Girish Mahajan (Editor)

Australian nationality law

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Date of Royal Assent  15 March 2007
Date commenced  1 July 2007
Australian nationality law

Australian nationality law determines who is and who is not an Australian citizen. The status of Australian nationality or Australian citizenship was created by the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948 (in 1973 renamed the Australian Citizenship Act 1948) which came into force on 26 January 1949. The 1948 Act was amended many times, notably in 1973, 1984, 1986 and 2002. The Australian Citizenship Act 2007 replaced the 1948 Act, commencing on 1 July 2007.


On 13 December 1973, Australia acceded to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness and to the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

Australian citizenship law is administered by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection which can issue certificates of citizenship on naturalisation or on request provide other proof or evidence of Australian citizenship. Australian passports are issued to Australian citizens by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

In Australia, the terms "nationality" and "citizenship" can be used interchangeably, but the term "citizenship" (or citizen) is more commonly used, while "nationality" is more commonly used on official documents and forms. A person may acquire citizenship automatically, "by operation of law", or by application after a period of residence in Australia. The process of acquiring citizenship by application is referred to as "naturalisation".

History of Australian citizenship

Until the passing in Australia of the Nationality Act 1920, Australia's nationality law, like that of other Commonwealth countries, was governed by the English common law concept of a British subject. (See also British nationality law.) The idea that there was such a thing as an Australian nationality as distinct from a British one was considered by the High Court of Australia in 1906 to be a "novel idea" to which it was "not disposed to give any countenance". The British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act 1914 codified the common law rules. Australia followed with the passing of the Nationality Act 1920, which codified the concept of a British subject in Australia, effective from 1 January 1921. In general, the principles of the 1920 Act and subsequent amendments followed United Kingdom legislation, although there were some differences that could lead to a person being a British subject solely under Australian law.

The 1948 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting decided to make major changes in nationality laws throughout the Commonwealth, following Canada's decision to enact its Canadian citizenship law, effective January 1, 1947. Until then all Commonwealth countries, with the exception of the Irish Free State, had a single nationality status of British subject. It was decided at that conference that the United Kingdom and the self-governing dominions would each adopt a separate national citizenship, while retaining the common status of British subject. The Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948, which came into force on 26 January 1949, gave effect to that arrangement and created the concept of Australian nationality while continuing to be British subjects. However, the status of other (non-Australian) British subjects in Australia differed from the status of those who were not British subjects. Aborigines became Australian citizens under the 1948 Act in the same way as other Australians (though Aborigines were not counted in the Australian population until after a 1967 referendum). The same applied to Torres Strait Islanders and the indigenous population of the Territory of Papua (then a part of Australia).

The relationship between Australian citizenship and a citizen of the British Empire or Commonwealth continued to evolve. In 1986, the Australia Act 1986 severed almost all of the last remaining constitutional links between the United Kingdom and Australia. Subsequently, in 1988, for the first time, the High Court ruled that anyone who was not an Australian citizen, whether or not a subject of the Monarch of the United Kingdom, was an alien.

The 1948 Act was amended many times, notably in 1958, 1973, 1984, 1986 and 2002. In 1973 the 1948 Act was renamed the Australian Citizenship Act 1948. On 15 March 2007, the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 received Royal Assent and replaced the 1948 Act, commencing on 1 July 2007.

Nationality law changes

The principal milestones in the development of Australian nationality law have been:

  • 1920 : Nationality Act 1920 codified the concept of a British subject, as defined under Australian law, effective 1 January 1921.
  • 1948 : Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948 created the concept of Australian citizenship, and came into force on 26 January 1949. Australian citizens continued to also be British subjects.
  • 1958 : On 8 October 1958, provisions which caused some naturalised Australians resident outside Australia and New Guinea for 7 years to lose Australian citizenship (section 20 of the 1948 Act) were repealed.
  • 1973 : Significant changes to the law implemented by the Whitlam Labor government, mostly effective on 1 December 1973.
  • Distinction between migrants from Commonwealth and other countries (in terms of ability to become Australian citizens) abolished. The previous residence requirements of 1 year (Commonwealth) and 5 years (non-Commonwealth) to become Australian citizens replaced by a common residence period of 3 years, but with a six-month transition period.
  • Age of majority for citizenship purposes reduced from 21 to 18.
  • The 1948 Act was renamed the Australian Citizenship Act 1948.
  • 1975 : The Papua New Guinea (Australian Citizenship) Regulations 1975 provided that any Australian citizen becoming a citizen of Papua New Guinea at Independence on 16 September 1975 should lose Australian citizenship.
  • 1984 : The Australian Citizenship (Amendment) Act 1984 became effective on 22 November 1984 and made significant changes, including that Australian law would no longer regard Australians as "British subjects." British subjects in Australia who were not Australian citizens became permanent residents. Australian passports are only to be issued to Australian citizens. At the same time, the residence period for naturalisation was reduced from 3 years to 2 years.
  • 1986 : The Australian Citizenship (Amendment) Act 1986 provided that children born in Australia on or after 20 August 1986 would only be Australian citizens if at least one parent is an Australian citizen or permanent resident.
  • 1994 : From 31 January 1994, new citizens have been required to take a pledge of commitment to Australia, instead of an oath to the Queen of Australia.
  • 2002 : From 4 April 2002, Australians becoming citizens of other countries by a voluntary act no longer lose Australian citizenship.
  • 2007 : On 1 July 2007, the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 replaced the 1948 Act. Many Australians who had lost citizenship under the 1948 Act, and their children, are given access to Australian citizenship. The residence period for naturalisation was increased from 2 years to 4 years, with a 3-year transition period for existing permanent residents, and a citizenship test was introduced.
  • Rights

    Australian citizens enjoy the following rights (subject to certain exceptions):

  • entitlement to an Australian passport and to Australian consulate assistance overseas
  • entitlement to re-enter Australia at any time without any immigration restrictions
  • immunity from deportation
  • entitlement to register overseas born children as Australian citizens by descent (subject to some additional criteria)
  • entitlement to seek employment by the Federal (Commonwealth) Government, or in the Australian Defence Force (where citizenship is normally required)
  • entitlement to vote and stand for public office (dual citizens cannot stand for office in the Federal Parliament unless they have taken all reasonable steps to renounce their foreign citizenship. (See Sue v Hill for a pertinent High Court case). Most states do allow dual citizens to stand for State Parliaments).
  • Duties

    The following duties are expected of Australian citizens:

  • obey the law
  • pay tax
  • defend Australia should the need arise
  • enroll to vote, and vote at all elections and referenda (unless there is a reasonable excuse such as a religious objection, being overseas or illness on polling day)
  • serve on a jury, if called upon
  • Acquisition of Australian citizenship - 26 January 1949

    A distinct Australian nationality or citizenship was created on 26 January 1949. Persons who had been British subjects on that date could apply to acquire the new Australian citizenship if they were:

  • born or naturalised in Australia (in general, birth in Australia automatically conferred British subject status),
  • born in New Guinea,
  • born overseas to an Australian father provided they had entered Australia with permanent entry permits on or before 26 January 1949,
  • ordinarily resident in Australia for the 5 years preceding 26 January 1949,
  • women who were married to Australian men and had entered Australia with permanent entry permits before 26 January 1949.
  • Australian citizens continued to be British subjects. A person could acquire Australian citizenship under the law even if they also held or obtained the nationality of another Commonwealth country, or if they also held foreign citizenship.

    The Australian Citizenship (Amendment) Act 1984 removed the status of "British subject" from Australian citizenship law, with effect from 22 November 1984.

    Citizenship by birth

    A person born in Australia before 25 January 1949 was automatically a British subject, based on the jus soli principle, regardless of the status of their parents: children born to visitors or foreigners also acquired citizenship by birth. (The only exception was that the children of foreign ambassadors, who were immune from local jurisdiction and from duties of allegiance, who took the nationality of their fathers.) Such persons need to apply for Australian citizenship, otherwise since 20 August 1986 they have the status of permanent resident. A person born in Australia between 26 January 1949 and 19 August 1986, automatically acquired Australian citizenship. Until 21 November 1984, such a person had the status of Australian citizen and British subject, but after that date the status of "British subject" ceased to exist in Australia.

    The jus soli principle was abolished from 20 August 1986, with persons born after that date acquiring Australian citizenship by birth only if a descendant of at least one parent who was an Australian citizen or permanent resident at the time of birth. The definition of parenthood was tested in H v Minister for Immigration and Citizenship [2010] where it was held that parenthood does not necessarily require it to be of a biological nature.

    A child born in Australia (and who is not otherwise an Australian citizen) and who lives in Australia automatically acquires Australian citizenship on his or her 10th birthday, if the child has not been granted or otherwise acquired Australian citizenship in the meantime. This occurs automatically by operation of law, and applies irrespective of the immigration status of the child or his/her parents.

    Children born in Australia whose parents are stateless and not entitled to any other country's citizenship may in some circumstances be granted Australian citizenship.

    Citizenship by descent

    Persons born overseas to an Australian citizen parent have been able to acquire Australian citizenship in the following ways:

  • British subjects born outside Australia before 26 January 1949 with an Australian father became Australian citizens automatically upon entering Australia with a permanent visa (up to 30 April 1987)
  • A person born outside Australia on or after 26 January 1949 may be registered as an Australian citizen by descent provided
  • they had an Australian citizen parent at the time of birth; and
  • if the Australian parent is also an Australian citizen by descent, that parent had lived legally in Australia for a total of 2 years
  • A person born outside Australia or New Guinea before 26 January 1949 may be registered as an Australian citizen provided:
  • that person has a parent born or naturalised in Australia or New Guinea; and
  • the parent became an Australian citizen on 26 January 1949.
  • Australian citizenship by descent is not conferred at birth, and a child born outside Australia to an Australian parent must apply for citizenship. If aged 18 or over, an applicant for Australian citizenship by descent must be of good character.

    Children of former Australian citizens

    Where an Australian parent has lost Australian citizenship before the birth of a child, the child is not eligible for Australian citizenship by descent. However, such a child is eligible for a special conferral of Australian citizenship (naturalisation) under section 21(6) of the 2007 Act if the Australian citizen parent lost Australian citizenship under section 17 of the 1948 Act prior to the child's birth.

    Section 17 concerned automatic loss of Australian citizenship upon naturalisation in another country as an adult before 4 April 2002. Children of former Australian citizens who lost their Australian citizenship under section 18 (renunciation), section 20 (loss by naturalised citizens who left Australia before 1951) or section 23 (automatic loss as a minor) do not benefit from this concession.

    There is no age limit and those over 18 are eligible to apply.

    Citizenship by naturalisation

    "Naturalisation is the process by which one undertakes allegiance to a new sovereign and, often enough, sheds allegiance to another sovereign." Between 26 January 1949 and 30 November 1973, British subjects were able to apply for registration as an Australian citizen after one year's residence in Australia as an immigrant. There was no requirement to attend a citizenship ceremony. Non-British subjects were required to apply for naturalization, which had stricter requirements, including a five-year residency.

    The Australian Citizenship Act 1973 ended the preferential treatment for British subjects from 1 December 1973. From that date, the same criteria for naturalisation applied to all applicants for citizenship by naturalisation, though the special status of British subject was retained. Also from that date the age of majority for citizenship matters was reduced to eighteen years, so that they can apply for citizenship in their own right. The common residence requirement of three years was reduced to two years from 22 November 1984. From that date, the status of British subject was removed from Australian citizenship law; the status having been discontinued in British law on 1 January 1983.

    People who became permanent residents from 1 July 2007 must have been lawfully resident in Australia for four years before applying for naturalization. The "lawfully resident" test could be satisfied by a student visa or tourist visa or 457 visa, but the applicant must:

  • have been in Australia for 12 months as a permanent resident.
  • have had absences from Australia of no more than twelve months (total) in the previous four years, including no more than three months (total) in the 12 months before applying.
  • have not been unlawfully in Australia at any time in the four years preceding application.
  • understand the responsibilities and privileges of Australian citizenship (except for applicants aged 60 or over).
  • be able to speak and understand basic English (except for applicants aged 60 or over).
  • understand the nature of the application.
  • intend to reside in Australia or to maintain a close and continuing association with Australia.
  • Children aged under 18 can be included in the application of a responsible parent. The standard residence requirements do not apply to such children. There are some exceptions to the standard requirements, including:

  • children of former Australian citizens
  • Australian Defence Force veterans
  • former Australian citizens and those born in Australia
  • children adopted by Australian citizens
  • spouses and interdependent partners of Australian citizens
  • persons born in Papua before Independence in 1975
  • persons born in Australia who are stateless.
  • Those who were present in Australia as permanent residents before 1 July 2007 remain subject to the previous residence requirement (in force since 1984, e.g. resident for 2 years) on any application for naturalisation made before 1 July 2010 — they must:

  • have been present in Australia as a permanent resident for a total of two years in the five years before application,
  • have been present in Australia for a total of 12 months in the two years before application.
  • In general, applicants aged 16 or over must attend a citizenship ceremony and make a pledge of commitment, except for:

  • children of former Australian citizens granted citizenship under section 21(6) of the Act
  • persons born in Papua before independence granted citizenship under section 21(7) of the Act
  • stateless persons born in Australia and granted citizenship under section 21(8) of the Act
  • persons with a permanent or enduring physical or mental incapacity that means the person is not capable of understanding the nature of the application, or demonstrating a basic knowledge of English, or demonstrating an adequate knowledge of the responsibilities and privileges of Australian citizenship.
  • From 1 October 2007, most applicants for naturalisation aged between 18 and 60 must pass the Australian citizenship test, which focuses on Australia’s values, history, and traditional and national symbols.

    Loss of Australian citizenship

    Prior to 4 April 2002, many Australian citizens lost Australian citizenship through acquiring another citizenship, or being the child of a parent who did so. From this date onwards, the scope to lose Australian citizenship is more limited.

    Adult Australian citizens acquiring another citizenship

    Between 26 January 1949 and 3 April 2002, an adult Australian generally lost Australian citizenship automatically (section 17 of the Australian Citizenship Act 1948) upon acquisition of another citizenship by a 'voluntary and formal act', with the following rules:

  • the age of majority in this respect was 21 until 30 November 1973, and 18 thereafter,
  • before 22 November 1984, Australian citizenship was not lost if the acquisition of another citizenship took place while the person was inside Australia,
  • from 22 November 1984, the incidental acquisition of another citizenship as the result of another activity (such as an application for a foreign passport, or foreign residence) did not cause loss of Australian citizenship,
  • loss of Australian citizenship still occurred even if no oath of allegiance was taken to the other country,
  • loss of Australian citizenship occurred even if the Queen was also Head of State of the other country (i.e. a Commonwealth realm such as Canada, New Zealand or the United Kingdom),
  • it was not relevant whether the acquisition of another citizenship was reported to the Australian authorities.
  • Section 17 of the 1948 Act was repealed with effect from 4 April 2002. Although the repeal was not retroactive, since 1 July 2007 former Australian citizens who lost citizenship because of the section are generally able to apply for resumption of Australian citizenship.

    Loss of citizenship - children

    Children did not lose Australian citizenship by virtue of their own actions, but could lose Australian citizenship if a parent lost Australian citizenship:

  • if the child did not have any other citizenship, it did not lose Australian citizenship;
  • before 22 November 1984 there was only one 'parent' for citizenship purposes, usually the father. Loss of Australian citizenship by the other parent did not affect the child's status
  • from 22 November 1984 loss of Australian citizenship by either parent could affect the child's citizenship. However a child would not lose Australian citizenship in this circumstance if one parent remained an Australian citizen (or was an Australian citizen at death).
  • Loss of Australian citizenship occurred under section 23 of the 1948 Act. Even after the repeal of section 17 of the Act in 2002, section 23 was left in place. It remains possible for an Australian child to lose Australian citizenship this way. However, since the repeal of section 17, this is much less common and in general only applies where a parent is deprived of Australian citizenship, or renounces Australian citizenship under section 18 of the Act.

    Under the Australian Citizenship Act 2007, in force from 1 July 2007, an Australian child no longer automatically loses Australian citizenship based on a parent's actions. However the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship has the right to deprive a child of Australian citizenship in these circumstances on a discretionary basis.

    Naturalised Australian citizens

    Between 26 January 1956 and 7 October 1958, a naturalised Australian citizen lost Australian citizenship if resident outside Australia or New Guinea for a continuous period of 7 years without registering annually a declaration of intent to retain Australian citizenship. This occurred by virtue of section 20 of the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948 which was repealed on 8 October 1958. The provision had the potential to create stateless persons.

    Since 1 July 2007, persons who lost Australian citizenship because of the provision may apply to resume Australian citizenship, subject only to being of good character.

    Australian Citizens connected with Burma

    Burma became independent outside the Crown's dominions on 4 January 1948. In the Burma Independence Act 1948 the United Kingdom legislated to remove British subject status on that date from:

  • any person born in Burma whose father or paternal grandfather was born in Burma, and neither father nor paternal grandfather born in a British territory or British protectorate; and
  • women married to men who lost British subject status by virtue of the above provision.
  • Such persons who were domiciled in the United Kingdom or "His Majesty's dependencies" were given two years to elect to remain British.

    Australian legislation was not updated at the time and hence the common law applied. British subjects connected with Burma lost British subject status under Australian law only if resident in Burma.

    As a result, some British subjects connected with Burma acquired Australian citizenship on 26 January 1949 if resident in Australia for 5 years at that point.

    On 29 July 1950 the Australian Parliament passed the Nationality and Citizenship (Burmese) Act 1950 which removed the discrepancy between Australian and British law on the status of persons connected with Burma.

    As a result of the Act, Australian citizenship was lost on 29 July 1950 by persons who had had British nationality removed from them under the UK legislation in 1948, and persons descended from or married to such persons.

    Such persons were given until 29 July 1952 (two years from the date of commencement of the Act) to register a declaration of intention to remain a British subject. If such a declaration was registered, the person was deemed never to have lost Australian citizenship.

    Service in the armed forces of an enemy country

    Section 19 of the 1948 Act stated: "An Australian citizen who, under the law of a foreign country, is a national or citizen of that country and serves in the armed forces of a country at war with Australia shall, upon commencing so to serve, cease to be an Australian citizen."

    Despite being involved in a number of armed conflicts since 1949, Australia has not declared a formal state of war on another sovereign nation in that period, and hence section 19 has not operated up to now. Since 1 July 2007 it has been re-enacted as section 35 of the 2007 Act.

    Deprivation of Australian citizenship

    A naturalised Australian citizen may be deprived of Australian citizenship under section 34 of the 2007 Act in the following circumstances:

  • conviction for certain offences against the Australian Citizenship Act 1948 or the Migration Act 1958. These mainly involve fraud in the person's citizenship or migration application.
  • where the person receives a prison sentence of 12 months or more (in any country) for an offence committed before the person's application for Australian citizenship was approved. Deprivation of citizenship cannot occur for this reason if the person has no other citizenship.
  • In December 2015 the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 (Cth) was amended by the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Act 2015 (Cth) which introduced three mechanisms by which citizenship may be forfeited: renunciation by conduct (s 33A); An expanded s 35 to cover service in a declared terrorist organisation; and a new power for the Minister to cancel citizenship after a person is convicted of one of a range of offences, most of which are connected to terrorism or treason, and the Minister is satisfied of certain public interest criteria (s 35A).
  • The explanatory memorandum makes it clear that engaging in the specified 'terrorism' conduct is what shows that the person has acted inconsistently with their allegiance to Australia. The loss of citizenship is said to occur by operation of law. The idea that something can be surrendered by operation of law is well established in Australian case law - see for example Bagnall v White - however the recent decision of the Full Federal Court in SZSSJ v Minister for Immigration and Border Protection has indicated that it may be difficult for courts to avoid a conclusion that an administrative decision must be made by someone at some point, and that a Minister must hold ultimate responsibility for his department's decisions.
  • The first person to be deprived of Australian citizenship for terrorism offences was Islamic State fighter Khaled Sharrouf in February 2017 and he was thus left with his Lebanese citizenship.
  • Ex-citizen visa

    A person who ceases to be an Australian citizen while physically inside the migration zone of Australia automatically receives an ex-citizen visa under section 35 of the Migration Act 1958

  • This visa ceases to have effect as soon as the person leaves Australia. Should the former citizen wish to return as a resident, a Resident Return Visa (pdf file) or other permanent visa is required.
  • An ex-citizen visa may be cancelled on character grounds and the former citizen removed from Australia. This is likely where citizenship has been revoked under section 21 of the Act.
  • Resumption of Australian citizenship

    Since 1 July 2007, a former Australian citizens can resume Australian citizenship if:

  • the former citizen lost Australian citizenship automatically under section 17, 20 or 23 of the 1948 Act, subject only to being of "good character".
  • the former citizen renounced Australian citizenship, subject to an additional requirement that the renunciation must have been to acquire or retain another nationality, or to avoid hardship or disadvantage.
  • Children born to former Australian citizens (only those who lost Australian citizenship by virtue of section 17 of the Act) after loss of the parent's citizenship, and before the parent resumed citizenship, may be considered for a grant of Australian citizenship (whether aged under or over 18). There is no requirement for the parent to resume citizenship. This policy was put in place by Ministerial policy on 13 October 2003 for children under 18 and extended in the 2007 Act to those aged 18 or over.

    Some former Australian citizens may qualify for a Resident Return Visa to return to Australia as permanent residents. After 12 months as a permanent resident in Australia, it is normally possible for a former Australian citizen to apply for Australian citizenship.

    Citizenship by adoption

    Australian citizenship is acquired automatically on adoption in the following circumstances:

  • the adoption takes place in Australia on or after 22 November 1984,
  • the child is a permanent resident, and
  • at least one adoptive parent is an Australian citizen.
  • In all other circumstances an application for grant of Australian citizenship must be made for the child.

    On 8 May 2005, the Minister for Citizenship announced a policy change to require all child applicants for grant of Australian citizenship by adoption to hold an adoption visa, or other permanent visa. However, it does not appear that there is any requirement for the child to be physically resident in Australia.

    The Australian Citizenship Act 2007 additionally allows for simplified registration of a person as an Australian citizen where that person was adopted overseas in accordance with the Hague Adoption Convention.

    Visa requirements

    An Australian passport does not, in itself, entitle the holder to enter another country. To enter another country, the traveller must comply with the visa and entry requirements of the other countries to be visited, which vary from country to country and may apply specifically to a particular passport type, the traveller's nationality, criminal history or many other factors.

    According to the 2016 Visa Restrictions Index, Australian passport holders can visit 169 countries without a visa or by being issued a visa on arrival.

    Dual citizenship

    With effect from 4 April 2002, there are no restrictions (under Australian law) on Australians holding the citizenship of another country.

    Prior to 4 April 2002, it was still possible for Australians in some circumstances to hold dual citizenship, including:

  • those born in Australia who automatically acquired another citizenship at birth;
  • migrants naturalising in Australia, provided their former country did not revoke their citizenship;
  • children born overseas to Australian parents who automatically acquired the citizenship of their country of birth (e.g. the U.S. or Canada) as well as Australian citizenship by descent.
  • Holding a foreign passport does not in itself cause loss of Australian citizenship.

    However, all Australian citizens are required to use an Australian passport when entering and leaving Australia. This provision is intended to prevent immigration-related delays while a traveller's status is confirmed, as an Australian citizen cannot be granted a visa to enter Australia. However, Australian citizens have never been prosecuted simply for travelling on the "wrong" passport, provided all other immigration requirements are satisfied. Australians with compelling reasons can apply for an Australian Declaratory Visa for their foreign passport, allowing them to use it for travel to and from Australia.

    New Zealand citizens

    New Zealanders were included in the definition of British subject in the 1948 Act and hence many New Zealanders resident in Australia acquired Australian citizenship in 1949 when this was introduced. There was no bar on New Zealanders automatically acquiring Australian citizenship as well as New Zealand citizenship under the equivalent New Zealand legislation (The British Nationality and New Zealand Citizenship Act 1948 (NZ)).

    The facilities to become an Australian citizen by registration or naturalisation have been open to New Zealanders in Australia since 1949. However, most New Zealand citizens arriving since February 2001 are required to apply for and obtain Australian permanent resident status before becoming eligible for Australian citizenship.

    Children born to New Zealanders in Australia have generally been Australian citizens by birth. The exceptions are:

  • those born between 20 August 1986 and 31 August 1994. This is due to a technicality in the 1986 legislation which limited the acquisition of Australian citizenship to children of Australian citizens and permanent residents, which was not corrected until 1994
  • those born on or after 27 February 2001.
  • neither of the above restrictions affect children where one parent was an Australian citizen or permanent resident at the time of birth
  • despite the above, if a child is born in Australia to two parents who are New Zealand citizens by descent, the child is entitled to Australian citizenship. This is because under New Zealand nationality law, New Zealand citizens by descent cannot pass on New Zealand citizenship by descent, therefore rendering the child stateless.
  • special rules apply to cases where the New Zealand parent is a diplomat, official guest, visiting forces personnel, or has entered Australia on the passport of another country.
  • Those children born to New Zealand parents in Australia automatically acquire Australian citizenship on their tenth birthday if ordinarily resident in Australia until age 10, if they have not already acquired Australian citizenship by birth or naturalisation.

    Papua New Guinea

    Prior to 1975, what is now Papua New Guinea was divided into two legal entities under common Australian administration. The Territory of Papua was an external territory of Australia itself, while the Territory of New Guinea was never an Australian territory in a legal sense, but rather a Trust Territory under Australian administration.

    As a result, those born or naturalised in Territory of Papua acquired Australian citizenship on the same basis as any other part of Australia. However, those of indigenous descent were not automatically entitled to reside in the rest of Australia, despite holding Australian citizenship. It was possible in some circumstances for such persons to apply for and be granted a right of residence in mainland Australia.

    Persons connected with Territory of New Guinea were Australian protected persons rather than Australian citizens and for nationality purposes the territory was considered not to be part of Australia.

    Papua New Guinea became independent on 16 September 1975. Australian citizens connected with the Territory of Papua lost Australian citizenship on that date if they became citizens of Papua New Guinea (PNG). PNG citizenship was generally conferred only on those born in PNG who had at least two grandparents of indigenous descent, and:

  • in the case of Papua, had not acquired a right of permanent residence in mainland Australia or the citizenship of any other country;
  • in the case of New Guinea, had not acquired Australian or any other citizenship.
  • Persons of non-indigenous descent who acquired Australian citizenship by connection with PNG before independence generally still retain it.

    Australian citizenship by descent for persons born in Papua

    Under the Australian Citizenship Act, only a person born outside Australia is eligible to apply for Australian citizenship by descent. This has caused an anomaly in that former Australian citizens born in the former Territory of Papua (not New Guinea) before independence, and who lost Australian citizenship on independence in 1975, are unable to recover it through this route even if they have a parent born in mainland Australia.

    This has been the subject of litigation in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and the Federal Court of Australia, which have ruled that the definition of Australia includes the former Territory of Papua prior to independence. This rules out the possibility of Australian citizenship by descent for a person born in Papua.

    However, section 21(7) of the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 allows certain persons born before independence in Papua to be granted Australian citizenship, where such a person has a parent born in Australia (as currently defined).

    Pledge of commitment

    The wording of the Oath of Allegiance taken by newly naturalising Australian citizens has changed over time. In 1973 the Oath's wording was:

    I, A. B., renouncing all other allegiance, swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Australia, Her heirs and successors according to law, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Australia and fulfil my duties as an Australian citizen.

    Australia, however, never required new citizens to formally renounce their former citizenship under the law of that country. An equivalent wording was available in the form of a non-religious Affirmation for those who preferred.

    In 1986 the wording was changed to:

    I swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Australia, Her heirs and successors according to law, and that I will faithfully observe the laws of Australia and fulfil my duties as an Australian citizen.

    In 1994 the Oath was replaced with a Pledge of Commitment to Australia:

    From this time forward, under God, I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people, whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights and liberties I respect, and whose laws I will uphold and obey.

    All new citizens have the choice of making the pledge with (Pledge 1) or without (Pledge 2) the words 'under God'.

    Evidence of Australian citizenship

    The following documents normally constitute evidence of Australian citizenship:

  • a valid Australian passport,
  • a birth certificate issued by or on behalf of an Australian state or territory (only for those born before 20 August 1986),
  • a birth certificate issued by or on behalf of an Australian state or territory with Evidence of a parent being an Australian citizen or Permanent Resident at the time of birth (only for those born after 20 August 1986),
  • a Certificate of Evidence of Australian Citizenship,
  • an Australian naturalisation certificate,
  • a certificate of Australian citizenship by descent.
  • Australian citizens who do not have a citizenship certificate, have lost their original certificate, or wish to have a single document proving their citizenship, may apply for a Certificate of Evidence of Australian Citizenship.

    Children naturalised as part of a parent's application for Australian citizenship before 1 July 2002 did not receive individual citizenship certificates. Instead, their details were included on the reverse of their parent's certificate. Such children can be issued with individual Certificates of Evidence of Australian Citizenship.

    Australians and British nationality

    When Australia created Australian citizenship on 26 January 1949, not all British subjects connected with Australia became Australian citizens on that date. The most notable exceptions were:

  • children born outside Australia to Australian fathers; and
  • women married to Australian men;
  • where the child or woman had not entered Australia with a permanent entry permit before 26 January 1949.

    Under the terms of section 12(4) of the British Nationality Act 1948:

  • such persons acquired citizenship of the UK & Colonies (CUKC) on 26 January 1949 on the basis of being British subjects connected with Australia, if they did not have citizenship of, or connections with, another Commonwealth country or Ireland
  • where a person had connections with another Commonwealth country that had not introduced a citizenship law as of 26 January 1949, they acquired citizenship of the UK and Colonies on the date the other country introduced a citizenship law if they did not become a citizen of that country at the time, if they had not acquired Australian citizenship by that point.
  • A complication arises if the person had a connection with India or Pakistan and such a person may have remained a British subject without citizenship if he did not acquire Indian or Pakistani citizenship, or the citizenship of any other Commonwealth country or Ireland.
  • Persons acquiring CUKC would have retained it upon a later acquisition of Australian citizenship. However they would only be British citizens today if they had obtained a 'right of abode' in the UK under the terms of the Immigration Act 1971, such as by having a UK-born grandparent. Otherwise they would be British Overseas citizens.

    British subjects without citizenship would have retained that status only if they did not acquire a Commonwealth nationality (or Irish citizenship) before 1983, or any citizenship from 1983 or later.

    British Overseas citizens and British subjects may register as British citizens if they have no other nationality (and have not lost another nationality since 4 July 2002), but otherwise do not have an automatic right to live in the United Kingdom.

    Commonwealth citizenship

    Under United Kingdom law, Australians are Commonwealth citizens and hence are entitled to certain rights in the UK:

  • access to the UK youth mobility visa (Working Holiday visa), if between 18 - 30 (Note: not available to all commonwealth citizens only: Australia, Canada and New Zealand)
  • for those with a UK-born grandparent, access to the UK Ancestry Entry Clearance
  • for those born before 1983 who have a UK-born mother or are women who were married before 1 January 1983 to a man with the right of abode in the UK, the right of abode (those born before 1983, whether Commonwealth citizens or not, with a UK-born father are generally British citizens by descent)
  • for those living the UK, the right to vote and stand for public office there.
  • Similar rights accrue in other Commonwealth jurisdictions.

    New Zealand residency

    Under the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement, Australian citizens are automatically granted a New Zealand residence class visa on arrival in New Zealand, provided they:

  • Present a valid Australian passport, or a foreign passport with an Australian citizen endorsement.
  • Correctly complete a New Zealand Passenger Arrival Card.
  • Are of good character. Australian citizens who have ever been imprisoned for five years or more, been imprisoned in the past 10 years for one year or more, or have been deported or removed from any country, are not permitted to enter New Zealand.
  • The visa entitles Australian citizens to live, work and study in New Zealand indefinitely, and expires once the Australian citizen leaves New Zealand.

    Citizenship, visas and travel

    Most non-citizens travelling to Australia must obtain a visa prior to travel. The only exceptions to this rule are members of the British royal family, who do not require visas to enter Australia, and holders of New Zealand passports and citizenships, who may apply for Special Category Visas on arrival according to the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement.


    Australia means Australia together with its Territories

  • Norfolk Island is included from 1 July 2016.
  • Christmas Island is included from 1 October 1958 and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands from 23 November 1955. These are former United Kingdom territories transferred to Australia.
  • Papua ceased to be an Australian territory on 16 September 1975.
  • British subject means a person connected with a Commonwealth country (not just the United Kingdom). The phrase was used in Australian law until 30 April 1987. See British subject for a more general description of the use of the term.


    Australian nationality law Wikipedia