Australian citizenship is an important step in a migrant’s journey to becoming a full member of the Australian community. The privilege comes with responsibilities such as the requirement to uphold Australian laws, the right to vote and seek parliamentary election.
Australian citizenship can be acquired automatically or by application.
Australian Citizenship by Birth
The Australian Citizenship Act provides for the automatic acquisition of citizenship for certain persons at the time of birth and on their 10th birthday.
In order to acquire citizenship through this provision, the person must have had a parent who was an Australian citizen or permanent resident at the time of their birth.
Person’s place of birth
Certain external territories are encompassed by the term ‘Australia’ for the purposes of the Act, and certain territories either are or were previously, considered to be part of geographic Australia for citizenship purposes.
A person who was not born on mainland Australia may therefore still be eligible to acquire citizenship automatically if they were born in a place that was at the time of their birth considered to be part of geographic Australia for citizenship purposes.
Children born on a ship or aircraft
Australian Citizenship by Birth on 10th Birthday
Children born in Australia on or after 20 August 1986, who did not acquire Australian citizenship at birth, automatically acquire it if they have been ordinarily resident in Australia throughout the 10 year period beginning on the day of their birth.
In this scenario, the child will become an Australian citizen on their 10th birthday.
This provision operates regardless of the migration or citizenship status of the parent(s).
Australian Citizenship by Adoption
Australian citizenship is automatically acquired when a child is adopted in Australia, or an overseas adoption is finalised under Australian law. The child must be present in Australia as a permanent resident with at least one adoptive parent who is an Australian citizen.
Australian Citizenship for Abandoned Children
A child abandoned in Australia is deemed to have been born in Australia unless proven otherwise.
Australian Citizenship by Incorporation of Territory
If any foreign territory becomes part of Australia, the Immigration Minister may determine the classes of persons who become Australian citizens on a specified date. A person of the specified class becomes an Australian citizen on the date specified by the Minister.
Australian citizenship by Conferral
The majority of permanent residents obtain Australian citizenship through one of the conferral pathways.
There are seven conferral pathways and each has its own set of eligibility criteria which must be satisfied –
Permanent residents wishing to acquire citizenship through the general eligibility pathway must satisfy the following requirements –
- being aged 18 years or over at time of application.
- being a permanent resident at the time of application and decision.
- satisfying a residence requirement.
- understanding the nature of the application.
- possessing a basic knowledge of the English language.
- having an adequate knowledge of Australia and of the responsibilities and privileges of Australian citizenship.
- being likely to reside, or to continue to reside, in Australia or to maintain a close and continuing association with Australia if the application were to be approved
- being of good character at the time of the decision
Permanent or enduring physical or mental incapacity
Citizenship applicants under this provision must produce evidence of a permanent or enduring physical or mental incapacity that means the person is not capable of:
- understanding the nature of their application
- demonstrating a basic knowledge of the English language or
- demonstrating an adequate knowledge of Australia and of the responsibilities and privileges of Australian citizenship at that time.
Incapacity must be either permanent, or sufficiently long-term as to be considered enduring.
An enduring incapacity is one for where there is no predicted recovery. If there is a predicted recovery, it is long term and the applicant is unlikely to recover before becoming eligible for Australian citizenship.
A temporary physical or mental condition does not meet the requirement.
The Department of Home Affairs may seek its own independent advice regarding the claimed permanent or enduring physical or mental incapacity.
Person aged 60 or over
A permanent resident aged 60 or over seeking to acquire citizenship is required to –
- understand the nature of the application at the time the application is made
- satisfy the residence requirements
- be likely to reside, or to continue to reside, in Australia or to maintain a close and continuing association with Australia if the application were to be approved, and
- be of good character.
Person with hearing, speech or sight impairment
Person aged under 18 years
Person born to former Australian citizen
Person born outside Australia
Parent’s loss of citizenship
Person born in Papua