How to board the Australia Citizen Ship

Date: Jul 02, 2009
Document Type: Newsletter

There are many vessels in which you can become an Australian citizen. Your rite of passage to either apply or be automatically granted citizenship depends on your circumstances. So which option applies to you?

Applying for citizenship


Migrants apply for Australian citizenship by passing a test and meeting general eligibility requirements.

To apply, you must:

  • have passed a test;
  • be aged 18 years or over at the time the application is made;
  • be a permanent resident at the time of application and decision;
  • satisfy the residence requirement;
  • be likely to reside, or to continue to reside, in Australia or maintain a close connection with Australia; and
  • be of good character.

You are not required to pass a test if you:

  • are aged under 18 years;
  • are aged 60 years or over;
  • suffer from a permanent loss or substantial impairment of hearing, speech or sight; or
  • have a permanent physical or mental incapacity that means you are not capable of understanding the nature of the application.

Parent is or was an Australian citizen

You are eligible to apply for Australian citizenship if you were:

  • born to former Australian citizens;
  • born overseas to an Australian citizen;
  • adopted overseas by an Australian citizen; or
  • born in Papua New Guinea.

Several conditions apply, such as your birth date, your parents' citizenship at the time of your birth, how the adoption was finalised in Australia and internationally.

Spouse/de facto is an Australian citizen

To be eligible, you must be a:

  • Permanent resident of Australia

If you became a permanent resident (PR) before 1 July 2007, you must have lived in Australia as a PR for a total of at least two years in the last five years, and for at least 12 months in the last two years.

For those becoming PR's on or after 1 July 2007, you must have four years residence in Australia. This may include up to three year's temporary residence and the remaining 12 months as a PR. You cannot have more than a total of 90 days absence in this 12 month period.

There is discretion to count time spent overseas as a PR as time spent in Australia if you can demonstrate a close connection to Australia. This can apply to interdependent and surviving spouses/partners.

You can apply for citizenship in Australia or overseas.

Resuming citizenship

You can resume your Australian citizenship if you ceased to be a citizen by:

  • acquiring another country's citizenship before 4 April 2002; or
  • renouncing Australian citizenship to retain or acquire another or to avoid significant hardship.

If you had children under 16 years old when you lost your Australian citizenship, they may have also lost citizenship unless their other parent was an Australian citizen at the time. Children over 16 must apply for resumption in their own right, those under 16 can be included in their parent's resumption application.

New Zealand citizens

If you are a New Zealand citizen who arrived before 26 February 2001, you are automatically granted a Special Category Visa, which allows no restrictions for residency and work.

Automatic citizenship

Born in Australia

Several conditions apply, such as:

  • date of birth;
  • parents' status at time of birth;
  • if parents are New Zealand citizens;
  • residence in Australia.

Adopted in Australia

A child born overseas will automatically become an Australian citizen if:

  • the child is adopted in Australia under Australian law;
  • at the time of the adoption the child holds a permanent visa; or
  • one of the adoptive parents is an Australian citizen.

Children adopted overseas through other processes do not become Australian citizens automatically.

It is always recommended to seek legal advice. You don't want to miss the boat when seeking Australian citizenship. A lawyer can inform you of your options help you in the application process.

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