New Zealand's high commissioner has urged the Australian government to consider giving Kiwis special treatment, when a new character test for visas is introduced.
Tens of thousands of long-term residents could fail the new test, triggering the deportation process, a parliamentary inquiry heard on Monday.
The new migration rules will give the minister or his or her delegate a new discretionary power to cancel a visa if a person is convicted of certain offences, punishable by a maximum of two years in jail.
Offences include assault, using or possessing weapons, sex crimes or breaching an apprehended violence order.
A person will fail the character test if convicted of one of these offences, regardless of the actual length of the sentence imposed.
The test will also apply retrospectively, meaning the offence to trigger the reconsideration could have occurred decades ago.
New Zealand high commissioner Dame Annette King told the Senate's legal affairs committee 2014 changes to visa rules which lowered the threshold for cancellations on character grounds had incurred a "disproportionate" impact on Kiwis living in Australia.
New Zealanders made up 10 per cent of the foreign born population but 50 per cent of deportations.
By comparison, only 1 per cent of New Zealand's deportations were Australians.
"We don't believe our community is less safe than Australia's," Dame Annette said.
She said Australia's tightening migration rules had "become a rub and corrosive to our relationship".
She urged the government to revert to the pre-2014 rules.
"If that is not possible we would like special consideration of New Zealanders living in Australia, because of the relationship, it is not like any other relationship," Dame Annette said.
The Law Council of Australia also raised concerns that previous expansions of the power had not only led to more deportations, but greater ministerial intervention.
The number of visa cancellations on character grounds rose by 1400 per cent between 2013 and 2017, the council said.
"The character test expansions have led not only to more cancellations but also a greater use of the minister's personal powers, not only through section 501 but also through section 195A, which enables the minister to grant visas to detainees even where a section 501 cancellation has taken place," its submission said.
"This is an inefficient use of ministerial time. Detainees must remain in prolonged detention while the department and the minister consider such matters."
But Department of Home Affairs officials said the new rules were required to set an "objective, transparent" threshold for visas to be cancelled.
"I'd like to be clear that the consequences of not meeting this subjective threshold is that there would be further consideration of a discretionary power to refuse or cancel a visa where a non-citizen is convicted of a designated offence," acting first assistant secretary of the immigration policy division, Michael Willard said.
"It's important to note the conviction itself does not result in the automatic cancellation of the visa or a refusal of the visa and there's a separate process for consideration of using this discretion that delegates or the minister would undertake."
Head of the community protection division, Sachi Wimmer, said while it was impossible to say how many of Australia's 1.9 million permanent visaholders would be captured by the changes, the department was bracing for an increase in referrals.