zealand citizens and hold a Special Category Visa (SCV) may later become Australian citizens (at age 10 if they have been resident in Australia since their birth), and therefore entitled to Australian Government support for tertiary study however, there were no allowances for young SCV holders brought to Australia as dependent children to access HELP loans.

Requirements for Help Loans for Special Category Visa Holders

Now, the Government has implemented changes to allow New Zealand citizens who are SCV holders and meet the requisite criteria access to HELP loans from 1 January 2016. However, just being a New Zealand citizen, or holding a SCV won’t automatically entitle you to HELP loans. There are required eligibility criteria to be met!

A New Zealand SCV will be able to access HELP loans, providing he/ she meets the following requirements:

  1. first entered Australia as a dependent child aged under 18 years of age;
  2. have been ordinarily resident in Australia for the previous 10 years (that is, have been physically present in Australia for at least 8 out of the past 10 years) and 18 months out of the last 2 years at the time of application for the loan; and
  3. are otherwise eligible for the loan.

The benefit of accessing to HELP is to assist one with the upfront costs of study and enable one to benefit from the advantages of a tertiary education. A tertiary education may lead one to a permanent residency visa!

If you hold a New Zealand SCV but then apply for, and are granted, a permanent residency visa, your HELP eligibility would change to that of a permanent visa holder (non-humanitarian subclass).

However, permanent visa holders (non-humanitarian subclass) are eligible for Commonwealth supported places but they are not eligible to access a HELP loan for tertiary study. Permanents residents are only able to access a FEE‑HELP loan if they are undertaking specific bridging study for overseas-trained professionals and meet the relevant requirements.