5 ways to gain Australian citizenship

Australia has become one of the most popular places to live, owing to its thriving economy, excellent quality of life, breath-taking landscapes and large expat population.

The most common ways to gain Australian citizenship, according to Sam Hopwood: director – Australia and Oceania regions at Sable International, are through birth and conferral (naturalisation).

However, he noted that there are some other paths. Here’s a full list:

  • Birth;
  • Conferral;
  • Descent;
  • Adoption;
  • Resume citizenship.

1. Australian citizenship by birth

Most people born in Australia between 26 January 1949 and 20 August 1986 are Australian citizens by birth.

If you were born in Australia after 20 August 1986, you aren’t automatically entitled to Australian citizenship. The nationality and residency status of your parents will determine whether you can make a claim to citizenship.

For example:

A child born to a person who is an Australian citizen OR an Australian permanent resident are automatically Australian citizens at birth.
However, children born in Australia to parents on a temporary visa (like the Temporary Skilled Shortage visa) aren’t Australian citizens by birth and will inherit the same visa status as their parents.


2. Australian citizenship by conferral

There are numerous ways to gain Australian citizenship by conferral. To do so, you’ll need to reside in Australia on a permanent visa. Australian citizenship can be granted after a period of continuous residency (four years) in Australia on a qualifying visa, including 12 months as a permanent resident.

The following are examples of visas or statuses that qualify for continuous residency:

  • General Skilled Migration;
  • Partner of an Australian citizen;
  • Parent of an Australian citizen;
  • Eligible New Zealand citizen.

You will need to meet the criteria below to be eligible for Australian citizenship:

  • Pass the Australian citizenship test with 75% or above (you don’t have to take this test if you’re over the age of 60);
  • Be a permanent resident when you apply and when a decision is made;
  • Satisfy the residence requirement;
  • Intend to continue living in Australia or maintain a close and longstanding link with the country;
  • If you’re over the age of 18, you’ll have to show that you’re of “good character”.

If you’re granted citizenship by conferral, you’ll need to attend a citizenship ceremony where you make the Australian Citizenship Pledge to officially become an Australian citizen.

There are a few exceptions where you don’t need to reside in Australia on a permanent visa to be eligible for Australian citizenship by conferral:

  • Those born to a former Australian citizen;
  • Persons born in Papua New Guinea before independence in 1975;
  • People born in Australia and are stateless.

3. Australian citizenship by descent

If one of your parents was an Australian citizen at the time of your birth, you’re entitled to claim Australian citizenship, irrespective of your country of birth. Your birth will need to have occurred on or after 26 January 1949, or through an international surrogacy arrangement. If you’re over the age of 18, you’ll have to show that you’re of “good character”.

If a parent later loses their Australian citizenship for whatever reason, you continue to remain an Australian citizen.


4. Australian citizenship by adoption

If you were born outside of Australia, but were adopted by an Australian citizen, you may qualify for Australian citizenship by adoption.

If you select this route, you must meet the requirements listed below:

  • Those born to a former Australian citizen;
  • Persons born in Papua New Guinea before independence in 1975;
  • People born in Australia and are stateless;
  • At least one of your adoptive parents must be an Australian citizen at the time of your adoption;
  • If your adoptive parent became an Australian citizen by descent or adoption, they must’ve spent minimum total of two years in the country;
  • You must provide a valid adoption compliance certificate;
  • If you’re over the age of 18, you’ll have to show that you’re of “good character”.

5. Resume citizenship

If you are a former Australian citizen, you might be able to resume your Australian citizenship. Whether you’ll be allowed to do so will depend on the reason you’re no longer a citizen. If you don’t qualify, you’ll need to assess whether you’re eligible for citizenship by conferral.

You’re eligible to resume your Australian citizenship if:

  • As an adult, you became a citizen of another country prior to April 2002;
  • You gave up or renounced your Australian citizenship to get or keep citizenship of another country;
  • You renounced your Australian citizenship to evade considerable hardship or harm;
  • As a child, your Australian citizenship was withdrawn when your responsible parent’s ended;
  • You were once an Australian citizen by registration or naturalisation, however, your Australian citizenship ended because you lived outside of Australia and Papua New Guinea for seven consecutive years between 26 January 1948 and 8 October 1958;
  • If you’re over the age of 18, you must be able to show that you’re of “good character”.

You may not resume your Australian citizenship if:

  • You were born in Papua and lost your Australian citizenship automatically on 16 September 1975 under Papua and New Guinea law (when Papua New Guinea achieved independence);
  • You lost your Australian citizenship for a reason not already mentioned.

Applying for Australian citizenship can be a technical and complex process. We recommend contacting an Australian citizenship expert to ensure you have the best chance of a successful application.

  • By Sam Hopwood: Director – Australia and Oceania regions at Sable International
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