Quick guide to Australian citizenship

This quick guide will give you a broad overview of the processes required to become an Australian citizen. Click on the relevant topic of interest below for more information.

What does Australian citizenship mean?

Becoming an Australian citizen means you call Australia home with all the privileges and responsibilities of a person who was born here.

Australian citizenship is a privilege that offers enormous rewards. By becoming an Australian citizen, you are joining a unique national community.

Becoming an Australian citizen means that you are making an ongoing commitment to Australia and all that this country stands for. It is also the beginning of your formal membership of the Australian community. It is the step that will enable you to say 'I am Australian'.

Australia is a democracy. Citizenship gives you the opportunity to fully participate in building our democratic nation. It means that you are ready to fulfil your responsibilities as a formal member of the Australian community. Australians believe in the dignity and freedom of each person, the equality of men and women and the rule of law. Australian citizenship is about living out these values in your everyday life.

When can I become an Australian citizen?

You become an Australian citizen by being born here to Australian parents or permanent resident parents, or when you apply and are accepted for citizenship.

When to apply for Australian citizenship

You can apply for citizenship if any of these circumstances apply to you.

If you migrated to Australia and meet the eligibility requirements you can apply for citizenship by conferral. Confer means to give. Citizenship by conferral means to be given citizenship.

People in this category can include:

  • spouses of Australian citizens
  • New Zealand and British citizens who have lived here for a long time
  • children of a former Australian citizens
  • Papuans born before independence in 1975
  • people who arrived under the Commonwealth Child Migration Scheme
  • refugees and humanitarian entrants.

If you were born overseas to an Australian parent you can apply for citizenship by descent.

If you were adopted by an Australian citizen you can apply for citizenship by adoption or conferral depending on whether your adoption was finalized in Australia or overseas.

If you lost or gave up your citizenship you can apply for citizenship by resumption.

Could I already be a citizen?

There are a number of circumstances where you could have automatically gained citizenship even though your parent or parents were not Australian citizens.

If you were born in Australia on or after:

  • 20 August 1986 to an Australian citizen or permanent resident parent, you became an Australian citizen at birth.
  • 20 August 1986 to parents who were not permanent residents or Australian citizens, you may have become an Australian citizen automatically on your 10th birthday.

If you were born in Australia between:

  • 22 November 1984 and 19 August 1986 you became an Australian citizen at birth unless one parent was entitled to diplomatic privileges or was a consular officer.
  • 26 January 1949 and 21 November 1984 you became an Australian citizen at birth unless your father was entitled to diplomatic privileges or was a consular officer.

Long term residents

If you arrived in Australia after 26 January 1944, you are probably not an Australian citizen even though you have been able to vote or may have served in the Australian armed services.

Proof of your citizenship

If you are not sure of your citizenship status, or you need to get proof of your citizenship you can apply for evidence of your citizenship.

How do I become an Australian citizen?

You usually apply to become an Australian citizen. The process may vary depending on the application requirements but, in general, you will need to:

  • determine which type of application for citizenship suits your personal circumstances
  • check that you are eligible to apply for your selected application type
  • gather your original documents that prove your identity, show you are of good character and support your eligibility
  • complete and lodge your application with the necessary documents and appropriate fee
  • wait to find out if you have been approved and, if you applied for citizenship by conferral attend a citizenship ceremony to formalize (legalise) the decision.

A decision on your application for citizenship will only be made after you have lodged a completed application form together with the required documents and fee.

Children

Children under 16 years of age are usually included on a responsible parent's application form but can apply on their own behalf in some circumstances.

Where can I apply for Australian citizenship?

If you are applying for citizenship by conferral you will usually be in Australia when you apply because:

  • of the residential requirement, and
  • the requirement to be in the country when the decision on your application is made.

If you are applying for citizenship by descent, adoption or resumption you can apply and lodge your application in Australia or offshore.

How long does an application for Australian citizenship take to be approved?

The time it takes to apply for and be approved for Australian citizenship varies. The Client Service Charter provides details on the service standard for processing an application for Australian citizenship.

The final legal step in the journey to become an Australian citizen, for most people is to make a Pledge of Commitment at a citizenship ceremony. Generally, you will be invited to attend a citizenship ceremony at your local council within 3 months of being approved, although waiting times can vary.

Last reviewed Thursday 13 February 2014

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