Australian citizenship is a privilege that offers enormous rewards to those who take this step up from permanent residency. By becoming an Australian citizen, you are joining a unique national community. Our country has been built on the combined contributions of our Indigenous people and those who came later from all over the world. We celebrate this diversity and at the same time, strive for a unified and harmonious nation.
Spouses and partners of Australian citizens do not have an automatic right to Australian citizenship. These applicants will need to apply for citizenship and satisfy the eligibility criteria on their merits as do other adult applicants.
Major changes have been made to the Australian Citizenship rules as at the 20 April 2017.
These changes which we have detailed below have yet to be passed into law, but when they are (envisaged at the end of the 2017), they will be retrospective from the 20 April 2017. This means that all Citizenship applications lodged for assessment after this date will be assessed in accordance with the new rules.
The changes are as follows:
- Increasing the general residence requirement, which means an applicant for Australian citizenship will need to demonstrate a minimum of four years permanent residence immediately prior to their application for citizenship;
- Introducing an English language test, which means applicants will need to demonstrate competent English language listening, speaking, reading and writing skills before being able to sit the citizenship test;
- Strengthening the Australian Values Statement in application forms for visas and citizenship to include reference to allegiance to Australia and require applicants to make an undertaking to integrate into and contribute to the Australian community;
- Strengthening the test for Australian citizenship through the addition of new test questions about Australian values, and the privileges and responsibilities of Australian citizenship;
- Introducing a requirement for applicants to demonstrate their integration into the Australian community. Applicants will need to demonstrate their integration into the Australian community by providing, for example, documentation to the effect that people who can work are working, or are actively looking for work or seeking to educate themselves; that people are contributing to the community by being actively involved in community or voluntary organisations; that people are properly paying their taxes and ensuring their children are being educated. Applicants’ criminal records and adherence to social security laws are also relevant; and
- Strengthening the Pledge of commitment in the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 to refer to allegiance to Australia; and extending the requirement for individuals aged 16 years and over to make the Pledge of commitment to all streams of citizenship by application, including citizenship by descent, adoption and resumption
The main avenues to Australian citizenship are citizenship by Conferral, by Descent or by Adoption
With very few exceptions, a person must be an Australian permanent resident who is able to meet residence requirements (see above) before conferral of Australian citizenship. The residence requirement is based on the time you have lived in Australia and the time you have spent outside Australia.
This pathway is open to migrants, spouse or partners of an Australian citizen, eligible New Zealand citizens and other discrete groups of persons.
If you were born overseas after 26 January 1949 to an Australian citizen parent, you may be eligible to apply for Australian citizenship by descent.
If your responsible parent became an Australian citizen by descent, he or she must have been present in Australia for periods totalling two years at some time in their life.
If you were born outside Australia or New Guinea before 26 January 1949 you may also be eligible for Australian citizenship by descent if at least one of your responsible parents became an Australian citizen on 26 January 1949.
You may be eligible to be registered as an Australian citizen by adoption if:
- you were adopted by an Australian citizen under the full Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption
- an adoption compliance certificate has been issued
- the adoption is recognised and effective for the laws of the Commonwealth and each state and territory, and
- there is no need for your adoptive parent to seek further legal recognition of your adoption in Australia.
All applicants aged 18 years and over must be of good character.
Australian citizenship applications for children under 16 years of age must be made by a responsible parent (including an adoptive parent). Applicants over 16 but under 18 years can make a stand-alone citizenship application without the need for parental support or endorsement.
It is possible to hold citizenship of two or more countries if the law of those countries allow. Australia allows its citizens to hold dual nationality. Other countries may not. Check if your country allows its citizens to hold dual or multiple citizenships by contacting the consulate or embassy from your home country:
The Australian government recommends that dual nationals should use an Australian passport to enter and depart Australia.
For all questions relating to Australian passports including application, or replacement due to loss or theft please refer to the Australian Passport Office:
Australian citizenship for NZ citizens
NZ citizens do not generally acquire Australian citizenship based upon time spent living in Australia, regardless of payment of tax or Medicare. The SC 444 Special category (SCV) visa is a temporary visa which allows the holder(s) to live and work in Australia. The SCV holding NZ citizen will remain a temporary visa holder – with the restrictions that come with it- unless that status is actively changed.
New pathway for NZ citizens
Until very recently to be considered for Australian citizenship, an applicant must first have been a permanent resident, or an ENZC- see below, or in limited circumstances if NZ citizens had lived in or even visited Australia before 1 September 1994, a Resident Return visa (RRV) holder..
After 1 July 2017 an new pathway has been introduced as a stream of the Skilled Independent SC189 visa as a NZ stream which is available to a cohort of New Zealand citizens (and their immediate family members) who were in Australia on or before the 19 February 2017 and have lived in Australia for 5 continuous years and have had a taxable income of at least $53900 for that period of residence
Before 26 February 2001
This was the date that the category ‘Eligible NZ citizen (ENZC) was closed. Those NZ citizens who were resident in Australia at that date (or in a narrow range of other exceptional circumstances were deemed to be so), were labelled ‘Eligible NZ residents’ and placed on an equal footing with Australian permanent residents and also Australian citizens. An ENZC can sponsor family members and is eligible to apply for Australian citizenship. (See to RRV cohort).
After 26 February 2001
NZ citizens who arrived in Australia after the 26 February 2001 dead-line are now simply temporary visa holders (SCV) with full work rights. There is no need to apply for this visa, as is granted automatically upon entering Australia, based on the NZ passport held- unless the person is of ‘special significance’. It remains a temporary visa unless or until it is changed.
Children of SCV holders are treated as overseas students particularly for tertiary education if they remain on their SCVs.
Since a SCV is not a permanent visa, the visa holder will not be eligible to apply for Australian citizenship. To become entitled, the SCV holder must first secure a permanent residence visa, based generally on skills held (either an independent skilled or an employer sponsored visa), family sponsorship or qualify for RRV status if eligible..
After 1 July 2017
See above for the additional pathway subject to the restrictions noted.
Options for PR and then to Citizenship
Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS)
With one recent exception, the rule changes have affected the ability of SCV holders applying for permanent employer sponsorship (ENS & RSMS). Effectively SCVs are no longer eligible for the 457 2 year work (Temporary Residential Residence) pathway to PR.
Before 2012, the SC 444 visa holders qualified for this transitional scheme. After July 1 2012, the SC 444 was removed from this scheme -together with the other sub-classes – so that the only qualifying visa for the Temporary Residence Transitional pathway is now the SC 457 visa.
Whilst barred from the Temporary Transition Residence pathway to ENS, SCV holders who have lived in Australia and worked for the same employer for two years can apply for Direct Entry pathway on the basis of that employment, and those applicants are eligible for concessions. The usual skill assessment requirement of that pathway together with the 3 years experience will be waived. Age concessions for applicants above 50 years are available.
Regrettably these concession do not assist SCVs coming directly from NZ or who haven’t worked or lived the required 2 years in Australia, unless they qualify in any other way e.g. as an RRV holder if they had been in Australia for any amount of time before the 1 September 1994 and personally meet the other requirements. These candidates will need to apply through the Direct Entry pathway, must obtain a positive skill assessment + show 3 years experience and meet the age requirement.
Alternatively SCVs are still free to lodge an Expression of Interest (EOI) on the skills data-base SkillSelect to await an invitation to lodge a application for the independent skilled visa, state sponsored visa or Business Investment visa (with concessions).