How to get Australian Citizenship

March 16, 2024
Myer Lipschitz

Australian citizenship represents a significant step for those who choose to make Australia their permanent home. It offers a sense of belonging in the community and comes with a range of benefits, including the right to vote, employment in the Australian public service, and the ability to travel as an Australian citizen. Acquiring citizenship, however, requires meeting certain criteria and understanding the procedure thoroughly.

You can apply for Australian citizenship through several pathways, each with its specific requirements and stipulations. The most common method is by conferral, which requires applicants to have lived in Australia on a valid visa for four years, including a year as a permanent resident, be of good character, and have a basic knowledge of the English language and Australian society.

The citizenship test is a crucial component of the application process, assessing your knowledge of Australian laws, history, and values. It is designed to encourage applicants to engage with Australia’s unique cultural community and to commit to the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship. The test, alongside other criteria, ensures that those seeking to become Australian citizens are well-prepared to contribute to the nation’s diverse society.

Eligibility Criteria for Australian Citizenship

Gaining Australian citizenship requires meeting several criteria set by the Department of Home Affairs. Applicants need to demonstrate commitment to Australia through sustained residency, good character, language proficiency and understanding of Australian society.

Residence Requirement

Applicants must have lived in Australia on a valid visa for four years immediately before applying. This must include the last 12 months as a permanent resident, without having been absent from Australia for more than 1 year in total during the four-year period and no more than 90 days in the 12 months before applying.

Character Assessment

Candidates must be of good character, which involves passing a character test and possibly a police check. You must not have any substantial criminal record, which is defined by the Migration Act 1958 as being sentenced to 12 months or more in prison, regardless of time actually served.

Language Proficiency

A basic level of English is mandatory. Applicants must be able to speak, read, write and understand English, evidenced by passing the citizenship test. Knowledge of basic English helps candidates to fully participate in Australian society.

Knowledge of Australia Test

The citizenship test evaluates the applicant’s knowledge of Australia, including its culture, history, and values. Candidates must study the provided resource book and pass the test with a score of at least 75 percent. The test is conducted in English and consists of multiple-choice questions.

Visa Types and Pathways to Australian Citizenship

There are several pathways to Australian citizenship, primarily through permanent residency (PR), skilled migration, family reunification, or special eligibility. Understanding these pathways is key for applicants to navigate the process effectively.

PR to Citizenship in Australia

Permanent residents in Australia can apply for citizenship. They must have lived in Australia on a valid PR visa for four years, including 1 year as a permanent resident immediately before applying. Individuals must also pass a citizenship test and meet character requirements.

Skilled Migration

Skilled Migration visas, such as the Subclass 189, Subclass 190, and the Subclass 491, are available for workers with specific skills needed in Australia. To transition to citizenship, holders of these visas first obtain PR and then meet the same residence requirements as other permanent residents.

  • Subclass 189: Independent skilled
  • Subclass 190: State nominated
  • Subclass 491: Regional provisional

Family Stream Migration

The Family Stream Migration pathway caters to partners, children, and certain family members of Australian citizens or permanent residents. Once they obtain a permanent visa, they are eligible to apply for citizenship following the standard residency requirements.

Classification of Family Visas:

  • Partner Visa: Subclass 820/801 or Subclass 309/100
  • Child Visa: Subclass 101/802
  • Parent Visa: Subclass 103/143

Application Process

The path to Australian citizenship involves a series of steps, including document gathering, visa application, and potentially a citizenship test or interview. Understanding the timeline and requirements will streamline the journey to becoming an Australian citizen.

Australian Citizenship Document Checklist

Applicants must provide a variety of documents to support their Australian citizenship application, including:

  • Personal Identification: Birth certificate, passport, driver’s licence.
  • Residence Eligibility: Documents proving current and past visas, entry and exit stamps, and compliance with visa conditions.
  • Good Character: Police certificates and any documents pertaining to past court appearances or convictions.

Visa Application

Before applying for citizenship, individuals need a valid permanent residency visa. They must ensure that their visa status allows for an application for citizenship and that they meet the residency requirements. The application typically includes:

  • Form 1300t or 1290: Depending on age and eligibility.
  • Visa Details: Visa Grant Number and period of stay.
  • Application Fee: Payment proof, as required by the Department of Home Affairs.

Citizenship Test or Interview

Most adult applicants are required to pass a citizenship test, which assesses their knowledge of the English language, as well as Australian history, values, and the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship. Some may be invited for an interview instead.

Australian Citizenship Processing Time

  • Average Processing Time: usually between several months to over a year.
  • Factors Affecting Timeframe: Completeness of application, background checks, and the total number of applications being processed.

Citizenship Ceremony and Pledge

Once an individual’s application for Australian citizenship is approved, they are required to participate in a Citizenship Ceremony and take the Pledge as the final steps in becoming an Australian citizen.

Attending the Ceremony

Citizenship candidates receive an invitation to attend a Citizenship Ceremony, typically within six months after their application has been approved. The ceremony is usually organised by local councils and can be a formal or informal event. Attendance is mandatory to complete the citizenship process. Candidates will be informed of the ceremony date, location, and necessary documents to bring.

Pledging Commitment

At the Citizenship Ceremony, candidates make a commitment to Australia by taking the Australian Citizenship Pledge. They have the option to choose between two versions of the Pledge; one that mentions God and one that is secular. The Pledge is a public declaration of one’s loyalty and commitment to Australia and its people, its democratic beliefs, rights, liberties, and laws. After taking the Pledge, candidates are granted Australian citizenship certificates, thereby officially becoming Australian citizens.

Rights of Australian Citizens

Rights of Australian Citizens

Australian citizens are afforded several rights which include, but are not limited to:

  • Voting: Citizens have the right to vote in federal, state/territory, and local elections.
  • Employment: They have the right to seek employment within the Australian Public Service or defence forces.
  • Passport: Citizens can apply for an Australian passport and request consular assistance while overseas.
  • Entry: They have the right to enter and leave Australia freely without the need for visas.
  • Political Office: Eligible citizens can stand for parliamentary positions at the state and federal levels.

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