Australian Citizenship or Resident Return Visa?

Once you become a permanent resident of Australia you can theoretically be a permanent resident for the rest of your life if you intend to never leave Australia again. However, for most people this isn’t a realistic proposition and after 5 years of being a permanent resident your entry rights to Australia will expire. You will then be faced with the question, should I apply for Australian citizenship or a resident return visa?

Benefits of a resident return visa

A resident return visa holder enjoys benefits such as:

  • 5 years of entry rights to Australia

  • Study rights and ability to enroll as a local student

  • Work rights

  • Social security benefits

  • Access to Medicare (public health care)
  • Access to childcare rebates

  • Ability to sponsor certain relatives for permanent residency

  • Ability to buy existing residential property

  • Access to Australian consular assistance while travelling overseas

  • Your children born in Australia are deemed Australian citizens by birth

Benefits of Australia citizenship

In addition to the benefits enjoyed by a resident return visa holder an Australia citizen also enjoys the following benefits:

  • Ability to vote in local, state and federal elections

  • Ability to work as a public servant or in the armed forces

  • Ability to serve on a jury

  • Australian passport (one of the most beneficial passport in the World)

  • Unlimited entry into Australia

  • Access to the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP)

  • Protection from deportation

  • Permanent residency in New Zealand

Resident return visa requirements

The five year resident return visa is available to you if you meet the residency requirement, which requires you to have been lawfully present in Australia for at least 2 of the past 5 years. It’s also possible to meet the residency requirement if you have substantial business, cultural, employment or personal ties which are of benefit to Australia, and you haven’t been absent from Australia for more than 5 years, unless compelling circumstances apply. You will also be required to show evidence of good character.

Australian citizenship requirements

Australian citizenship is available to you if you have been lawfully present in Australia for at least 4 years and you have been a permanent resident for the last 12 months. If you are a New Zealand citizen who was present in Australia on 26 February 2001 you may also be eligible for Australia citizenship. All applicants must meet the residency requirement which means:

  • You cannot have been outside of Australia for more than 12 months cumulatively within the last 4 years, and

  • You cannot have been outside of Australia for more than 90 days cumulatively within the last 12 months.

  • Alternate residency requirements may apply to you if you are engaged in a particular type of work that requires regular travel outside of Australia.

Most applicant’s are required to sit the Australian citizenship test. However, if you are over 60 years of age, have a hearing, speech or sight impairment, or have permanent enduring or mental incapacity, then you aren’t required to sit the citizenship test.

All applicant are required to show evidence of character. All applicants are also required to attend the Australian citizenship ceremony to take the Australian citizenship pledge.

Which option is best for me?

The standard resident return visa application fee is $375, compared to the standard Australian citizenship application fee which is $285. The benefits of Australian citizenship clearly outweigh the benefits of permanent residency, so in most cases citizenship is the better option. However, gaining Australian citizenship can in many cases void the citizenship of your country of origin. If you would like to maintain citizenship in your country of origin then you need to ensure that country allows dual citizenship. If not, then a resident return visa is the only option.

About the author

Nick Hansen

Nick has been a Registered Migration Agent since 2016 when he founded Hansen Migration. Since then he has helped many migrants obtain permanent residency in Australia and Australian citizenship.

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