Later this month, we’re going to be taking our Australia citizenship test! I often get asked questions about how to get Australian citizenship so I thought I’d share our experience of applying for our Australian citizenship and preparing for the Australia citizenship test. Later in the year, I’ll share our experience of actually taking the Aussie citizenship test, having our Australian citizenship interview and obtaining our Australian citizenship certificate at the Australian citizenship ceremony.
Who can apply for Australia citizenship and when can I apply for Australian citizenship?
Before we look at how to become an Australian citizen, first it’s important to consider who can become an Australian citizen.
Australian citizenship eligibility is listed on the Home Affairs website here – this site explains the up to date details about who is eligible to apply for Australian citizenship, so please check this in case things have changed since this post was published.
As of today (6th September 2019), for Australian citizenship eligibility, you must have been living in Australia on a valid visa for the past four years and you must have been a permanent resident or eligible New Zealand citizen for the past 12 months. You must not have been away from Australia for more than 12 months in total over the past four years, and you must not have spent more than 90 days outside Australia in the last 12 months (in total). You also need to be of good character and have obeyed the laws in Australia. You need basic English language skills and be committed to making Australia your home.
There are other ways to get Australian citizenship (such as Australian citizenship by descent or via marrying an Australian citizen) but for the post I’ll focus on how to apply for Australian citizenship when you’re on a permanent residency visa in Australia.
Why might you want to apply for Australian citizenship?
There are lots of benefits to being an Australian citizen. If you’re wondering what rights do Australian citizens have over Australia PR visa holders, have a look at this list:
- Australian citizens get to vote (voting is actually compulsory once you’re an Australian citizen).
- Being an Australian citizen opens up work options for places that require security clearance (like federal government and defence jobs) as you can’t get do these jobs on a PR visa.
- Being an Aussie citizen makes re-entry to Australia quick and easy when you go abroad (no long queues at the immigration desk!).
- As an Australian citizen, you can stay out of Australia for as long as you wish.
- As an Australian citizen, you get consular support when overseas.
- As an Australian passport holder, you can enter 169 countries without obtaining a visa – the Australian passport is the eighth strongest in the world, apparently!
- As an Australian citizen, you can be eligible for state education (some states charge school fees to people on temporary visas, although if you’re on a permanent residency Australia visa this won’t impact you anyway – check out my schools post for more info).
- Being an Australian citizen saves you a lot of money in the long run – if you don’t become citizens, every five years you need to purchase and apply for a Resident Return Visa in order to get back into the country (remember, the travel portion of your permanent residency visa expires five years from the date that you were granted the visa – not five years from the date you entered the country).
- As an Australian citizen, you get access to student loans and reduced fees for eligible university courses.
How to apply for Australian citizenship?
If you meet the Australian citizenship eligibility requirements, you can apply for your Australian citizenship online here.
I often get asked if the Australian citizenship form is difficult and if you need a migration agent to complete your application for becoming an Australian citizen. Personally, I didn’t find the application too difficult. The Australian citizenship application form is a time-consuming form but you can save it and do it over a few days or weeks. I found the process of applying for citizenship online more straightforward than the Australian visa paperwork (we used a migration agent for our migration to Australia but we did our citizenship application ourselves), but it does take some time and it involves you doing some research and evidence gathering.
Top tip: If you’re reading this while applying for your permanent residency visa, keep a folder with all of your visa documents and save your Form80 somewhere safe. Having access to all of your visa application paperwork makes the whole process of becoming an Australian citizen much easier!
How to apply for Australian citizenship: The Australian citizenship cost
Right now, the Australian citizenship cost is $285AUD per adult and there is no cost for a child under 16 years of age. There are some concessions available – see the Home Affairs site for details.
In contrast, to apply for a Resident Return Visa (which you need to do every five years if you want to leave the country for holidays or work), the cost is $405AUD per person. Every family member needs one of these. Which means for my family of two adults and three kids under ten, we’d need to pay $2025 every five years (in addition to the cost of our travel) versus the one-off cost of $570 for the cost of two adults to become citizens.
In addition to the Australian citizenship application fee, you will also need to get new passport photos taken for each of the people who are applying (including the kids) so that is something else to budget for. We got ours taken at the post office for $18.95AUD each – so for our family that added another $100 to the cost.
Australian citizenship processing time
This page shows up to date Australian citizenship processing times. It lists the number of Australian citizenship application forms received along with a guide to citizenship processing times.
Australian citizenship processing times get misquoted a lot in the migration groups that I’m part of. When it says 75% of Australian citizenship applications are processed within 18 months and 90% are completed within 20 months, it doesn’t mean that your application WILL take between 18 – 20 months which is what people seem to read this as. If 75% of applications are completed within 18 months, that means out of 100 citizenship applications, 75 of them will be completed within 18 months. So some people’s citizenship applications might have been completed in 12 months or even less. It doesn’t mean that you will be waiting for 18 – 20 months for your Aus citizenship, just that by the time 20 months comes around, most people’s Australian citizenship forms will have been processed.
The thing to remember is that these figures also go up and down, and around the country and even in different parts of your state the wait times will vary. Just check these citizenship wait times as a rough guide – not an exact science. Your citizenship wait will be as long as it takes.
What was our Australian citizenship timeline?
We’re based in the Morton Bay region north of Brisbane and we started our Australian citizenship application form in early January 2019. We completed and submitted our citizenship application form in the middle of January as it took a bit of time to gather the information and to get our photos taken and signed.
We received a letter in June 2019 advising us that we were booked for our citizenship for September 2019.
We don’t yet know when our citizenship ceremony will be after this date but, potentially, we could have our citizenship within 12 months of us submitting our citizenship application. So again, back to the wait times, although it says 75% will be processed within 18 months, we are proof that Australian citizenships waiting time can be faster.
How to apply for Australian citizenship online: Remembering your travel dates
For us, the most difficult part of the citizenship application process was remembering all of the trips we’ve taken since the age of 18. As you probably know if you follow this blog, travel is one of our important family values and Matt and I have visited many, many countries in our 17 years together, not to mention the trips we took before we met!
The easiest way we found to plot dates for our travels was to look back at our digital camera photos from our trips. Luckily, most of our travelling was done together after we got a digital camera. It was especially helpful for plotting the countries we visited on our honeymoon as we did a long cruise that took in a lot of different countries! For the earlier dates, we looked at old passport stamps or tried to remember where we were in our lives at the time we went on trips. I found it helpful to think about the things outside of the trip – who did you go with, what was the weather like at that time of year, where were you working, what songs were out. Amazingly, this was really helpful at helping us to work out roughly when trips took place.
What’s next in the Australian citizenship process?
We will be taking our Australian citizenship test later this month. I’ve been reading the Australian citizenship test booklet and we’ve been doing Australian citizenship test questions to prepare myself. You can find out more about the Australian citizenship test here on the Home Affairs website. We also need to take lots of evidence along with us to our appointment and we need to have an Australian citizenship interview.
If you know somebody who is interested in finding out more about Australian citizenship, please share this post with them!