How to obtain citizenship in Australia?

The Australian Citizenship Act 2007 sets out the law on who is and who can become an Australian citizen.  In Australia, citizenship can be acquired automatically or by application. Below we will discuss how you can obtain your citizenship in Australia.

Automatic acquisition

The most common and obvious way to become an Australian citizen is being born in Australia and have a parent who is an Australian citizen or a permanent resident at the time of your birth. You are also automatically an Australian citizen if you are born in Australia and you are an ordinarily resident in Australia for a period of 10 years beginning on the day you are born.

The less common pathways include:

  • Citizenship by adoption under a law in force in a State or Territory
  • Citizenship for abandoned children
  • Citizenship by incorporation of Territory
Acquisition by application

If you do not meet the above circumstances, you would have to apply for your citizenship. The main categories for acquisition by application are:

Citizenship by descent

If you are born outside of Australia on or after 26 January 1949, you may be eligible to acquire citizenship if a parent of yours was an Australian citizen at the time of your birth. You may also be eligible to become an Australian citizen if you are born outside of Australia or New Guinea before 26 January 1949 and a parent of yours was an Australian citizen on 26 January 1949.

Adopted Children

If the child is adopted outside Australia by an Australian parent under the Hague Convention or a bilateral agreement, he/she can apply to become an Australian citizen by adoption. Read more here.

Citizenship by conferral

Citizenship by conferral is the most common way for Australian Permanent Resident to acquire their Australian Citizenship.  The general criteria are:

  • Residency requirement: You are a permanent resident or eligible New Zealand citizen for the past 12 months.
  • Residency requirement: At the time of the application, you must have been living in Australia on a valid visa for the past 4 years.
  • Residency requirement: You have not been away from Australia for more than 12 months in total in the past 4 years, including no more than 90 days in total in the past 12 months.
  • Character requirement: You must be of good character. The Department of Home Affairs will consider whether you are likely to uphold and obey Australian laws and whether you will meet the other commitments made through the citizenship pledge.
  • Knowledge requirement: To become an Australian citizen, you must show that you understand what it means to be a citizen. You will be required to sit a citizenship test and must score at least 75% on the test.
  • Language requirement: As English is Australia’s national language, you must demonstrate that you have a basic knowledge of English. By passing the citizenship test, you will be deemed to meet the language requirement.
  • Close and continuing link to Australia: When assessing your citizenship application, the officer can consider if you have any links to Australia. This includes if you have a partner or child who is an Australian citizen, a job in Australia, property in Australia and so forth.

You can read more about residency requirements here.

Meeting the above criteria is one step towards becoming an Australia citizen. To acquire the citizenship, you will have to attend a citizenship ceremony. You will be invited to attend the ceremony, and the ceremony is usually within 6 months of your application being approved. During the ceremony you will have to pledge your commitment to become an Australian citizen.

Other Pathways

As a subset of citizenship by conferral, you may be eligible for citizenship by through one of the following pathways:

  • Children under 15 years old can apply for citizenship on their own with the consent of the parents.
  • You are born outside of Australia and your parent was an Australian citizen before you were born.
  • You are born in Papua before 16 September 1975 and have at least one parent who was born in Australia and was an Australian citizen at the time of your birth.
  • You are born in Australia on or after 1 July 2007 and you are not a national or citizen of any country.
Resume Citizenship

You may apply to have your citizenship resumed if you became a citizen of another country as an adult before 4 April 2002 and you renounced your citizenship to avoid significant hardship or detriment.