Dual Citizenship


An important day in the history of Australian citizenship law is 4 April 2002. On that day any restrictions on Australians holding dual citizenship was abolished.[1]

Before that date s. 17 of the Australian Citizenship Act 1948 stated:

S 17. Loss of citizenship on acquisition of another nationality

  1. (1) A person, being an Australian citizen who has attained the age of 18 years, who does any act or thing:

(a) the sole or dominant purpose of which; and

(b) the effect of which;

is to acquire the nationality or citizenship of a foreign country, shall, upon that acquisition, cease to be an Australian citizen.

  • Subsection (1) does not apply in relation to an act of marriage.
  1. 17 was repealed on 4 April 2002 but the repeal was not retrospective. In other words if anyone lost their Australian citizenship before that date then the repeal of s. 17 did not revive their Australian citizenship.

Of course whether one is a citizen of another country is determined by that country’s citizenship law, not Australian citizenship law. Some countries still have restrictions on dual citizenship. The writer is not an expert on overseas citizenship law but it is understood China does not permit dual citizenship nor does Malaysia. Hence acquiring Australian citizenship may have an impact on citizenship on those countries.

The word ‘dual’ in ‘dual citizenship’ is used loosely to describe to refer to more than one citizenship.  A person could easily have 3 citizenships, eg a child with a Greek citizen father and Italian citizen mother born in Australia when one of the parents is either an Australian citizen or permanent resident would on birth have 3 citizenships, Australian, Italian & Greek.  Prior to the repeal of s.17, dual citizenship was basically a form of legal lottery. Many people who acquired Australian citizenship either by birth or by grant, retain either the citizenship of a parent or the citizenship of their country of origin. Whether one would have retained that other citizenship or not depends on the domestic law of that other country. Generally the citizenship law of countries like the UK, Canada, New Zealand, USA, France, Italy and Greece is in this category.

Barbara Davidson