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Australian Citizen

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Overview

In order to establish residency, it must first be decided if a person is an Australian resident. One definition of an Australian resident is a person who resides in Australia and is an Australian citizen. Below are details of what constitutes an Australian citizen.

Definition

A person may become an Australian citizen by:

  • birth;
  • adoption; or
  • naturalisation.
Citizenship by Birth

The following table shows who is considered to be an Australian citizen by birth.

If born in Australia...

And at the time of birth...

Then citizenship was acquired...

before 26 January 1949

on 26 January 1949

between 26 January 1949 and 19 August 1986

neither parent was a foreign diplomatic or consular official

at birth

on or after 20 August 1986

at least one parent is either an Australian citizen or permanent resident of Australia

at birth

Note: - Children born overseas to a parent who is an Australian citizen will become an Australian citizen by descent. A person born on Norfolk Island is entitled to Australian citizenship under the Australian Citizenship Act  2007 (Cth) as long as one parent is an Australian citizen or a permanent resident of Australia (including Norfolk Island).

Between 1 September 1994 and 26 February 2001, people born in Australia to New Zealand parents became Australian citizens at birth if the parents were present in Australia as Special Category Visa holders. From 27 February 2001, people born in Australia to New Zealand citizen parents generally do not become an Australian citizen at birth, except under special circumstances.

Citizenship by Adoption

A child who is a permanent resident and who is legally adopted in Australia acquires Australian citizenship automatically when adopted if at least one adoptive parent is an Australian citizen at the time.

Children adopted overseas by Australian citizens may be granted citizenship.

Citizenship by Naturalisation

In order to qualify for Australian citizenship, applicants will need:

  • 4 years lawful residence in Australia prior to making an application for Australian citizenship, with at least 12 months as a permanent resident, and
  • Absences from Australia of no more than 12 months in total of the 4 years prior to application, and no more than 3 months in the 12 month permanent residency period prior to application.

Alternatively, a person is eligible to become an Australian citizen if they have completed relevant defence service at the time of application.  Relevant defence service includes:

  • that the person has completed at least 3 months service in the permanent forces of the Commonwealth, or
  • at least 6 months in the Naval Reserve, the Army Reserve or the Air Force Reserve, or
  • was discharged from that service as medically unfit for that service or who became so unfit because of that service.

In addition to the residency requirement, people applying for Australian citizenship must also possess a basic knowledge of the English language and have an adequate understanding of the responsibilities and privileges of Australian citizenship.

Surrendered Citizenship

People who had given up or lost citizenship can reapply for citizenship through Department of Immigration and Citizenship after a period of 12 months.

Note – the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 also provides provision for foreign nationals.


An Australian resident is a person who:

  • resides in Australia; and
  • is one of the following:
  • an Australian citizen;
  • the holder of a permanent visa;
  • the holder of a special category visa who is likely to remain permanently in Australia;
  • the holder of a special purpose visa who is likely to remain permanently in Australia.

Australia is defined in the Acts Interpretations Act 1901 and includes the following territories and Islands:

  • Christmas Island
  • Cocos (Keeling) Islands

Subsection 5Q(1) of the VEA provides specifically that the definition of Australia includes the external territories for many VEA purposes including Part III, IIIAB, some parts of Part IIIB, Parts IIID, VIIA, VIIC and sections 52ZO, 58A, and 132.  Norfolk Island] is currently the only external territory of Australia. For the above VEA sections, which cover service pension, [glossary:income support supplement:118], pension bonus, pension loans scheme, Veterans supplement, pension supplement and Commonwealth Seniors Health Card purposes it is considered to be part of Australia. The test of residing in Australia does not by itself satisfy the full definition of Australian Resident, as residency also requires Australian citizenship or the holding of a specified visa.

Papua New Guinea and Nauru have both previously been external territories of Australia.  Lord Howe Island and Macquarie Island, formerly regarded as separate islands, are now part of mainland NSW and Tasmania respectively.