Becoming an Australian citizen

Publish Date: Jun 01, 2012

When a person becomes a citizen, they are able to enjoy all the rights, privileges and protections that are conferred to all Australians. Many people are fortunate to be born in Australia, therefore automatically gaining citizenship in most instances. While for others who aren’t as lucky, they’re required to fulfil various obligations in order to be eligible to gain Australian citizenship. Individuals who are permanent resident, are a partner or spouse of a citizen, refugee or migrant are just some of the category of people who may be eligible to become fully fledged Aussies.

The good character requirements

The initial prerequisite that most applicants need to fulfil when attempting to gain citizenship is that they must demonstrate that they are of good character. In order for a person to prove that they are of good character, a penal clearance certificate is required if the applicant has spent a significant amount of time overseas, while also holding a permanent resident visa.

All applicants must inform the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (the Department) of any findings of guilt in a court of law which has resulted in either a term of imprisonment, a good behaviour bond or a fine as modes of punishment.

However, a person who has been found guilty of a speeding or parking violation, generally aren’t required to disclose such information. Furthermore, a person who has been convicted of more serious offences might face difficulties in gaining citizenship if:

  • they have been imprisoned in Australia, or have proceedings against them pending
  • they have been released from a term of imprisonment less than two years after committing a serious offence, or 10 years after their last criminal offence if they were a repeat offender
  • they are subject to certain conditions imposed by an Australian court, such as a good behaviour bond, or parole
  • they have been admitted into a psychiatric facility in connection for a serious offence committed in Australia.

Alternatively, anyone who was found guilty of a minor offence, and has not committed any criminal acts in the 10 years preceding an application for citizenship, or has not been sentenced to more than 30 months imprisonment, aren’t required to disclose any minor conviction unless the Department makes a request for such information.

The citizenship test

A further condition applicants must meet in order to gain citizenship is to successfully pass the citizenship test, which is conducted to ensure that all applicants have a basic grasp of English, as well an understanding of the customs of Australia. The citizenship test consists of 20 questions taken from the official guide, Becoming an Australian Citizen which is published by the Department, and an applicant receives a passing grade if they are able to answer 15 of the 20 questions correctly.

Who can apply to become an Australian citizen?

Anyone who is a permanent resident, spouse or partner of an Australian, child of a former citizen, and eligible migrants or refugees can make an application to gain Australian citizenship. However, permanent residents should be aware that although they are allowed to vote and serve in the Australian armed forces, this still does not confer automatic citizenship rights, and they must still undergo the citizenship application process.

If you have any questions or concerns relating to visas or your citizenship application, please seek the appropriate legal advice.

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