There are many good reasons why you might want to apply for Australian citizenship. You have probably been living in Australia for some time already or have married an Australian and have made the decision to become a citizen. Without citizenship, you cannot vote in a state or federal election, and even as a permanent resident lack the feeling of security that citizens have. Every time you leave the country (assuming there is a post-Covid return to normal at some point) you may have to go through some sort of bureaucracy to ensure you can return. Rules about becoming a citizen can change over time as well, usually making it less easy to apply. When you become a citizen, you are showing that you have a commitment to Australia and are ready to take an active role in Australian society.
Eligibility for Australian citizenship
There are three main ways to become an Australian citizen.
- The first is the most obvious one and is unlikely to apply to you. If you are born in Australia and one or both of your parents is already an Australian citizen or a permanent resident, you automatically become an Australian citizen as of right. Note that just being born in Australia by itself is not enough. A highly controversial case currently being debated brings this distinction to mind. Two Sri Lankan nationals came to Australia as refugees. They got married while in Australia and had two children. Their refugee status was denied by the Australian government and their two children, despite being born in the country, were denied Australian citizenship status.
- The second is also obvious. If you were born in another country but one or both of your parents are Australian citizens, then you also normally have the right to Australian citizenship yourself.
- The third is the main way that anyone else not in the first two categories becomes a citizen. They must be a permanent resident, have been living in Australia for a minimum period of time, apply for citizenship and pay the relevant fee. This method of becoming citizenship is called naturalization.
More about the application will be explained further below.
When you become an Australian citizen, Australia allows you to keep the citizenship of your birth, i.e. be a dual citizen. However, not every country returns the favor. This means that if you become an Australian citizen, you may lose your own citizenship because the government of your birth country doesn’t recognize dual citizenship. This is an important consideration to think about before you apply for Australian citizenship, especially if you have many relatives in your old home country. Many people who have migrated to Australia decide to remain as permanent residents so they don’t lose the right to return and live if necessary in their birth country.
The application process
There are five main criteria that must be met before your citizenship application is accepted.
- You must be a permanent resident at the time of application;
- You must be over 16;
- You must have lived in Australia for at least 4 years, of which one-year minimum must have been as a permanent resident;
- You must be of good character. This basically means that you haven’t been in trouble with the law, e.g. committed a crime.
- You must pass a citizenship test that simultaneously tests your knowledge of English and knowledge and understanding of Australian society, values, and history.
Once you think that you have met the first four criteria mentioned above, it is time to fill in an application form, pay the application fee and send it to the Department of Home Affairs. You will be contacted once your initial application has been approved and you will then be asked to sit the citizenship test. If everything goes well, then you will be invited to attend a formal citizenship ceremony at a local venue with other new citizens. This often happens on Australia Day. After becoming a citizen you will be able to apply for an Australian passport.
What is dual citizenship?
Multiple citizenship or dual citizenship in Australia is where an individual has the status of holding two citizenships, one Australian and another that allows its citizens to hold dual citizenship with Australia. The dual citizen is expected to follow the rules of both countries depending on where they are living at the time.
How to file an application in Australia for dual citizenship
You can apply as long as you fulfill the requirements below:
You are entitled to be an Australian dual citizen as long as you:
- are already an Australian citizen;
- possess citizenship of a 2nd country which allows you to maintain your Australian citizenship;
- remain as another country’s citizen and then become a citizen of Australia.
Australia does allow an individual to possess dual citizenship but a few countries don’t. So, you may have dual citizenship in Australia if the 2nd country also allows dual citizenship. Both two countries need to agree to dual citizenship. From the 4th April 2002, all restrictions were removed from Australia so that Australians could hold other citizenships which meant dual citizenship was from that date quite legal.
Which countries allow dual citizenship in Australia?
The following countries permit dual citizenship with any country, including Australia:
- Fed. Rep. Yugoslavia,
- New Zealand,
- South Africa,
- The United Kingdom,
- The United States,
- Western Samoa.
Restrictions that come with dual citizenship in Australia
If you are a dual national as an Australian traveling to your second country of nationality, you need to know if you have to face any restrictions. For example, some countries require compulsory military service for their dual nationals. These include:
If you do not undertake the military service required you are breaking the country’s law. You may be arrested and put in jail as you will be a defaulter (draft-dodger) Even if you are over the age for military service, you may still be charged for being a defaulter.
Some countries allow dual nationals to access their public health care service but this is not always the case.
Marriage and family issues
- An Australian marriage between an Australian and someone who holds another nationality may not have the marriage recognized in that other country
- An Australian in the second country could find that their marriage isn’t recognized so any children may be considered illegitimate
Some Australian families may try to arrange a child’s marriage in their dual citizen country where the marriageable age is less than in Australia. According to Australian law, the following applies:
- a child below aged 16 can’t marry
- a child 16 or 17 years old needs a court order to marry which has been issued by an Australian court.
These laws are applicable to marriages that have taken place in Australia. If a child who lives in Australia below 18 years, marries overseas without obtaining a court order, Australia will not recognize that marriage.
Dual nationality can affect a court decision about child custody.
As a dual citizen, Australia cannot help you in your second country in the following situations:
- it cannot provide consular assistance if the other government doesn’t recognize that you are an Australian;
- it cannot get you excluded from any compulsory military service if you have been called up;
- it cannot assist you to get out of trouble if you have been arrested or put in jail;
- it cannot provide any legal advice.
Over the last few years, immigration has contributed towards the growth in population and the cultural diversity in Australia.
- Up to now at least 29 percent of the population originates from another country.
- Out of this 29 percent, 19 percent come from a non-English speaking country.
- The Australian population includes at least 200 different countries of origin.
- The Australian workforce is made up of a wide range of diverse groups.
Cultural diversity helps to do the following:
- It can help to stop racial discrimination.
- It develops and sustains a positive public view of Australia.
- It creates a healthier work culture.
- It can promote creativity and innovation.
- It can help to upgrade work skills.
- It supports the local economy and community life.
- It can help to expand new business ideas and create new markets.
- It fills unfilled job vacancies.
In addition to these positive results for immigration and cultural diversity, the age of immigrants generally falls in the working-age bracket, which is between 30 and 54 years. Immigrants make up 34.1 percent of this age group. Also, there is such an ethnically diverse workforce it benefits some of the best firms because it adds 35 percent to their revenue.
Other benefits of cultural diversity and immigration are:
- that workers are prepared to work flexible hours in both part-time and full-time jobs;
- that workers can provide training in cultural awareness;
- it supports zero tolerance for any workplace discrimination.
Australia champions cultural diversity compared to other countries that have a high migrant intake.
The benefits of a skilled labor force
A workplace team composed of ethnically diverse professionals may provide useful inputs about services and products and expectations of diverse communities and what gaps need to be filled to satisfy the markets. Because of the diversification present in Australia, innovative and new traditions introduced to make a brilliant workplace community.
Work opportunities grow due to immigration
The two areas which experience growth are in the field of education and construction. Migrants boost building programs and jobs in the educational sector and contribute to the growth in construction jobs to build a house for new migrants. Each year, construction jobs grow by 8 percent annually. This contributes 8 percent to the GDP per year.
Immigration contributes a lot to the Australian economy. If you just take income tax on its own that was worth more than $80 billion in the last year just from migrants. The IMF has estimated that Australia’s present migration program is expected to add 0.5-1% points to yearly GDP growth between 2020 and 2050. Between 2016 and 2017, Australia had a net overseas gain from migration which added up to 262,500 persons. This was an increase of 27.3 percent when compared to the years 2015 and 2016. Whatever individual Australians may say, the advantages of cultural diversity that comes with immigration far outweigh the disadvantages.
Multicultural Australia is without a doubt here to stay and the New South Wales Government has shown its commitment in making sure that all its residents have adequate access to all services, and opportunities throughout the state. It recognises that some residents do find it hard to communicate well enough in English to ensure they can be easily understood. To help those living in Australia who have limited ability to speak English, it offers translation and interpreting services through its various state Government agencies both public and private as well as for individuals and community groups. These professionals play a vital role in making sure that language does not become a barrier when it comes to getting access to services and crucial information.
The state government hires both translators and interpreters who have been accredited by the National Accreditation Authority of Translators and Interpreters (NAATI). This ensures a high quality service is provided to all clients whatever their cultural diversity in Australia.
The state government offers interpreting services wherever you are whether it’s for police investigations and interviews, legal matters, license testing, community interviews, health and educational situations, seminars and workshops or for individuals who need an interpreter at an interview. Its services are available 24/7 and can be booked in advance and at short notice.
Translation Services for Multicultural Australia
Translators provided by the NSW government are professionally qualified as translators and they are available in more than 104 languages and dialects that represent the cultural diversity in Australia. They are capable of translating personal documentation such as birth certificates, drivers’ licenses, overseas certificates and diplomas. They can also translate information pamphlets for organisations and transcribe video and audio materials. Proofreading is also a service that is offered by the state’s translators.
The use of Online Translation Aids
The New South Wales Government does not encourage the use of online translation products as their quality is doubtful at least at present. Most online translation tools don’t allow for the following: Variations in language use What is considered to be polite language Providing a meaningful translation Linguistic and cultural preferences of specific communities Cultural diversity in Australia
Multicultural Australia’s state translators and interpreters have a strict Code of Ethics to follow. This has been developed for the state by the Australian Sign Language Interpreters Association (ASLIA) and Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators (Ausit). This ensures confidentiality is maintained before and after the translation and when an interpreter is being used too.