AustraliaCanadaImmigrationNew ZealandResearchTrans-TasmanUK

The Trans-Tasman Travel Agreement And Its Place In CANZUK Free Movement

The Commonwealth Freedom of Movement Organisation is committed to advocating free movement for citizens of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, based upon the current model of free movement between citizens of Australia and New Zealand; the Trans-Tasman Travel Agreement.

The TTTA has been successful for Aus/NZ free movement
(photo: CBC)

Our recent paper discusses the regulations of the Trans-Tasman Travel Agreement (TTTA), and why it is a more suitable model for CANZUK free movement than current free movement protocols within the European Union.

The paper also analyses ways to improve the TTTA for a future initiative between Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, and provides summary recommendations for each CANZUK nation to negotiate and agree upon.

The paper is detailed below. However, if you wish to directly view our paper online and download, please click here.


The Commonwealth Freedom of Movement Organisation (CFMO) is committed to campaigning for the introduction of free movement between Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom; the “CANZUK” nations.

Freedom of movement between these four nations implies the ability of citizens to relocate and indefinitely remain without the requirement of visas or work permits, thereby allowing eligible citizens to live, work and study in a CANZUK nation of their choice.

Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom share common bonds which make a free movement initiative likely to succeed, including similar cultures, Commonwealth ancestry, the same Head of State, similar parliamentary democracies and the same majority language. This is complimentary to economic similarities, including progressive economic growth rates, stable inflation and unemployment rates, and highly developed health and education services.

In terms of model, the CFMO is committed to the introduction of free movement based upon the current Trans-Tasman Travel Agreement (TTTA) that exists between Australia and New Zealand; an informal agreement that allows free movement for eligible citizens between the two nations.

Unlike freedom of movement within the European Union, the TTTA provides Australian and New Zealand citizens the opportunity to move freely between the two nations, providing they meet specific criteria with respect to criminal conduct and health requirements. Because it is an informal arrangement, this allows each nation to adapt specific terms of the agreement to current demands, but overall, free movement for individuals remains constant and unhindered. It also provides each of Australia’s and New Zealand’s governments a level of autonomy that is not seen in the European Union, as the TTTA is mutually recognised between the two nations as opposed to being enforced by a central, supranational authority.

It is not the CFMO’s aim to change current policy of the TTTA between Australia and New Zealand, but to campaign for Canada and the United Kingdom to join the existing agreement.

In a similar manner to the European Union’s annexation agenda with potential member states, it is our objective for Canada and the United Kingdom to implement strategic policy for annexation to the TTTA, thereby granting all citizens of the CANZUK nations residency, work and study rights in each other’s countries. At present, the CFMO only advocates for citizens of these nations to benefit from free movement and not those holding permanent residency status.

Our objective is for significant visa and immigration reform to be implemented between these countries by 2020.

About the Trans-Tasman Travel Agreement

The TTTA was implemented on March 1st 1973, and grants permission for Australians and New Zealanders to work and indefinitely reside in either country, providing each individual is:

a citizen of Australia or New Zealand (or permanent resident holder of Australia), with valid travel documentation; and
meets specific character and health requirements as set by each of Australia’s and New Zealand’s immigration regulations.

The TTTA allows free movement between AUS & NZ
(photo: GMOSeralini)

Since September 1st 1994, Australia has upheld a universal visa requirement to specifically cater for the continued free movement of New Zealanders to Australia, labelled as the “Special Category Visa”. Under these regulations, New Zealand citizens entering Australia are given a temporary entry visa which is automatically granted (subject to health and character considerations) and recorded electronically.

Likewise, New Zealand reflects Australia’s visa system, providing the automatic grant of an electronic visa to Australian citizens (and additionally, Australian permanent residency holders). Upon arrival in New Zealand, the individual is granted entry without any additional administrative requirements, such as completing visa application forms.

Each of Australia and New Zealand place respective limitations on each other’s citizens/permanent residents, generally denying individuals resident visas and entry into each other’s countries if they have been:

convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for 5 years or more;
convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for 12 months or more in the last 10 years;
removed or deported from any country;
deemed a significant health concern to public safety;
a member of a terrorist entity designated under national terrorism laws; or
the Minister of Immigration has reason to believe the person is likely:
    – to commit an offence that is punishable by imprisonment; or
    – a threat or risk to security; or
    – a threat or risk to public order; or
    – a threat or risk to public interest.

Therefore, limitations and specific requirements are enforced upon Australian and New Zealand citizens (and Australian permanent residency holders) while exercising rights under the TTTA. This is a much more controlled operation of free movement compared to free movement existing within the European Union today.

Former Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott, declares #Australia #UK free movement as “economic common sense”:

— The CFMO (@theCFMO) November 2, 2016

At present, citizens of the European Union are free to travel within the 28 member bloc with very few limitations (especially those within the Schengen area). As economists and migration experts have indicated, this poses numerous problems with respect to excessive migration (especially from less developed member states to more prosperous member states), cross border criminal and terrorist activities, and “health tourism” (EU citizens from less developed nations obtaining medical services in more developed EU countries).

Even though these concerns would be of little to no concern within a CANZUK free movement area (as all four nations are highly economically developed, share intelligence information through the Five Eyes intelligence alliance to counter terrorist activities, and have highly developed healthcare services) it is advantageous for each country to impose limitations on migrants. For example, similar policies may be adopted from the TTTA to limit social security payments for new migrants, and protect citizens from migrants who do not meet health and character requirements.

It is because of these reasons why the CFMO believes the Trans-Tasman Travel Agreement is the ideal model to base CANZUK free movement on, as it grants free movement to citizens of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom while also safeguarding each country from socio-economic concerns through the use of mutually agreed restrictions.

Analysis of the Trans-Tasman Travel Agreement

It has been noted by a number of economists and migration policy experts that free movement has been economically (and socially) beneficial for Australia and New Zealand. It has allowed for a more efficient distribution of skills and labour between the two countries and provided a safety net in times where one country or the other has experienced slow economic growth.

While some have questioned the benefits of free movement as opposed to selective skill-based migration programmes, others have reasoned that given their shared culture and language, even low skilled Trans-Tasman migrants may bring greater economic benefits than high skilled migrants from other countries. Given that migrants are generally younger and more ambitious than the general population, it is not surprising that Trans-Tasman migrants have a higher workforce participation rate than the general population (in Australia, 78% of the New Zealand-born population are in the workforce, compared to 68% of the Australian-born population).

Auckland is a popular destination for Australians in New Zealand
(photo; Discover Auckland)

The ease of movement between the two countries has also facilitated economic integration and harmonisation in a number of areas, for example, in relation to recognition of professional qualifications and licences. This has provided greater skills transferability for migrants, especially those working in trades or manual employment, without the need to re-take educational courses or skills assessments.

Due to their common culture and language, Trans-Tasman migrants also blend seamlessly into their host country. They do not form distinct Australian or New Zealander communities, but instead, fully participate in the life of the country to which they have moved as if it were their own. Because of their shared ancestry through the Commonwealth, both Australians and New Zealanders promote the ideal model for immigration as native English speakers. They face fewer challenges in adapting to their host country, therefore easily finding employment and assimilating into their new lives.

While there is a constant flow of people back and forth across the Tasman, a large number of people exercising their rights under the TTTA act as permanent migrants. In doing so, they make a substantial financial and personal commitment; finding new jobs, moving their children and purchasing property. This has positive repercussions for the host economy, stimulating growth and employment opportunities, and providing access to labour for many businesses without the arduous requirements of visa applications, foreign sponsorship and immigration fees.

In addition, adopting the TTTA as a model for CANZUK free movement addresses valid concerns regarding public policy and why welfare access should not be immediate for new migrants. It is reasonable that a country should expect new migrants to arrive with enough resources to support themselves for the foreseeable future, rather than become dependent on the state. There is also a need to prevent “transfer shopping”, in which migrants seek to exploit differences (of eligibility or payment levels) between the welfare systems of different jurisdictions.

There is also a good reason for migrant groups to support such restrictions. The easy access of New Zealanders to welfare in Australia through the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s (access was either immediate or available after 6 months) led to the perception that New Zealanders were abusing the welfare system. Undoubtedly, a small proportion of New Zealanders did abuse the Australian welfare system, just as a small proportion of Australians abuse the system today. However, the ease of access to public funds by migrants, who had not made a previous contribution to the taxation system, gave a negative perception of New Zealanders in Australia, leading to them being labelled ‘Bondi bludgers’.

#NewZealand party leader: freedom of movement with #Canada, #Australia & #UK “will benefit our economies”

— The CFMO (@theCFMO) November 30, 2016

Similarly, the perception that EU migrants abuse the easily accessible welfare system in the UK is also leading to growing anti-EU sentiment. If freedom of movement is to work (and be favoured positively by CANZUK citizens), it is important for each nation to address limitations (as they see fit) on all migrants’ access to welfare payments and tax funded programs.

One suggestion to prevent free-for-all access to government payments and services is to impose reasonable waiting periods. These should seek to find a balance between the interests of governments and individual migrants.

Governments can reasonably expect that migrants should make some contribution to the nation before gaining full rights to welfare payments and government services. They also have an obligation to existing taxpayers to prevent “transfer shopping”. Migrants should be expected to have planned their migration and performed everything in their power to ensure they can be financially self-sufficient.

However, this expectation should not be unreasonable. Whilst one can typically plan with a degree of confidence for the next few years, planning with any certainty for the longer term is practically impossible as there are too many variables. Therefore, waiting periods of between 2 and 5 years to access a full range of government payments and services would seem reasonable.

In addition, it is important to note that if no explicit agreements are finalised between the CANZUK nations with respect to migrants’ rights, a Commonwealth free movement agreement could become very one-sided. Australia, for example, takes a very restrictive approach to New Zealanders when it comes to access for government payments, services and citizenship (something which is not reciprocated for Australians living in New Zealand).

Since 2001, New Zealanders in Australia have been considered “indefinite temporary migrants”, meaning that although they retain the right to live and work in Australia, they have no access to citizenship unless they can qualify for another class of visa (which for many is unattainable). The Department of Immigration’s own estimate is that 60% will never have a pathway to citizenship under the current policy, meaning that New Zealanders who settle permanently in Australia will never be able to vote, stand for parliament, join the defence force, apply for federal public sector employment or access student loan schemes (among many others). This leaves thousands of New Zealanders residing permanently in Australia, yet permanently excluded from citizenship and the benefits thereof.

The TTTA could be expanded to Canada and the UK
(photo: McGill University)

Under a CANZUK free movement initiative, Australia would almost certainly apply the same rules to British and Canadian migrants as it has to New Zealand migrants.

In general, New Zealand would take a more generous approach to a free movement initiative regardless of nationality. It is widely accepted in New Zealand that Australian-style restrictions on access to citizenship and access to services would be illegal under New Zealand human rights laws. In addition, successive New Zealand governments have stated that not only would Australian style policies be illegal, they would not be in New Zealand’s best interests.

The UK would also likely take a more generous approach, as human rights laws, like those of New Zealand’s, prevent the introduction of Australian-style policies in relation to those living permanently in the UK. In addition, Canadian human rights protections would likely prevent the introduction of Australian-style policies.

Of course, a situation in which Australians could move to New Zealand, the UK and Canada with substantial rights, but British, Canadian and New Zealand citizens could only move to Australia with severe restrictions would be thoroughly undesirable, and could lead to the emergence of significant divisions between the countries very quickly.

Therefore, it would seem necessary to include some sort of provision that guarantees basic rights to all migrants between the relevant countries. This should not be an EU-style edict that greatly limits national policy independence, but one that allows substantial freedom for each country (for example, the provision to not restrict migrants’ rights for more than 5 years). Within this limit, each country could do as it wished – some could be generous, others more restrictive. This would strike a fair balance between national policy independence and the need to maintain a coherent and fair agreement between all parties.

Summary recommendations for CANZUK free movement

Through understanding the current free movement arrangements within the European Union and the TTTA, a CANZUK freedom of movement initiative can implement policies which have succeeded and avoid those which have been economically or socially detrimental.

The CFMO does not aim to demand specific policy requirements for free movement between Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, but instead, provide advice and guidance for each of these nations to utilise autonomous decision making and implement strategic policies for a functioning free mobility area, based on an improved model of the TTTA. Therefore, the following requirements may be considered (but not limited to, or necessarily adopted) for a future CANZUK free movement initiative:

Each person eligible to travel or migrate under any free movement arrangement must be a citizen of the UK, Canada, Australia or New Zealand, and be in possession of a valid UK, Canadian, Australian or New Zealand passport;

The governments of the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand will remain independent and sovereign with respect to all agreements, negotiations and conditions regarding free movement between these 4 countries, but will aim for mutual recognition of conditions for migrants to adhere to;

75% of skilled migrants around the world live in the #UK, #Canada & #Australia: #Commonwealth #FreeMovement

— The CFMO (@theCFMO) November 28, 2016

New migrants must intend to legally work in the host country of their choice (with the correct authorisation as required by the host country’s laws), or be self-sufficient/self-funded for the duration of their stay;

Upon entry, each new arrival must apply for and obtain a tax-file number/social security number for the purposes of obtaining work legally, and/or paying applicable taxes as required by the host country;

Migrants will not be eligible for any state funded social-welfare payments (including unemployment benefit, disability benefit, child tax credit, e.t.c) until 4 years from the date of their arrival in the host country;

All migrants must prove sufficient financial funds at their disposal for themselves and any dependents before entering the host country. This can include bank statements, authorised bank declarations, e.t.c, presented upon arrival;

Migrants will only be eligible to apply for citizenship in their respective host country after 5 years from the date of arrival in said country, providing they have lived permanently and continuously in said country during this time;

All migrants must not owe any outstanding debts to the governments of Canada, Australia, New Zealand or the United Kingdom before they travel or relocate under any free movement agreement;

All migrants must comply, absolutely, with all immigration protocols and laws of their host country, and will be subject to deportation protocols, as standard, within said country;

Migrants will be responsible for all health costs incurred for 4 years from the date of arrival in their host country, unless said health costs are provided for through employer funded arrangements or reciprocal agreements between respective countries (such as the Reciprocal Health Care Agreements between Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom);

Dependent on each migrant’s travel locations within specific time periods, each migrant will be required to prove they are not subject to infectious diseases that could pose a risk to the health and well-being of citizens within their host country. This may involve producing a general medical health certificate or chest x-ray certificate from a government approved physician before arrival in their host country;

Migrants must not have any serious criminal convictions or be denied the right to travel outside their native country. This also includes deportation orders.

Although summary and applicable for expansion, the aforementioned criteria provide a basis for free movement policy, and outline which restrictions may apply for individuals wishing to travel and relocate between Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

CANZUK passports could entitle the holder to free movement
(photo: CBC)

Through adoption of such criteria, a CANZUK free movement initiative can grant mobility for citizens while preventing negative economic consequences as seen throughout the European Union (and in certain circumstances for New Zealanders under the TTTA). Citizens of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom will be able to travel and indefinitely reside within this mobility area, without the requirement of visas or work permits, while also adhering to regulations regarding welfare payments, social services, character requirements and health conditions which prove to be a major concern for governments and the general public.

With mutually agreed upon requirements, and shared socio-economic characteristics, a CANZUK free movement area would likely provide positive economic benefits for Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, just as free movement through the TTTA has brought positive economic circumstances for citizens of Australia and New Zealand.

It is therefore our recommendation for the governments of Canada and the United Kingdom to implement strategic policy for annexation to the Trans-Tasman Travel Agreement as soon as practicable, and for all CANZUK nations to negotiate policy reform with respect to free movement (and its conditions) for eligible Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and British citizens.