Good character and offences

Applicants seeking Australian citizenship aged 18 years and over must be of 'good character'. Good character covers the 'enduring moral qualities of a person' and whether they are likely to uphold and obey the laws of Australia, and other commitments they make through the Australian Citizenship Pledge.

In addition, applicants may need to obtain an overseas penal clearance certificate, or overseas police check as they are sometimes known, from each country visited.

Any applicant for citizenship by conferral, whether under or over 18 years of age, must not be approved for citizenship in certain circumstances relating to criminal offences. Read more about the offence provisions below.

More information about the good character requirement is available in Chapter 10 of the Australian Citizenship Instructions in Law and Policy.

What are the offence provisions?

There are certain circumstances where an application for Australian citizenship must not be approved if a person has committed an offence against an Australian law, or where there are proceedings pending in relation to the person for an offence against an Australian law. Section 24(6) of the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 sets out these circumstances.
See: Law and Policy

National Police Checking Service (NPCS) – General information

Read important information about national police checks and spent convictions legislation.

Do I need an overseas penal clearance certificate?

Requirements for applications for Australian citizenship

The following requirements apply to the period of time you have held a permanent Australian visa.

You need penal clearance certificates from overseas countries if:

  • you lived or travelled overseas since the age of 18 years or over, and
  • the total time spent overseas added up to 12 months or more, and
  • the time spent in any one country was more than 90 days, or
  • you are requested to do so by the department.

Provide a penal clearance certificate from every country that you spent more than 90 days in.

Requirements for applications for citizenship by descent, adoption or resumption

You need penal clearance certificates from overseas countries if, in the last 10 years you:

  • have lived or travelled overseas since reaching the age of 18 years of age, and
  • spent time overseas that adds up to 12 months or more, and
  • spent more than 90 days in any one country, or
  • are requested to do so by the department.

Provide a penal clearance certificate from every country that you spent more than 90 days in.

New Zealand applicants

New Zealand citizens who do not hold a permanent visa must provide a penal clearance certificate from New Zealand if they have left Australia since the age of 18, irrespective of destination or the amount of time spent overseas.

For more information on this particular requirement contact the Citizenship Information Line. In Australia telephone 131880 between 8.30 am and 4.30 pm Monday to Friday.

Overseas applicants

If you are overseas when applying, you should treat Australia as an overseas country. You will need to complete the Australian Federal Police National Police Check Application Form, which is available from the Australian Federal Police website.

How do I get an overseas penal clearance certificate?

A penal clearance certificate is obtained from an overseas country's government or law enforcement authority. See the section entitled Police Check for each country listed below which you are required to obtain a certificate from.

Africa

Asia-Pacific

Central America, South America and the Caribbean

Central Asia

Europe

Middle East

North America

What if a certificate is not available?

In some countries, police certificates are only available to citizens or residents. Where this applies, it will be indicated in the country information. If a category, such as non-citizen or non-resident, is not listed in the country information, it generally means a certificate cannot be obtained.

If a certificate cannot be obtained, or if a country is not listed on this page, please contact your nearest Australian Immigration overseas office for further information.

Convictions

You must tell the department about any convictions you may have had in Australia or overseas.

A conviction is a criminal charge leading to a guilty verdict in a court of law resulting in imprisonment or a fine or good behaviour bond. A traffic infringement, such as an on-the-spot speeding or parking fine is not considered a conviction.

Certain circumstances relating to criminal offences prevent an application for Australian citizenship by conferral being approved. These are summarised below.

  • You are in prison in Australia, or have proceedings pending against you
  • You have been released from a prison in Australia for less than 2 years after a serious offence, or 10 years if you are a repeat offender
  • You are subject to certain conditions set by an Australian court (such as being released on parole, good behaviour or bail) where action may be taken against you for breach of those conditions
  • You are confined in a psychiatric institution in connection with proceedings for an offence against an Australian law.

If any of the above apply to you at the time you lodge your application please contact the Citizenship Information Line. In Australia telephone 131880 between 8.30 am and 4.30 pm Monday to Friday.

Spent convictions

You must declare all spent convictions when you complete your application form.

The spent convictions law allows people with minor convictions to disregard those convictions after a certain period of time. A conviction may be considered spent if:

  • it is 10 years since the date of the conviction (or five years for juvenile offenders)
  • the person was not sentenced to imprisonment or was not sentenced to imprisonment for more than 30 months
  • the person has not re-offended during the 10 years (or five years for juveniles) period
  • a statutory or prescribed exclusion does not apply.

The department is allowed to ask you for this information for the purpose of assessing your application.