Australian Citizenship by Descent


Here are the provisions for a person born overseas of an Australian citizen acquiring Australian citizenship starting with s 16:

(2)      A person born outside Australia on or after 26 January 1949 is eligible to become an Australian citizen if:

(a)      a parent of the person was an Australian citizen at the time of the birth; and

(b)      if the parent was an Australian citizen under this Subdivision or Subdivision AA, or section 10B, 10C or 11 of the old Act (about citizenship by descent), at the time of the birth:

(i)      the parent has been present in Australia (except as an unlawful non-citizen) for a total period of at least 2 years at any time before the person made the application; or

(ii)      the person is not a national or a citizen of any country at the time the person made the application and the person has never been such a national or citizen; and

(c)      if the person is or has ever been a national or a citizen of any country, or if article 1(2)(iii) of the Stateless Persons Convention applies to the person, and the person is aged 18 or over at the time the person made the application — the Minister is satisfied that the person is of good character at the time of the Minister’s decision on the application. 

As can be seen, there are some limitations on dual citizens passing on Australian citizenship by descent, the requirement being that the parent has been present in Australia for at least 2 years or that the child was not a citizen of any other country.

Note that the requirement of citizenship by descent is via Australian citizenship, mere permanent residence is not enough.  So a child born overseas of an Australian permanent resident cannot become an Australian citizen by descent.

Citizenship by descent is not automatic as one has to apply for such citizenship.

In a globalised world this issue causes some complications. Australia keeps its citizenship information confidential. The writer knows of a number of people who are Chinese citizens but have taken up Australian citizenship by descent. Such persons use a PRC passport to leave and enter China but always transit overnight via a south east Asian country like Malaysia or Singapore both ways. The person then uses the Australian passport to leave that country and enter Australia and vice versa.  The writer of course is not an expert on Chinese law and offers no opinion on the legality of that situation as regards Chinese law.  However that travel arrangement does not infringe Australian law.

Barbara Davidson