Settlement, Residence and Citizenship for Expats in Australia

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: July 2013

Australia is a nation that was built on the introduction and absorption into society of successive waves of immigrants, a process which is continuing. The 2011 Census revealed that a quarter of Australian residents were born abroad. This puts Australia in top 20 in the world in terms of proportions of foreign-born people.

The Australian government has an active policy on multiculturalism, and is very welcoming to immigrants from all countries – normally as long as they can make some contribution to Australian society. Humanitarian immigrants and some others who have a low level of English, if they are permanent residents, may be entitled to financial help in the form of a ‘settlement grant’. Such people may also be eligible for up to 510 hours of free English lessons, in order to bring their English up to scratch.

While catering to people from different backgrounds, Australian government policy is to encourage immigrants to settle in and assimilate to the Australian way of life. If you are 18 or over, you may be required to read the government-produced ‘Life in Australia’ book and sign an Australian Values Statement. This is the case whether you are applying for provisional or permanent visa, or any temporary visa except visitor visas. By signing the statement, you declare that you will respect the Australian way of living and obey Australian laws.

After living in Australia for some time, you may decide to apply for permanent residence, which means holding a visa that allows you to live in Australia for as long as you want to. The two main criteria for this are that you hold one of the many types of permanent visa, and that you are normally resident in Australia. To obtain a permanent visa, you generally need to have lived in Australia for a continuous period of ten years before applying.

The main methods of obtaining citizenship are by having a family member who lives in Australia and by permanent residence. If you do not have a resident family member in Australia, only the latter option will be available to you.

The residence requirement for Australian citizenship was standardised in 2010. Now, when applying for citizenship, you must have been resident in Australia for the last four years. No more than one year of these four can have been spent abroad. Furthermore, you must have spent the last year as a permanent resident, and may not have spent more than 90 days of this last year outside Australia. Another citizenship criterion is that you must be likely to continue living in Australia, or at least have a close connection with the country.

In addition to the correct citizenship application form, you will need to provide identity documents and also penal clearance certificates (known as police certificates in some countries). These certificates prove that you have not been convicted of any serious crimes in any of the countries you have lived in. Next you will need to complete the application form, which can be done online here:

You can also send a paper application form to your nearest DIAC office. Whichever way you apply, all identity and other documents must be certified copies. The next stage is a citizenship appointment, in which your documents will be checked and you will usually have a citizenship test, or, in some cases, an interview with DIAC officials. Once you have fulfilled all the requirements of the appointment, the DIAC will make a decision about your application and inform you within the timeframe indicated here:




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