Australian Citizenship Vs Permanent Residency

Being an Australian citizen is not the same thing as being granted a permanent residency visa. Certain privileges only Australian citizens entitled to.

What is a Permanent resident?

A permanent resident is someone who has migrated to Australia on a visa with indefinite stay. As a permanent resident you can:

  • Live in Australia indefinitely
  • Work and be protected by Australian workplace laws
  • Work in New Zealand
  • Study
  • Enrol in Australia’s national healthcare scheme (Medicare)
  • Apply for bank loans to buy property
  • Travel to and from Australia for 5 years after your permanent visa is granted, or while you hold a valid travel facility
  • Attend government funded English language classes (Adult Migrant English Language Program)
  • Sponsor eligible family to come to Australia

Note: if eligible, permanent residents can apply for Australian citizenship

If you are an Australian permanent resident, but you are residing outside Australia for extended periods of time your entitlement for the above may be impacted.

Who is a citizen?

  • Born in Australia
  • By descent
  • By adoption (under state or territory enforced law)
  • Citizenship by conferral

Although there are a lot of similarities between what Australian citizens and permanent residence can do some rights, privileges and requirement aren’t the same, below are the key differences:

PrivilegeAustralian CitizenAustralian Permanent Resident
Voting As Australia is a democratic country it is your right to vote but it is also compulsory by law if you are over 18. If you are an Australian citizen you must vote in local, state, federal elections and referendums. In most cases permanent residents do not have the right to vote. The one exception to this is if you were enrolled to vote as a British subject before the 26th of January 1984 you are eligible to vote in Australian government elections.  
Run for election in local, state or federal government YesNo
Work in the Australian army, navy or air forceYesIn exceptional circumstances, if a role cannot be filled by an Australian citizen, Permanent residents may be considered if they have applied for Australian citizenship and can submit the relevant evidence.
Travel to and from AustraliaYou can enter other countries with the valid visa to do so based on countries individual laws but do not need a visa to re-enter Australia permanent visas usually hold a 5-year travel facility attached to their visa; this allows for re-entry in Australia as many times as you’d like without needing a visa up until 5 years from the date the visa is granted. After that date you will need a resident return visa or to apply for a new 5-year travel facility. 
Hold an Australian PassportYesNo, your permanent residency status will be digitally linked to your current passport
Children’s CitizenshipYes If your child is born in Australia they are automatically an Australian citizen if your child is born outside Australia they are entitled to citizenship by decentIf your child is born in Australia or adopted in Australia, they are eligible for citizenship. If your child is born outside Australia but migrates to Australia with you, they should be added to your permanent residency application If your child is born outside Australia and one parent holds permanent residency in Australia inform the department and apply for a subsequent child (subclass 101) visa
Government loans for studyingYesNo
Government benefitsYes, if you are eligible under specific criteria, you may be able to receive government benefits. The rules for government services and benefits are set by the relevant departments.Yes, if you are eligible under specific criteria, you may be able to receive government benefits. The rules for government services and benefits are set by the relevant departments.
seek assistance from Australian diplomatic representatives while overseasYesNo
Jury dutyYes, you must serve in a jury if you are called to do so. Unless you have a valid reason for being excused (This does not mean you may not be called again)No
Follow Australian lawYesYes

Eligibility for becoming an Australian citizen

  • Pass the Australian citizen test (unless you are over the age of 60)
  • Be a permanent resident when you apply and at the time of decision
  • Meet the residence requirement (see below)
  • Meet character requirements
  • Reside in Australia or have the intention to reside in Australia on an ongoing basis or have a continuing close relationship to Australia

Children applying for Australian citizenship are subject to different requirements

Residence requirements

Residence requirements are relevant to permanent residence who were granted their residency status on or after the 1 July 2007:

  • Permanent residence must have been lawfully living in Australia for 4 years prior to applying for Australian citizenship
  • Minimum 12 months as a permanent resident
  • Spent no more than 12 months outside of Australia in the duration of 4 years but no more than 3 months in the 12 months directly before applying for citizenship
Citizenship test

The citizenship test determines whether an applicant shares Australian values and understand Australia history, culture, traditions and national symbols. The test must be passed to apply for citizenship if you are aged between 18-60. The test is designed to ensure applicants are able to fully integrate in the Australian community as a citizen.

You must be a permanent resident to take this test.

Australian permanent residence must be able to demonstrate their identity to the Australian Department of Home Affairs when registering for the test and either provide a photo of themselves or allow the department to take a photo of them to be eligible to sit the test.

You must get a mark of 75% overall. You can take a practice test online.

Note: you are also exempt from the citizenship test if you suffer from substantial visual, hearing or speech impairments.

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