Australia insists only citizens or ‘permanent’ residents can fight for it, but determined Kiwis have found a way.

New Zealanders living in Australia have chalked up a small but important victory for expats after being accepted for trials with the Australian Defence Force.

Most Kiwis living there have been unable to join the military because of a requirement to have citizenship or at least permanent residency.

But some have now exploited a loophole that allowed people who have lived in Australia before 1994 to gain a Resident Return Visa.

This gave them the permanent residency required to seek a position in the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

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An expat who has been striving for eight years to enlist in the Australian Army says it is a small step in the campaign for full equality for 700,000 New Zealanders living in Australia.

Duncan Sandilands - a former New Zealand territorial soldier who was born in Feilding and now lives in Perth - was finally invited to sit an entrance test by the ADF's recruitment services this month after being granted a return visa last year.

In a letter to Mr Sandilands, Australian Assistant Defence Minister Stuart Robert said the requirement for soldiers to be Australian citizens - or permanent residents applying for citizenship - would not change.

But Mr Sandilands, 54, believes there is now a glimmer of hope for any expat Kiwi who wants to serve their adopted country.

"The ADF cannot alienate people who have grown up in Australia by saying they have no right to help defend your country. It is against what Anzac stands for," he said.

Mr Sandilands' initial frustration with being excluded from the ADF was deepened by his family's rich Australian history. His great-grandfather was Lord Mayor of Melbourne and his grandfather fought with Australian troops at Gallipoli.

He was delighted by his potential recruitment to the Australian forces but said many more expats were still prevented from enlisting.

A law change in 2001 blocked New Zealanders who arrived after that date from getting access to permanent residency and the privileges that come with it. These privileges include access to social security and other support services, and the right to enlist in the armed forces.

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Mr Sandilands said: "Some children were brought over at 4 years old, educated as an Australian, and on Anzac Day stand in front of the flag and sing the national anthem in memory of the fallen Anzacs.

"And when they turn 18 and want to join the army they will be told to go back to New Zealand. It's like being told to go back to Russia - the child has no affiliation with New Zealand whatsoever."

Prime Minister John Key has raised the issue of discrimination with his counterpart, Tony Abbott.

Why can't some expat Kiwis join the Australian Defence Force?

Only citizens or permanent residents who have applied for citizenship can join the ADF. Many New Zealanders moved to Australia after February 2001, when a law change blocked expats from getting permanent residency.

Why are some Kiwis now getting a chance to join the ADF?

A rule change in 2013 allowed New Zealanders who had lived in Australia before September 1994 to get a Resident Return Visa. This meant these expats were eligible to serve in the military.

Why is this important?

Expats are hoping for an end to discrimination against Kiwis in Australia. Many are still unable to enlist in the army because of the 2001 law change, and they cannot get access to social security or other support services.

How many people does this affect?

There are around 700,000 New Zealanders living in Australia, and 200,000 of them arrived after 2001.