For immigrants, acquiring Australian citizenship is the highest dream and a life-changing event. This is not unconnected with the fact that it unlocks a vista of opportunities, possibilities and benefits. Becoming an Australian citizen generally removes a host of limitations and restrictions that normally affect the eligibility to hold an Australian passport, exercise franchise, explore work opportunities in the Australian public sector, enrol in the military, enjoy uninhibited travel to Australia and more than a hundred countries as well as receive government-funded financial assistance. For an immigrant with dreams of ascending to the highest political office in Australia, the acquisition of Australian citizenship is a no-brainer.
- Permanent residency: Interested applicants satisfy this condition if they have been permanently resident in Australia for a minimum of 12 months and have lived in Australia for a minimum of 9 out of 12 months prior to the application
- Legal residence: This condition stipulates that applicants should have lived in Australia legally for a minimum of 48 months prior to the application. Furthermore, an applicant is required to have not spent 12 out of those 48 months living outside Australia.
- Applicants must match with character requirements.
- Applicants also must have sat for and passed a citizenship test. This requirement is waived, however, for 60-year-olds and beyond.
- Interested applicants must satisfy a minimum age requirement of 18.
Generally, the following documents are required to prove an applicant’s satisfaction of eligibility requirements:
- Police certificates (original copy)
- Scanned original documents (for online application)
- Certified copies of required documents (for paper-based applications)
- Relevant information and supporting documents
- Formal identification documents. These documents are comprised of three documents that indicate the applicant’s birth name, birth date, gender, photograph, signature, residence and name change (where necessary). These details are proven through documents such as; official certificates of divorce or marriage, Australian or foreign-issued change of name documents, Australian-issued driver’s license, page extracts from passport, national identification card, utility bill, bank statement, Australian passport, visa and travel documents, certificates issued by Australian and foreign law enforcement agents etc.
The Australian Citizenship Test
This test is a crucial requirement that determines whether an applicant can proceed with applying for citizenship status. It is required of all applicants, with exceptions made for those who are either underage, aged above 60 or suffering from impairments pertaining to sensory organs and are thus unable to perform speech, sight, hearing functions.
The citizenship test generally inculcates applicants with an understanding of Australian values, history, traditions and national symbols. It also includes provisions for assessing the applicant’s English language competence and skills. Fundamentally, it is designed to gauge an applicant’s ability to integrate into Australian society as a functional member.
The test is open to applicants who satisfy requirements pertaining to permanent residence and identity. Inability to satisfy these requirements invalidates the applicant’s eligibility to register for as well as undergo the test.
Applying for Australian Citizenship
Applying for Australian citizenship is the last out of three routes to acquiring citizenship status. The first route is based on the criteria of ‘birth’. Under this route, citizenship status is conferred on people born to one or both parents with Australian citizenship or permanent residence status. The second route utilizes ‘descent’ as a criterion for conferment. In this instance, citizenship status is conferred on people born to Australian citizens outside Australia. The third route, where citizenship application falls, is for non-Australians.
The application process generally differs in methodology according to the following categories:
– Applicants from New Zealand
To be eligible, applicants from New Zealand must hold a sub-category of Australian visa for New Zealanders, Skilled Independent Visa (Special Category Visa). New Zealanders who hold this class of visa are eligible to apply after a period of 1 year (supplemented by five years as a visa holder). Successful applicants from this category are afforded the privilege of holding citizenship status of both Australia and New Zealand. Applicants meet general requirements pertaining to character. New Zealand citizens already resident in Australia before February 26, 2001, generally satisfy permanent residence requirements and are thus eligible to apply for citizenship.
Applicants from this category are required to present the following documents:
– A police certificate. This document is required to verify criminal history or record.
– A conviction record document from New Zealand.
– Proof of residence. New Zealanders who arrived in Australia after February 26, 2001, and hold a special category visa present a ‘Centrelink certificate’ indicating the length of their residence in Australia for a specified period.
Application is made through the Department of Home Affairs online portal.
– Immigrant applicants
To be eligible, immigrants interested in applying for Australian citizenship must meet a number of requirements.
- The first of those requirements is the acquisition of permanent resident status in Australia. Consequent to acquiring a permanent residence, an applicant must live in Australia for a minimum of 48 months prior to applying for citizenship. The applicant must also have spent 12 out of 48 months as a permanent resident. An applicant must also have spent less than twelve months outside Australia prior to applying for citizenship.
- Applicants who satisfy residence requirements can proceed with their application, which can be done online. Applicants aged below 60 also have to pass an interview and citizenship test.
In the event that the citizenship application is approved, an applicant also partakes in a citizenship ceremony as the last step. The citizenship ceremony is where an applicant signs statutory documents and performs official rites to formally become an Australian citizen. At this ceremony, the Australian citizenship certificate is presented to the successful applicant.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is a police certificate?
A police certificate is an important document required for an Australian Citizenship application. This document demonstrates that an applicant is of good character and can be trusted to abide by the laws governing Australian society. Typically, a police certificate (also called penal clearance) shows that the applicant has not been jailed for a period exceeding 12 months. It is useful in proving that the applicant has not flouted Australian immigration rules and regulations, has no affiliations with proscribed groups and criminal behaviour and is not under investigation for whatsoever reason by local and international law enforcement/intelligence agencies. This certificate can be applied for in or outside Australia.
2. Can I become an Australian citizen by marriage?
Australian law offers no pathway to becoming an Australian citizen by marriage. Applicants married to Australian citizens still have to fulfil eligibility requirements and undergo the application process.
3. Is ‘dual citizenship’ permitted under Australian law?
Australian citizenship can be held alongside the citizenship of a second country. However, it can only be held along with that of a country that permits dual citizenship. In addition, this privilege is subject to the satisfaction of eligibility requirements as determined by the country, or countries, in question.
4. What is the cost of applying for Australian citizenship?
All completed applications for Australian citizenship, irrespective of the application route, attract a fee charge payable upon submission. The fee charged varies according to the circumstance of payment. Applications made from outside Australia may incur extra charges by the processing financial institution, which may be affected by exchange rates. Typically, application fees for Australian citizenship fall within the range of A$40-$285.
5. How long does it take to get Australian citizenship?
The Australian citizenship process is inherently complex and may run throughout the course of many years. According to the Department of Home Affairs, applications through any other route apart from descent take up to 30 months to be processed. Applications for citizenship by descent take a processing time of 5 months.
6. Do I have to take an English Language Test to apply for Australian citizenship?
English language tests are required to prove competence for permanent residency and visa applications. Full details are available at the Australian Department of Home Affairs website.