The final step of the immigration process is becoming an Australian citizen. Australian citizenship is a privilege and a commitment to Australia and respecting everything that Australia stands for. The process of becoming an Australian citizen differs for everyone and depends on your eligibility.
Becoming a citizen of Australia
By becoming a citizen of Australia you gain certain rights and responsibilities:
Being a citizen will allow you to:
- Vote in elections (federal state and territory) and in referendums.
- Stand for public office elections.
- Apply and work in The Australian Public service or the Defence Forces.
- Hold an Australian passport.
- Receive Australian official help when overseas and in Australia.
- Register any children born overseas as Australian citizens by descent.
The following responsibilities are expected. As an Australian citizen:
- You must obey the Australian Laws.
- You must defend Australia if the need arises.
- You must serve on a jury, if called upon.
- You must enrol to vote.
Before applying for an Australian citizenship you must first determine if you are eligible.
There are several options which can determine eligibility:
Migrants with permanent residence
If you migrated to Australia, you already hold a permanent residence, you satisfy the residence requirements and you are of good character you may be eligible to apply for an Australian citizenship.
The residence requirements are:
- You must have been living in Australia for 4 years, including 1 year as permanent resident on a valid Australian visa immediately before applying.
- You must not have left Australia for more than 1 year during the 4-year period, or 90 days in the year prior to the application.
You will also need to pass a citizenship test showing that you understand the privileges and responsibilities of becoming an Australian citizen.
Spouse or partner of an Australian
Spouse and partners of Australian citizens do not have an automatic right to obtain citizenship. They also have to satisfy the eligibility criteria of residency and good character.
However, there are certain variations and the time you spend overseas can be counted as time in Australia provided you can demonstrate a close connection with your spouse or partner.
New Zealand citizens
Upon arrival in Australia, New Zealand citizens are granted a Special Category Visa that allows them to work and stay in Australia indefinitely. As of 26 February 2001, citizens of New Zealand have to apply for permanent residence first if they wish to obtain an Australian citizenship.
Child born overseas to an Australian citizen
Children born overseas to an Australian citizen parent after 26 January 1949 are eligible to apply for an Australian citizenship by descent. The responsible parent must have been present in Australia for at least 2 years at some point in their life.
Child of a former Australian citizen
If one of your parents was an Australian citizen but they have lost their citizenship by acquiring another, you may be eligible to apply for an Australian citizenship, provided you are of good character.
Commonwealth child migration scheme
If you arrived in Australia as a child under the Commonwealth Migration Scheme you will need to produce evidence with your application for Australian citizenship. You will be entitled to a fee exemption.
Once your citizenship application has been approved you have to make the pledge of commitment as the final step of becoming an official Australian citizen. The Pledge is a legal requirement made at a citizenship ceremony organized by a local council within three months of the approval of the application. Until you make the pledge you cannot get an Australian passport.
Citizenship ceremonies are important and your application can be reviewed or cancelled if you do not attend one within 12 months of your citizenship application being approved.
Attending a citizenship ceremony is also an occasion for celebration with your friends, family and members of your new community.