Many people choose Australia day to become an Australian citizen, with ceremonies held around the country, but what are the steps involved before reaching that stage?
More than five million people have been granted Australian citizenship since 1949.
The final key step is the citizenship ceremony where people pledge their loyalty, and accept the rights and responsibilities as an Australian.
Australian citizenship recipients Monika & Manish Tripathi & their 3 mth-old daughter Sahna pose for a photo before a citizenship ceremony on Australia Day 2017
Ruby Fowdar is a migration agent from Brisbane-based Australian Immigration Agency.
She explains that the prerequisite to Australian citizenship is ensuring that you are eligible to apply.
“The requirement for migrants is that they become permanent resident first,” says Fowdar.
“Even if you are in Australia on a few different visas, like a student visa or a work visa, it is not considered as a permanent residency visa.
“So you have to be a permanent resident first to become citizen.
“And once they are permanent resident and have lived in Australia for four years, and been a permanent resident for one year, they will be eligible to become citizens.”
Application processing time
The Department of Home Affairs recommends applying online for faster processing time.
According to Damien Kilner from the Department’s Family and Citizenship Programme, for most applicants, the average processing time for citizenship is 14 months.
Applicants must also pass the Australian citizenship test to show their knowledge of Australia and understanding of the privileges and responsibilities as a citizen.
An Australian citizenship recipient displays his certificate during an citizenship ceremony on Australia Day in Brisbane, Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017
“It’s really looking at: have you got a basic level of English?” says Damien Kilner.
“Being able to sit in front of a computer system and undertake the test, which is a relatively straight-forward process, takes around half an hour in general.”
The 20-question multiple-choice citizenship test is based on the online booklet ‘Australian Citizenship – Our Common Bond’ which is an overview of Australia, its democratic beliefs, rights, government and law.
“People are expected to have a look at those resource materials in preparation and then they are able to sit the test once they feel confident to be able to answer that,”
Most people pass the test with a pass mark of 75 per cent. In the year 2014 to 2015, 98.6 per cent of those who sat the test passed.
Proposed changes to Citizenship laws
But things could get tougher for aspiring citizens, with the Department of Home Affairs proposing to temporarily ban applicants from sitting the citizenship test after multiple failures.
“The government has indicated some changes,” says Kilner. “And one of the changes that has been indicated is three times, and if you do fail, there is a period of up to two years where you would expected to come back and resit.”
“But it’s up to passage of that legislation getting through."
The government is proposing that applicants sit a separate English test to prove that they have a “competent” level of reading, writing, listening and speaking, which is equivalent to an IELTS level of 5.0.
People aged over 60, children under 16, those with hearing, speech or sight impairments, and people with physical or mental incapacity, are not required to sit the test.