For standard adult applications - persons aged 16 or over - for Australian citizenship by conferral (also known as grant of citizenship, or formerly as naturalisation), there is a three stage process:
- Application for Australian citizenship through a DIAC office;
- Pass the Citizenship Test (unless aged 16-18, or 60+, in which case you are exempt, or you passed a test before 9 November 2009);
- Following approval of the citizenship application, attend a citizenship ceremony at your local council where you become an Australian citizen (or occasionally, an alternative venue will be offered).
If you are applying for Australian citizenship by descent, resumption of citizenship, or a special grant of Australian citizenship (children of former Australian citizens or certain persons born in Papua), there is only a single stage to the process. No citizenship test or citizenship ceremony is required in these instances.
There are a number of ways to avoid a delay in processing your citizenship application:
- If you have spent time outside Australia since obtaining permanent residence (or if you are an "eligible" New Zealand citizen) then you may need an overseas police check. Police checks are normally valid for 12 months, so if you obtain one a few months in advance of your citizenship application, it should be in good time.
- Make sure all documentation is up to date. If birth certificates, passports etc. have been lost - get new ones.
- Do not apply for citizenship until you are residentially qualified. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but not many.
DIAC Processing Times
- DIAC's Annual Report shows that in the 2007/08 year, 85% of applications were decided within 90 days, with 23% decided on the same day.
- The main reasons for delay of applications are:
- if it takes longer than usual for DIAC to do an Australian police check (this is a matter of luck, if your name coincides with a person with a criminal record, it will have to be checked more carefully);
- if an overseas police check is required but not supplied;
- certain documents are missing;
- the application does not meet the standard residence requirement and has to wait for review at a senior level before it can be approved.
- the applicant has to reschedule an appointment for testing or interview. Do not miss your appointment without advising DIAC in advance.
- Before November 2009, most people who have supplied all documentation in advance are approved within 4-6 weeks. This is much quicker than in most comparable countries. The new requirement to sit the Citizenship Test after application may change this somewhat.
- These are organised by local councils, mainly.
- Some councils are very good at doing ceremonies, others are not.
- DIAC policy, Chapter 6 of the Australian Citizenship Instructions states that the ceremony wait should be about 8 weeks. However, in reality, most people wait longer - about 3-6 months is usual.
- Technically, again under DIAC policy, if your council cannot do a ceremony for you within 8 weeks, then you may be able to ask to attend a Department ceremony. In reality, DIAC will not usually offer a Department ceremony unless there is a good reason (in their opinion, not yours).
- Department ceremonies are less "ceremonial" than those of local councils and it is usually not possible to bring guests.
- If your council doesn't have enough ceremonies, you could try speaking to your local councillor.
- You normally have to attend a citizenship ceremony within 12 months of approval of your application. If you don't, and you don't have a good reason, your approval can be cancelled. You almost certainly will be offered a ceremony date well before this time.
- Your approval can also be cancelled (before the ceremony) for other reasons, such as criminal or security reasons, or if it comes to light that you were not eligible in the first place. You do not legally become an Australian citizen until you attend your ceremony.
- Children aged under 16 become Australian citizens when the relevant responsible parent attends a ceremony. Such children do not have to attend a ceremony but are welcome to do so.
Travel Overseas after Application
- You can travel overseas for a vacation after you apply.
- However your application cannot be approved while you are outside Australia (unless certain exceptions, such as the spouse of an Australian citizen). You must advise DIAC of overseas travel in this period.
- If you leave Australia permanently or on a long term basis, your approval could be cancelled if the Department believes you are no longer likely to live in Australia or maintain a "close and continuing association with Australia" (an Australian spouse may in some circumstances be acceptable).
- Citizenship ceremonies are usually not available offshore, unless one has an acceptable reason to be overseas in the first place.
Overall Processing Time & Priority Consideration
- Between processing time at DIAC and waiting for a citizenship ceremony, the average wait seems to be 6-9 months. This is still less than in most countries.
- DIAC do not usually give priority processing to applications, except in compelling circumstances.
- For example, if you need Australian citizenship for employment (with request from employer) or to represent Australia internationally. ** Needing to travel overseas or access HECS funding are not usually acceptable reasons.