Virginia, US
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| Rupert Timms

Lesser known ways to become an Australian citizen…

Qualifying for Australian Citizenship can be very difficult for people who travel frequently, or who have more recently spent significant time overseas, even if Australia is their real home.  This is because of the ‘general residence requirement” which requires many applicants to have lived lawfully in Australia for at least the past four years (including at least the past 12 months as a permanent resident), with no more than 12 months total absence overseas during that four year period, and with no more than three months total absence overseas in the 12 months before applying.
There are some lesser known ways to obtain Australian Citizenship, and seeking further advice on these can often lead to a positive outcome where a person cannot meet this general residence requirement.
Engaging in work or activities requiring overseas travel
Individuals engaged in particular kinds of work or activity that require overseas travel, or work that is of benefit to Australia, may qualify for Australian Citizenship by meeting reduced residence requirements.
The following are some examples of the types of work or activity that might qualify under these ‘special residence’ requirements:
  • A Chief Executive Officer or Executive Manager of an S&P/ASX All Australian 200 listed company
  • Workers on resource installations or sea installations
  • Medical specialists, internationally renowned in their field, who are Fellows of certain organisations (eg the Royal Australasian College of Physicians)
  • PhD qualified scientists employed by an Australian university and undertaking research and development of benefit to Australia
  • Scientists employed by CSIRO, or by a medical research institute which is a member of the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes (AAMRI)
  • Sports people engaged in sporting activities that are supported by particular organizations (eg the Australian Olympic Committee or Cricket Australia)
  • Members of the crew of a ship or aircraft
  • Persons granted a Distinguished Talent visa who are a writer or engaged in the visual or performing arts
Partner of an Australian Citizen
An Australian permanent resident whose partner is an Australian citizen may also be able to qualify for Australian citizenship without meeting the full general residence requirement. This concession can assist for example individuals who, as Australian permanent residents, relocated temporarily overseas with their Australian citizen partner or who have travelled overseas frequently for work.  This concession is discretionary however, and requires the permanent resident to show a ‘close and continuing association with Australia’ throughout those overseas periods to the satisfaction of the assessing citizenship case officer. 
New Zealand Citizens
In most cases, in order to qualify for Australian Citizenship a New Zealand Citizen would first need to apply for and be granted permanent residence.  However, there is a special class of New Zealand citizens who are deemed already to be permanent residents under Australian Citizenship law and who can immediately qualify for Australian citizenship.
This special class comprises of New Zealand citizens who were either in Australia on 26 February 2001 on a Special Category Visa (SCV) - or who were absent from Australia on that date, but had spent periods totaling at least 12 months in Australia in the two years immediately preceding that date –or those who have a Centrelink certificate issued prior to 26 February 2004 stating that they were residing in Australia. 
A child under the age of 16 who is a permanent resident is sometimes eligible for Australian Citizenship immediately upon obtaining a permanent visa, once they are in Australia on this visa, without needing to meet general residence requirements. They would generally need either to show they are living with an Australian citizen parent, or else show they would otherwise suffer significant hardship or disadvantage.  
For children who are aged 16 or 17 years old, while the general residence requirement must usually be met, there is sometimes scope to argue that these residence requirements should not apply.
Also, children who were born in Australia and who have ‘ordinarily resided’ in Australia until the age of 10 years old, will usually automatically become an Australian on their 10th birthday. 
Children born in Australia after 26 February 2001 to New Zealand citizens who were present in Australia on 26 February 2001 as Special Category Visa (SCV) holders, or children born in Australia after 1 September 1994 and before 26 February 2001 to New Zealand citizens who were SCV holders, may already be Australian citizens by operation of law.  
For further information on citizenship requirements, or for advice on a particular situation, please contact me on +61 3 9613 9313 or