If you’re a permanent resident, here’s 10 things to know about the freedoms and privileges of becoming an Australian citizen.
Yes, it’s true applying for Australian citizenship can be daunting, but the benefits of taking the next step will be worth it. Currently, over 100,000 people across the country are waiting for their citizenship applications to be processed, and the Department of Immigration and Border Control is expecting more applications over the coming months, due in part to the government’s failure to pass proposed reforms to the English language test in parliament.
The upshot is, it’s still relatively easy to meet the English language requirements of Australian citizenship testing, so there’s no time like the present to put your dream in motion and making a commitment to life Down Under official.
Let’s take a closer look at the top 10 benefits of Australian citizenship and why it could be time for you to apply:
Hold an Australian Passport
Australia is still a desired country to live, and this also makes it one of the best passports to travel on. As a citizen, you are automatically eligible to apply for and hold an Australian passport. This allows you enter 171 countries visa-free or with a visa issued on arrival, ranking the Aussie passport 7th in terms of travel freedom (tied with Greece and New Zealand).
Stay in Australia Forever
Permanent Residents are permitted to stay in Australia indefinitely, but they also face the inconvenience of having to apply for a “Resident Return Visa” every five years in order to leave the country and re-enter. Their permanent residence status depends on their continued residence. As an Australian citizen, you can stay in the country forever, as well as leave and return without hassle, and as often as you wish. As long as you have a valid Australian passport or citizenship certificate.
Get Australian Consular Help
Many travellers take this citizenship benefit for granted, but the peace of mind that comes with being able to travel knowing that if your overseas adventure causes you injury, serious illness, or god forbid, makes you a victim of crime, then you can seek consular assistance from the country’s local Australian embassy.
Right to Vote and Be Heard
As an Australian citizen over 18 years of age, you not only have the right to vote, but it’s actually compulsory in local, state and federal elections. Failure to turn up at the polling booth on the day incurs fines up to $180. It’s considered a privilege to get involved in the democratic process by choosing a representative who you believe best matches your own voice and views.
Enter the Political Arena
If you are a citizen and 18 or over, you can be elected as a federal or state MP and stand as a councillor. Just remember you can’t hold dual citizenship, and that means renouncing your birth country, as stipulated in the Australian constitution.
Work in Federal Government and Defence jobs
Some government departments, including the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade and the Department of Immigration & Border Control, will only offer employment to Australian citizens. Yes, permanent residence gives you the right to work in Australia without visa restrictions, but becoming an Australian citizen opens up a whole world of opportunities to work in Federal Government sectors. In addition, citing reasons of national security, the Government won’t allow you to serve in the Australian Defence Force unless you are an Australian citizen.
Called Up for Jury Duty
As a citizen legally registered to vote, you are also eligible to be called up for jury duty. Yay you!
Ask for HELP
While Australian higher education fees haven’t quite reached the sky-high rates of some other nations, for many Australians they are still out of reach. As an Australian citizen, you (and your children) will have access to HECS–HELP financial assistance programs, something that permanent residents do not. HELP (formerly HECS) is the Federal Government’s Higher Education Loan Program that enables you to defer your study fees until you are earning enough to begin repaying the debt.
Your Kids Can Become Citizens Too
If you are now an Australian citizen, then even your children born overseas can become Australian citizens by descent. This will afford them the same rights and privileges as any child born on Aussie soil.
Move to New Zealand
Australian citizens not only enjoy the right to live anywhere in Australia they choose, but they enjoy the benefit of close ties to neighbouring New Zealand, where they can also move to permanently, should that be something they wish to pursue.
Applying for Citizenship
If you’d like to apply for Australian citizenship, the first step is to find out if you are eligible under current legislation, which is slated to change on 1 July 2018. Contact our friendly Registered Migration Agents today, and we’ll tell you if you meet eligibility requirements. If you are eligible for Australian citizenship now, you may wish to consider applying as soon as possible, prior to legislation changes, which may impact whether you remain eligible.