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.
Proposed changes have been made to the Citizenship Act from time to time, and have been rejected in the Senate, but may be put back on the agenda, so if you qualify now, we advise that you consider instructing us to lodge an application on your behalf.
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:
HOWEVER, PLEASE NOTE DUAL CITIZENSHIPS ARE NOT ALLOWED IN THESE COUNTRIES:
Andorra, Austria, Azerbaijan ,Burma, Bahrain, Botswana, Japan, China ,Czech Republic, Fiji,India,Indonesia, Ecuador, Estonia, Iran, Poland, Papua New Guinea, Brunei, Japan, Peru, Kuwait , Kenya, Kazakhstan, Chile, Kiribati, Poland, Korea, Kuwait, Latvia,Singapore, Slovakia, Ecuador, Lithuania, Solomon Islands ,Fiji ,Malaysia, Mauritius, Netherlands (some exceptions exist), United Arab Emirates (UAE), Romania, Thailand, Mexico, Nepal, Venezuela, Norway, Zimbabwe, Mauritius, Myanmar, Nepal.
**Please keep in mind that countries amend nationality laws from time to time and respective regulations are subject to change.
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.
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 too the 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.
NZ citizens must first become Australian permanent residents, or be Eligible NZ Citizens or be deemed RRV holders
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 any of the options set out on the New Zealand citizens page of this web-site including via the new pathway for New Zealand citizens as part of the Skilled Independent SC 189 pathway (which has a 16 February 2021 cut-off).
Anyone living in Australia for four years and for one of those 4 years as a permanent resident can apply for Australian Citizenship.
There are other ways to attain citizenship too, for example
– Anyone born in Australia to a permanent resident or citizen will become an Australian citizen.
– If one of the parents is an Australian citizen, a child born overseas can be registered for citizenship ‘by descent’. They will have the same rights as children born in Australia.
– If after marrying or being in a de facto relationship with an Australia permanent resident or citizen you first become an Australian permanent resident yourself.
Criteria for applying for Citizenship
– You need to be a permanent resident before applying for citizenship.
– You should not have been absent from Australia for more than 1 year in total throughout that period, or more than 90 days in the 12 months prior to applying.
– You must pass citizenship test
– You meet the ‘good character’ requirement (including passing Police Checks)
After attaining citizenship, you have the right to renounce or give up citizenship if you no longer wish to be an Australian citizen.
Here’s how you will benefit from becoming an Australian Citizen
- Hassle-free travel and re-entry:
A permanent resident can stay in the country indefinitely. However, if you want to go overseas and return to the country, you will need to apply for a Resident Return Visa every five years.
Acquiring citizenship entitles you to stay indefinitely in Australia as well as to re-enter the country whenever you want.
You also get the privilege of staying outside Australia as long as you wish to.
An Australian citizen returning to the country does not have to stand in long queues at the immigration counter. The new Arrivals SmartGate facility makes citizens’ life easy.
Eligible travellers arriving at Australia’s eight major international airports have the option to self-process through passport control.
- Excellent consular support while overseas:
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) provides consular assistance to Australian citizens. If you encounter any mishaps, accidents or injuries while traveling overseas, you will be able to receive full consular assistance from the Australian diplomatic mission in that country.
DFAT’s Consular Emergency Centre provides urgent consular assistance round the clock to Australians in distress overseas.
In some countries, Canadian posts can also help Australians.
These are a few ways in which the Consular Emergency Centre can assist and support you while you are overseas:
- If you are in a hospital, have been involved in an accident, serious illness or death, or are the victim of serious crime.
- If you are arrested or detained overseas. This includes informing your family if you wish to.
- During crises like wars, civil unrest, and natural disasters.
- Replace passport if lost, stolen or expired. Fees applies to this service.
- Issue you with a small repayable emergency loan in extreme emergency situations. This is mainly to cover the cost of a replacement travel document.
- Provide information on possible government financial assistance for those eligible, to help with legal costs overseas.
- Provide a list of doctors, lawyers and interpreters if available.
- Issue passports including emergency passports.
However, there are clear limits to what the Australian government can do in an overseas environment. For more information contact DFAT.
- Federal government and defence jobs:
Even though permanent residency gives you the right to be employed in most areas, there are a few jobs which require Australian citizenship. So, being an Australian citizen help you grab the opportunity to work in particular federal government sectors.
Some of the jobs that require Australian citizenship as a criterion are:
- Australian Defence jobs
- Australian Federal Police
- Australian Border Force
- Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
- You can even become the Prime Minister of Australia!
As an Australian citizen, you have the right to be part of Australian politics and democracy. You can contest an election and have the right to choose your representative in the democratic process.
Every Australian citizen aged 18 years or over is eligible to vote in council and federal elections if validly enrolled.
In fact, voting is mandatory for every Australian citizen in elections and referendums. Details can be found here.
However, the right to vote will be denied in circumstances like:
- If you are in prison serving a sentence of three years or more
- If you are incapable of understanding the nature and significance of voting
- If you have been convicted of treason or treachery and have not been pardoned
An Australian also holds the privilege to contest in local and federal elections. Criteria for this can be known here.
- Visa-free travel to 181 countries:
According to the latest report, Australian passport is the eighth strongest passport in the world in terms of travel freedom. From 2020 holders of an Australian passport can visit 181 countries and territories visa-free or with visa on arrival.
A list of countries and territories that can be visited visa-free with Australian passport can be found here.
- Financial assistance for education:
Australian citizens also receive student loans and reduced fees for eligible courses in Australia. Among such loans is the HECS‑HELP loan scheme.
HECS‑HELP is a loan scheme for eligible students who are enrolled in Commonwealth supported places. This can support them to pay their student contribution amounts. However, it cannot be used for additional study costs like accommodation or textbooks.
If you are an Australian citizen and if your university reasonably expects that you will undertake at least some of your course of study in Australia, then you will meet the residency requirements for HECS-HELP assistance.
You will not meet the HECS-HELP residency requirements if your university reasonably expects that you will not undertake any of your course in Australia. If you plan to study the entire course overseas through distance education, then you will not meet the HECS-HELP residency requirements.
- Protection from deportation:
Any resident, even if a permanent resident, who is not an Australian citizen can be deported within a specified period of entry if:
- They are sentenced to imprisonment for more than 12 months
- They are considered to be a threat to the security of the country
- They fail the good character test
However, an Australian citizen will not be deported from Australia regardless of the severity of their crimes and punishment they receive.
See Australian Citizenship blog article -SBS Salvey Manish article for acknowledgements (with added corrections and updating).