Pathways to Australian Citizenship

Pathways to Australian Citizenship

There are several pathways to becoming an Australian Citizen, including Citizenship By Conferral, Citizenship By Descent, And Citizenship for Eligible New Zealand Citizens residing in Australia. 

Each pathway has is designed for people in different circumstances, and has it’s own eligibility criteria.

Citizenship by Descent

Citizenship by descent is a pathway to Australian citizenship available to individuals born outside of Australia to at least one Australian citizen parent. 

This means that if one or both of your parents were Australian citizens at the time of your birth, you may be eligible to claim Australian citizenship by descent. 

This pathway allows individuals to acquire Australian citizenship through their parent’s citizenship status, rather than by birth within Australia. 

To apply for citizenship by descent, applicants typically need to provide evidence of their parent’s Australian citizenship, such as a birth certificate or citizenship certificate, along with their own birth certificate and other supporting documentation.

Once granted, citizenship by descent confers the same rights and privileges as citizenship acquired through other pathways, including the ability to live, work, and study in Australia indefinitely, as well as access to consular assistance and other benefits of Australian citizenship.

There are three main boxes you must tick in order to fulfil the eligibility criteria for the citizenship by descent route:

  • First, you must have been born outside Australia on or after 26 January 1949. 
  • Second, the person you are claiming descent from must have been both your parent and an Australian Citizen at your time of birth. 
  • Third, you must be of good character if you are 18 years or older at the time of your application.

If you do not fit in to the above criteria, you may want to consider the permanent residency route (or Citizenship by conferral) discussed below.

Citizenship by conferral

To be eligible for citizenship by conferral, you must be a permanent resident for at least 4 years at the time of application and physically in Australia for at least 90 days before applying.

One of the more common routes to obtaining permanent residency is the sponsored skilled work visa scheme through an Australian employer, after which you can apply for permanent residency. The basic eligibility criteria involves you having the necessary skills for the nominated job; must be nominated by an Australian employer and must meet the health and character requirements prescribed by the Department of Home Affairs.

New Zealand Citizens who have been living in Australia for 5 years on a SCV and started their residency before 19 February 2016 may be eligible for permanent residency.

Before applying it important you make sure you meet the Department’s eligibility requirements such as language proficiency, character, health, and hold a close and continuing link to Australia (e.g. work, family etc.).

Residence Requirement

Citizenship by Conferral also has the ‘residence requirement.’ This involves being lawfully present in Australia for the periods specified below:

  1. 12 months as a permanent resident;
  2. Absences from Australia must not exceed 12 months during the 4-year period starting from your application date;
  3. Absences from Australia lasting no longer than three months within the 12-month period prior to applying.

Eligible New Zealand Citizen in Australia

If you hold a New Zealand citizenship under certain circumstances you may be eligible for Australian citizenship.

It is important to note, New Zealand Citizens do not need to apply for a visa when entering Australia as they are automatically given a Special Category Visa (SCV) (given they meet the entry requirements) which allows them to to live, work and apply for permanent residency as long as they remain a New Zealand Citizen.

If you are a New Zealand citizen in Australia you can apply for a citizenship by conferral without having to become a permanent residency first.

Summary – Pathways to Australian Citizenship

Birth in Australia

Individuals born in Australia to at least one Australian citizen or permanent resident parent are automatically granted Australian citizenship by birth, irrespective of their parents’ citizenship status.

Citizenship by Descent

Individuals born outside Australia to at least one Australian citizen parent may be eligible for Australian citizenship by descent. This pathway allows individuals to claim citizenship through their Australian parent(s).

Citizenship by Conferral

This pathway is available for individuals who are permanent residents of Australia and have lived in the country for a specified period. Eligible applicants must pass a citizenship test and satisfy other criteria, including residency requirements, English language proficiency, and character assessments.

Eligible New Zealand Citizen in Australia

New Zealand citizens can apply for Australian citizenship if they hold either a permanent visa or a Special Category Visa (SCV), and must meet the general residence requirement of being lawfully present in Australia for four years, including 12 months as a permanent resident, with SCV time considered permanent residence for citizenship purposes from 1 July 2023.

Citizenship by Adoption

Children adopted outside Australia by Australian citizens may be eligible for citizenship by adoption. This pathway requires completion of an adoption process recognized under Australian law.

Citizenship by Resumption

Former Australian citizens who lost their citizenship through renunciation or other means may be eligible to resume their citizenship under certain circumstances.

Special Eligibility

Individuals who do not qualify for citizenship through other pathways may be eligible for citizenship under special eligibility provisions, which consider factors such as refugee or humanitarian status, statelessness, or exceptional circumstances.

Each pathway to Australian citizenship has specific eligibility criteria, application processes, and requirements. Applicants should carefully review the criteria for their chosen pathway and seek professional advice if needed to ensure they meet all the necessary requirements.

Need help with your citizenship application? Contact us and we will pair you up with one of our migration lawyers or agents to assist you on your journey.

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