I hold a permanent residency visa – am I eligible for Australian Citizenship?
Eligibility criteria for Australian citizenship
As a permanent resident, you must satisfy certain criteria to be eligible for Australian Citizenship:
- Be a permanent resident at the time of application and at the time a decision is made
- Meet the residency requirements
- Be of good character
- Have a basic knowledge of the English language
- Intend to reside in or maintain close and continuing association with Australia
- Pass the Citizenship Test (unless you’re 60 or over)
- Attend a Citizenship Ceremony and make the Australian Citizenship Pledge
- Pay the application fee, currently $285.00 as at September 2018
Permanent residency requirement
You must have lived in Australia on a valid Australian visa for four years immediately before applying for citizenship. Of those four years, the last 12 months residency must have been on a valid Australian permanent visa.
You must not have been absent from Australia for more than a year in total and no more than 90 days in the last 12 months.
You can be in or outside Australia when you apply, however you must be a permanent resident of Australia at the time you apply and also at the time a decision is made.
If you were granted permanent resident visa before you arrived in Australia, then your permanent residency begins on the day you arrived in Australia on that visa.
If you were granted a permanent residency visa after you arrived in Australia, then your permanent residency began on the date that visa was granted.
Convictions, even offences not recorded as convictions, will play into the assessment of your character. Even driving offences will be taken into consideration and must be disclosed in your application. Convictions however will not preclude you from citizenship. The following matters are generally considered as part of the character assessment:
- Convictions – the type and nature of the offences
- The number of offences
- If you have given honest disclosure of your offending
- The period of time since the offences
- Whether you have accepted responsibility for your behaviour and expressed remorse
- The amount of any fines and if they have been paid
- Any terms of imprisonment
If you have convictions, you should take legal advice before applying for citizenship. There is the possibility of your visa being cancelled if convictions are brought to the attention of the Department of Home Affairs.
The Citizenship Test and making the Pledge
You must sit and pass the Citizenship Test and if you satisfy all the other criteria, you may then be invited to attend a Citizenship Ceremony to make the Pledge. It’s important to complete this final step, as you must take the Australian Citizenship Pledge to be granted Citizenship.
Common reasons for refusals
About 4000 applicants for citizenship were refused in 2016-17 (the 2018 figures are not publicly available). The most common reasons were:
- Not passing the Citizenship Test
- Failing to prove identity
- Failing police checks (character)
- Involvement in extremist groups
The ability to prove identity and be of sufficiently good character were the most common reasons for citizenship refusals.
Backlog of applications
In 2017 the Government announced proposed changes to the citizenship criteria, in particular the proposal to increase the permanent residency requirements to 4 years. This proposal didn’t get through Parliament, however it created a rush of applications for citizenship by people trying to avoid the 4 year wait period.
Earlier this year there were more than 200,000 pending applications and the Department of Home Affairs was recruiting more staff to deal with the backlog. Processing times are now reducing and currently the Department states that applications for migrants are dealt with in most cases within 70 days.
Other routes to citizenship
Different rules apply for people are who New Zealand citizens, children who are adopted from outside Australia by an Australian citizen, children born outside Australia to an Australian citizen, people who have lost citizenship and wish to resume it and refugees and humanitarian entrants.
Do you need advice about your eligibility for Australian Citizenship?
If you need advice on your eligibility for Australian Citizenship, please contact our Migration Team. Call us on 07 5597 3366 or complete the ‘Contact Us’ form below.
Please note that this article has been prepared by Bell Legal Group, for information purposes only. It is not legal advice nor should it be relied upon as such..