Immigration Update

Implications of proposed changes to Australian Citizenship

Over the past 4 months since the Turnbull Government announced its intention to change the criteria for Australian Citizenship, our office has been contacted constantly by Australian permanent residents who are likely to be affected by the proposed amendments.

Perhaps the changes which are likely to have the greatest impact on Australian permanent residents who are already settled in Australia is the residence requirements and I some cases evidence of English language competency.

Regarding the residence requirements, current Legislation requires an applicant for Australian Citizenship to have been physically resident in Australia for 4 years of which up to 3 of the 4 years may have been on a temporary visa. Of the 4-year period on 1 year must have been as the holder of a Permanent Residence visa. The proposed change will mean that applicants for Australian Citizenship by Conferral must have resided in Australia as the holder of a valid permanent residence visa for at least 4 years.

Although based on the significant opposition to the proposed changes, it is possible that this Bill may not be passed, the question is what options are available to prospective applicants for Australian Citizenship at this time and particularly given that the Department of Immigration and Border Protection have stated publicly that if this Bill is passed, the amendments will be applied retrospectively from April 2017 when the proposed changes were announced.

Firstly, permanent residents of Australia often overlook the fact that although they have permanent residence in Australia, the Grant of permanent residence in Australia allows them to remain indefinitely in Australia however the ability to travel in and out of Australia is only granted for a period of 5 years from the date the permanent residence application is approved. This means that should a permanent resident depart Australia after the 5-year period has expired, it will not be possible to return to Australia unless they have applied for and been granted a Resident Return visa or are indeed an Australian Citizenship.

It does happen that a permanent resident only discovers that their permanent residence visa has expired when they are about to depart Australia even temporarily and will not be able to return to Australia should they leave without first obtaining a Resident Return visa.

The main requirements for the grant of a Resident Return visa are:

  • Physical Residence in Australia for a period of at least 2 years within the 5-year visa validity period of their permanent residence, or
  • Hold or have held a permanent residence visa and are able to provide evidence of substantial ties to Australia. Substantial ties may include personal ties, employment ties , business ties or cultural ties.

For applicants that have resided in Australia as a permanent resident for at least 2 or the previous 5 years, the Resident Return visa if approved will be granted for a period of 5 years. In the case of applicants that have spent less than 2 of the previous 5 years in Australia but can provide evidence of substantial ties, the Resident Return visa, if approved, will be granted for a maximum period of 12 months at a time.

For further information or advise on any of the matters dealt with in this Immigration update, contact Ivan Chait (MARN: 9253612 ) by email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or telephone + 61418404604.