The Naturalization Process for Australia: Your Comprehensive Guide

September 27, 2023

Relocating your life to a new country is a thrilling prospect. If Australia is your target destination, you might ask: Can a US citizen become an Australian citizen? The short answer is yes. The pathway to obtaining Australian citizenship, however, often seems complex.

In this article, we will shed light on the steps required to become an Australian citizen, including Australian permanent residency, the documents you’ll need to prove eligibility, and the fees and potential timelines involved to claim an Australian passport.

What are the routes to Australian citizenship for US citizens?

The three primary pathways for claiming Australian citizenship as a US citizen are: citizenship by birth, citizenship by descent, or citizenship by conferral. In this article, we will be detailing the latter. 

Australian citizenship by adoption and—for former Australian citizens—citizenship by resumption are other routes. Check whether you qualify for citizenship by birth or descent before applying for Australian citizenship by conferral. 

Most applicants gain their Australian citizenship by conferral through general eligibility. This route requires one year of permanent residence and four years of lawful residence.

What are the steps to becoming a naturalized citizen of Australia?

To become a naturalized Australian citizen, you will need to take the following steps:

  1. Enter Australia on a valid visa that allows you to remain within the law and establish yourself in Australia for at least three years. Note: Under certain circumstances people can become permanent residents directly from overseas and commence living in Australia on the permanent visa.
  2. Obtain a permanent residence visa. As an Australian permanent resident, you’ll be allowed to live, work, and study without restriction.
  3. Satisfy the residence requirement, which typically involves being a permanent resident for one year, with a total of four years of lawful residence in Australia.
  4. File an Australian citizenship application supplying evidence that you will likely reside in Australia or maintain a close and ongoing association with the country.
  5. Pass the citizenship test, which was designed to help prospective citizens understand Australia’s values, traditions, history, and national symbols.
  6. Attend an Australian citizenship ceremony and take the Australian Citizenship Pledge.

What are the required documents for Australian citizenship?

When applying for citizenship, you need to provide several documents, including:

  • A valid passport (*If you do not have a valid passport you’ll need to apply via a paper application)
  • Birth certificate or any other proof of identity
  • Proof of permanent residency
  • Proof of lawful residence
  • Evidence of good character
  • Original police certificates
  • Scans of your original documents if you are applying online
  • Certified copies of all other documents if you are filing a paper application form

You should provide as much information as possible that might be helpful to your application, but each document should only be submitted once, even if it is evidence of more than one thing. 

In addition, you should ensure that any documents requested during the application process are properly certified and translated into English.

When can I apply for Australian citizenship?

You can apply for Australian citizenship after you’ve lived in Australia on a valid Australian visa for four years immediately before applying, including the last 12 months as a permanent resident.

How long does Australia’s naturalization process take?

Naturalization time varies depending on your circumstances and pathway to naturalization. Several factors influence processing times, including the accuracy of your application and the volume of applications received by the Department of Home Affairs.

  • 90% of applications for citizenship by conferral are processed within 11 months.
  • 90% of approved applicants will have the opportunity to attend a ceremony within eight months of approval.
  • 90% of applications for Australian citizenship by descent are processed within four months.
  • If you have applied for Evidence of Australian citizenship, 90% of applications are processed within 27 days.​

What is the fee to apply for Australian citizenship?

There is a standard application fee of AU$540 for citizenship by conferral (general eligibility). The fee for 16- and 17-year-old applicants is AU$330. If a child under 15 years of age applies using the same form as a parent, there should be no fee. 

For other pathways to citizenship, such as claiming Australian citizenship by descent or reclaiming Australian citizenship previously lost, there are different fee structures. 

What regulations are involved with becoming a naturalized citizen of Australia?

At the time of your application, you must be a permanent resident or eligible New Zealand citizen. You must also be in Australia when the Australian Department of Home Affairs decides on your application. You need to demonstrate intent to live in Australia or maintain a lasting connection with Australia.

Children who are 16 or 17 must be permanent residents and meet the residence requirement or provide proof that meeting the residency requirement would cause significant hardship or disadvantage.

A child under 16 does not need to meet the general residence requirement but must be a permanent resident.

What are the Australian citizenship requirements?

Over the age of 18, applicants must demonstrate “good character,” which is defined as a person’s “enduring moral qualities.” A good-character assessment determines whether you will uphold and obey Australian laws and meet other citizenship-pledge commitments.

Your commitment to Australia must be long-term. Having extended family in Australia and spending time in Australia can be used as evidence. Having a bank account in Australia, working in Australia, paying income tax, and owning property in Australia are all evidence of commitment to Australia.

You must sit the citizenship test or have an interview to show that you understand what it means to be an Australian citizen.

What is the Australian citizenship test and interview? 

Most people between 18 and 59 require an interview and citizenship test to become Australian citizens. Others may only have an interview.

During the citizen test, you must prove that you are proficient in the English language, that you understand what Australian citizenship means, and that you understand Australia and its responsibilities and privileges, as well as that you are committed to Australian values.

Who is required to take the citizenship test?

Citizenship by conferral applicants aged 18 to 59 must attend an interview and take the citizenship test. Those ages 16 or 17 and those over 60 may be required to interview but not sit the citizenship test. 

How do I schedule my citizenship test and interview?

The Australian Department of Home Affairs will send you a citizenship appointment letter with your appointment details. It can take several months from the time you apply to your appointment date.

Your interview and test will be conducted in Australia if you apply there. If you submit your application from outside Australia, you will be invited to an interview and test once you return to Australia. A citizenship interview and test may be conducted at an Australian embassy or consulate in exceptional circumstances.

Appointments for citizenship can be made at the departmental offices of most Australian capital cities and some offices of Services Australia (Centrelink). Follow the instructions in your appointment letter to reschedule.

How can I prepare for the Australian citizenship test?

To prepare for the test, you should study: Australian Citizenship: Our Common Bond

This guide will cover both your English-language skills and your understanding of the rules and expectations of Australian citizenship.

What is actually on the test, and what grade do I need to get?

There are 20 multiple-choice questions and five Australian-values questions in this 45-minute test. A passing mark of 75% overall is required, including correct answers for all Australian values questions. Tests are taken on computers and tablets. You can see your result once you have completed the test.

What happens if I fail the test to become an Australian citizen?

Your permanent visa will not be affected if you fail the test to obtain citizenship. Officials will schedule a new appointment if you fail. Retaking the test is free. You could be denied your application if you fail the test after three appointments.

What happens during the citizenship interview process?

During the interview, officials will confirm your identity and eligibility. The original photo-identification documents you provided in your application are required: a driver’s license, a passport, or an Immicard. When the Department of Home Affairs contacts you to book your test and interview, you may be asked to bring additional documents. Test centers do not allow children, so test takers should arrange childcare.

How much does it cost to take the test and book an interview?

Tests and interviews are free. 

What are some reasons for Australian citizenship applications being denied? 

A citizenship application may be denied if the Australian Department of Home Affairs cannot verify your identity.

In addition, you might be denied for criminal activity or offenses against Australian law, even if your case is under appeal or review.

A person may be denied citizenship if they served a prison sentence of 12 months or more and were released from prison less than two years before applying. Repeated offenders will have to wait 10 years to apply for citizenship.

If you are subject to certain conditions imposed by an Australian court (such as parole, good behavior, or bail), where action may be taken against you if you breach them, you could be denied. Applicants who are in prison or psychiatric institutions by court order at the time of their application may also be denied.

Australia will reject individuals deemed a security risk.

A former Australian citizen who ceased to be a citizen within the past 12 months, either voluntarily or through revocation of citizenship, will not be eligible. 

With limited exceptions, your citizenship application will also be denied if you are outside Australia when the decision is reached.

FAQs about Australia’s naturalization process

Can a foreigner get citizenship in Australia? 

Yes, foreigners can become Australian citizens if they meet the eligibility requirements.

Can I live in Australia permanently? 

A permanent resident visa allows you to live, work, and study in Australia indefinitely. Obtaining permanent residency visas is an important step in applying for citizenship, and you retain that permanent residency even if you don’t succeed in becoming an Australian citizen.

Is dual citizenship allowed in Australia? 

Yes, Australia permits dual citizenship.

Will my child get Australian citizenship? 

Children will automatically obtain Australian Citizenship if they are born in Australia and at least one parent is a permanent resident or Australian Citizen. They can obtain Citizenship by Descent if born overseas to an Australian Citizen. It is not possible to obtain Citizenship by Descent if the parent becomes an Australian Citizen after the child is born.

Is the Australian citizenship test difficult? 

Difficulty levels are subjective, but adequate preparation to demonstrate sufficient knowledge using the available resources can lead to success.

How can I track my Australian citizenship application status? 

You can track your application status online via the Department of Home Affairs website.

What can I do if my application for Australian citizenship is refused? 

You can request a review of the decision if your application is denied. Requests should be made in writing and explain why the decision was incorrect. Depending on the reason for the denial, there are different review processes, such as merit and judicial reviews.

If your application was rejected due to incomplete or incorrect information, you may include additional information to support it. If you feel that your application was denied unfairly or your rights were violated, you can appeal the decision to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. You may want to seek legal advice in this case.

Chookas on becoming an Aussie! 

Once you are successful with your Australian citizenship application, you can obtain an Australian passport, and participate in Australian government elections. Becoming an Australian citizen is a significant commitment, and the process may seem daunting at first glance. However, it is achievable with careful preparation and an understanding of the requirements. Australia is well worth the effort, offering its citizens a rich blend of opportunities and a high standard of living.

Stay in the loop with Newland Chase

Remember to stay up-to-date with the latest immigration policies and always seek help if you’re unsure about any part of the process. An experienced immigration specialist can help you navigate the complexities of border-crossing requirements. Contact Newland Chase for a quote today.