For frequent flyers, dual citizenship is the proverbial golden ticket. Shorter lines at the airport, greater freedom while traveling, and the chance to legally circumvent pesky immigrations laws (if only to stick it to those sloth like bureaucrats) are just a few of the benefits of dual citizenship.
If you’re thinking about expanding your business ventures into a foreign market, you should pause to consider what it’s going to be like doing business in another country with bureaucrats and immigration red tape standing in your way. You’re just trying to create prosperity and employ their citizens, but somehow these government workers manage to treat you like a common criminal. It’s honestly frustrating enough to bring a grown man to tears.
True, some countries are way friendlier to foreign capitalists, but bureaucrats always seem to be cut of the same cloth, right? With a local passport, bureaucrats will wield far less power over your life and business.
Gaining dual citizenship is your path to saving on legal fees and avoiding the time wasting process of dealing with your local immigration office. It will also grant plenty of privileges when it comes to health care, travel, and business, that will make your life as a nomad capitalist significantly easier. And let’s be honest, we all got into this lifestyle for greater ease.
When it comes to pursuing dual citizenship, not all immigration systems are created equally. Some countries like Japan, Austria, and Poland seriously restrict or even ban dual citizenship. Other countries may welcome you in, but won’t exactly be useful when it comes to expanding your business interests. Plus, your odds of quickly learning the local language will be slim.
With the US rapidly falling on the Index of Economic Freedom, many are looking for English speaking nations where they can pursue dual citizenship and grow their businesses.
Benefits of Australian Citizenship
Australia’s immigration laws are complex and merit-based. But if you have entrepreneurial skills and the funding to back it up, there are a few different doors to citizenship open for you. For highly skilled employees, you may also have the chance to apply for Australian citizenship. Of course, if you have one Australian parent, your citizenship journey is going to be much easier; Australian citizenship by descent is one of the most straightforward pathways.
Before you start thinking about how to get Australian citizenship, let’s consider some of the benefits and the most popular pathways for nomad capitalists. Later, we’ll go into more detail on exactly how to get Australian citizenship.
Living in Australia
The most basic factor you want to consider before you decide to apply for citizenship is the quality of life you’ll have while living there. Not every country will be well suited to your financial situation, expectations, and family life. Personally, I love living in Eastern Europe, but I’d be lying if I said that going to the supermarket or dealing with the post-Soviet government bureaucracy wasn’t a shock at first.
So before we jump into how to get Australian citizenship, you should make sure the lifestyle is right for you.
The UN Human Development Index (HDI), which ranks quality of life, taking into account health & life expectancy, education, and standard of living. In the most recent HDI report, released in 2016, Australia ranks in the #2 position, while Canada and the US are tied for the #10 spot.
One of the most characteristic factors of life in Australia is diversity. This applies to lifestyle choices as well. Some people choose a country lifestyle on a ranch, others live a laid back life on the beach. With thriving metropolitan centers like Melbourne and Sydney, the bustling city life is certainly an option.
Of course, Australia is also well known for its incredible biodiversity, including some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and thousands of native animal species. This biodiversity is uniquely reflected in Australian cuisine. Unfortunately, Michelin doesn’t release a guide in Australia, but the culinary scene is still internationally respected, featuring plenty of fresh seafood and locally pastured lamb. Domestic wine production is also thriving.
As an English speaker, it’s rarely difficult to find your way around most popular travel destinations, but actually moving to a different country is a different story. Not all governments will offer forms in English. And take it from me, you definitely don’t want to end up at a rural public hospital in a non-English speaking nation. While there are plenty of expat countries that speak English, it’s not always at a native level.
If you’re shopping around for a second passport, some countries will require you to take a language test. Learning a new language is time consuming and having documents translated into local languages can cost hundreds of dollars, so don’t take it for granted that a language barrier isn’t a stress you’ll have to deal with in Australia.
Relatively Safe Banking
Andrew often points out that people tend to assume banking in the US is safe. The financial crisis of 2008 showed that assumption isn’t necessarily true. Even a decade after the financial crisis, the US banking system is still not really internationally competitive.
Australia has a significantly safer banking system than the US. On the Global Finance 2017 list of the world’s safest banks, a US bank doesn’t appear until #36. Even then it’s a wholesale bank for farming, not exactly helpful for most nomad capitalists. Australian banks debut at the #25 and #26 spot, conveying a much stronger international safety rating.
Visa-Free Travel for Australian Passport Holders
As far as travel freedom, an Australian passport is one of the strongest ranking in the world. With an Australian passport, you can travel visa free to 174 countries, including the Schengen area.
Most of these countries are also covered by an American or Canadian passport, but consider that you can only be in the Schengen zone with an American passport for three months at a time, at a maximum of six months out of the year. If you have an Australian and US passport you’ll have a lot more freedom when it comes to traveling.
With dual citizenship, you’ll no longer have to rely on US consular services while abroad. As an American citizen and full time traveler, I would never rely on my American citizenship alone. If I run into trouble abroad, you better believe I’m ringing up the Brazilian consulate, not my American compatriots. The stress of going to the DMV is something I’d rather leave behind in the states.
Australia provides excellent consular services to citizens abroad including 24 hour assistance from their Consular Emergency Centre. They also share services with Canada, so Australian citizens can receive services from Canadian posts abroad if more convenient.
How to Get Australian Residency
Now we can jump right into the fine details of how to get Australian residency and citizenship.
Unless you’re eligible for Australian citizenship by descent, the first step to obtaining citizenship is becoming an Australian permanent resident. But before you receive Australian permanent residency, you’ll have to get a temporary residence visa. Which temporary residence visa you should apply for depends on the type of permanent residency you qualify for. We’ll get into those details below.
Obtaining permanent residency may seem like a tedious and costly step on your path to citizenship, but permanent residency alone offers plenty of benefits while you wait for citizenship. Australian Permanent Residency (PR) allows you to work in Australia, enroll in Medicare, and gives you the freedom to travel to and from the Land Down Under.
If you have family interested in moving to Australia, with PR, you’ll be able to sponsor them for residency as well. Plus, any children born in Australia while you hold residency will be automatically considered Australian citizens. Ensuring dual citizenship for your children is something too many parents neglect to consider, but can open up a lot of educational and career opportunities for them.
Australian permanent residency also grants you the right to live and work in New Zealand. Considering that New Zealand ranks as the third most free country in the world on the Index of Economic Freedom, this is a benefit that nomad capitalists shouldn’t overlook. Unsurprisingly, New Zealand is also the most prosperous country in the region, but has recently pledged to reduce immigration. Australian residency can help you circumvent these potential roadblocks if you have significant business interests in New Zealand.
Each of your visas options will have specific, and sometimes very detailed requirements. However, there are a few requirements and steps you’ll have to meet before you apply for any visa for permanent residency.
In order to become an Australian permanent resident, you need to first apply for a visa. There are literally dozens of different visa options for pursuing Australian PR, but we’ll delve into your specific options a little more later on. Keep in mind, some of the visa options that lead to PR require you to enter Australia on a specific temporary residence visa, which can be an additional cost and nuisance. Now we’re going to cover the general requirements for applying for any of the visa options that can lead to becoming an Australian permanent resident and eventually a citizen.
The official language in Australia is English. To obtain Australian PR, you need to prove that you speak English fluently. In order to do so, you have to take the IELTS English language test. If you are a native English speaker holding a passport from Canada, the United States, United Kingdom, Ireland, or New Zealand, you are exempt from the test. (It seems that former US citizens who renounced may still be required to pass the test.)
However, native English speakers from other nations must still take the test. Experts warn that IELTS is much more difficult than you might expect, even for native speakers, so preparation is recommended.
One of the factors the Australian government uses to rank applicants is occupation. In order to receive permanent residency in Australia, your occupation must be relevant to the current needs of the Australian economy. Acceptable occupations range from acupuncturist, to cardiologist, to bricklayer. The complete list of acceptable occupations can be found here.
Expression of Interest
After determining that you are eligible for Australian Permanent Residency considering occupation, language, and points, you must submit an Expression of Interest (EOI).
An EOI informs the Australian government of what kind of visa you are applying for and includes relevant information that can help the immigration office rank you against other candidates. Once your EOI is processed, you may be invited to apply for a visa. You cannot apply for a visa without this invitation. EOIs are filled out through an online portal. There is no fee to submit an EOI.
Once the invitation is extended, you must apply for the appropriate visa within 60 days of receiving the invitation.
Health & Character
Once you are invited to apply for a visa, you will likely be asked to undergo a health examination as part of the application. The results of your examination must be submitted online.
You will also be required to submit supporting documents related to your character. These documents will primarily look at your criminal and immigration history. Unless you’ve escaped after being detained as an illegal immigrant, served more than a year in prison, or committed sexual assault against a minor, you probably don’t have too much to worry as far as the character assessment goes.
Australian Residency by Marriage
If your spouse is an Australian citizen, an Australian permanent resident, or an eligible citizen of New Zealand, your pathway to PR and later citizenship is going to be much more straightforward.
If you are an offshore applicant you’ll first have to apply for a Partner (Provisional) visa (subclass 309). This is a temporary residence visa that allows you to enter and live in Australia while you apply for the Partner (Migrant) visa (subclass 100). 90% of 309 Provisional visas are processed within 16 months, while 90% of subclass 100 visas are processed in 30 months.
In order to apply for this visa, you must be married to or in a de facto relationship with an Australian citizen, resident, or eligible New Zealand citizen. Australia defines a de facto relationship as a committed, monogamous relationship lasting more than 12 months in which both partners permanently live together. Online relationships do not qualify as de facto relationships, but same sex relationships do.
If your relationship ends in the midst of the visa process, you are required to contact immigration immediately. You may still be eligible for the visa if extenuating circumstances, like domestic violence, are at play.
Both the provisional and the permanent visa allow you the right to work and study in Australia, however, only the permanent visa grants you a path to citizenship.
Investor stream requires an investment of A$1.5 million
After obtaining the provisional visa, you can apply for the seven main points to define ongoing business interests. Not only must you have an ownership interest in a business in Australia with an annual turnover of at least A$300,000, but you will also have to demonstrate an “ongoing and continuous management role” in the business. What percentage of the business you must own varies depending on annual turnover of the business.
Finally, you and your spouse or de facto partner must demonstrate at least two of these:
The Business Innovation and Investment (Permanent) visa (subclass 888) also offers a second option for entrepreneurs, the Entrepreneur stream. To qualify for the Entrepreneur stream you need to already hold the Provisional Business Innovation and Investment visa in the Entrepreneurial stream. You must hold the provisional visa for a continuous four years before applying for the permanent visa.
You also have to prove to the government that you have a history of successful entrepreneurial activity in Australia. If your entrepreneurial activity is within the realms of residential real estate or labor hire you are not eligible for the Entrepreneur stream. In order to qualify for the Entrepreneur stream, some may be tempted to purchase an already successful business enterprise in Australia. This is not permissible under this visa; you must present a new business venture to qualify.
The government will measure your entrepreneurial success based on a number of this visa is a bit less demanding than the Permanent Business Innovation and Investment visa because you do not need to first qualify for a provisional visa. Like the Business Innovation and Investment visa, you’ll have to fill out an EOI online to receive a nomination and invitation from the government to apply for the visa.
There are two different streams for applying for this visa, the Venture Capital Entrepreneur stream and the Significant Business History stream. The Venture Capital Entrepreneur stream is the more straightforward option of the two. To qualify for this stream you must enter into a formal agreement with an Australian venture capital firm to receive a minimum of A$1 million in funding towards the development of a “promising high-value business idea.” The venture capital firm must be a member of the Australian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association Limited (AVCAL). AVCAL Skilled Independent visa (subclass 189) is for skilled workers within the list of acceptable occupations, who are not sponsored by an employer or family member. This visa is not for citizens of New Zealand. New Zealanders may apply for the Skilled Independent visa (subclass 189) (New Zealand) stream, instead.
To apply for this visa, you must reach a score of at least 60 points on the points table. Each individual invitation may indicate a different score necessary. For most people with work experience and native English skills, this shouldn’t be very difficult to achieve. After being invited to apply, you may have to undertake a skills assessment to prove you actually have the claimed relevant skills.
Costs for this visa begin at A$3,670. The good news is, as far as Australian visa applications go, these applications are processed fairly quickly. 90% of applicants receive a final decision within 9 months.
Skilled Nominated visa (Subclass 190)
The SkillSelect, which analyzes your skills based on the needs of the Australian economy.
Employer Nomination Scheme (Subclass 186)
As the name implies, this visa is essentially the same as the other skilled visas, but requires nomination through an employer, presenting a slightly more complex application process. After your employer’s nomination is approved, you’ll have six months to apply for either the Temporary Residence Transition stream, the Direct Entry stream, or the Labour Agreement stream.
In order to qualify for the Temporary Residence Transition stream, you must already hold a Temporary Work (Skilled) visa (subclass 457), Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa (subclass 482), or another appropriate visa. You also should have already been working under your nominating employer in Australia for a number of years depending on the visa you previously held.
For those who have not spent this much time working in Australia, the Direct Entry stream and the Labour Agreement stream offer alternative options. The Direct Entry stream is for those who haven’t spent a significant time working in Australia, but whose employer still wants to offer sponsorship for permanent residency. The Labor Agreement stream is applicable for those whose employer holds an agreement with the Australian government, allowing them to sponsor employees for permanent residency.
The cost for the Employer Nomination Scheme also begins at A$3,670.
Distinguished Talent Visas
The Distinguished Talent visa (subclasses 858 & 124 provides permanent residency for those exemplifying outstanding, internationally recognized talent in the realms of sport, academia & research, the fine arts, or within their chosen profession.
You must be nominated for this visa by a nationally recognized and respected Australian citizen or permanent resident, citizen of New Zealand, or Australian organization. Unlike the other skilled visas, this visa only requires functional English language competency. Cost begins at A$3,730.
How to Get Australian Citizenship
After becoming an Australian permanent resident you’ll have the option of pursuing citizenship. In order to do this, you’ll have to stay in Australia long enough for naturalization, fill out the application, and take the Australian citizenship test. It may be a time consuming process, but it actually isn’t that tedious compared to other countries.
There is one way expedite this process and circumvent naturalization and taking the Australian citizenship test, applying for Australian citizenship by descent. Before we jump into the specifics of how to get Australian citizenship, let’s take a quick look at the much easier process of Australian citizenship by descent.
Australian Citizenship by Descent
Obtaining Australian citizenship by descent is an easier and less costly process than any of the other options we have mentioned. There are only two main requirements: having been born outside of Australia (obviously) and being able to provide documents proving that one of your parents was an Australian citizen at the time of your birth. You will not need to sit for an interview or the Australian citizenship test.
There is no “birth tourism” down under; Australia does NOT grant citizenship to children born there unless at least one parent is Australian.
If you are over the age of 18, you must also provide documents proving good character. This will require going through the tedious process of obtaining penal clearance certificates from any country where you have lived for more than 90 days. Any documents must be issued in English or translated into English by a translator approved of by the Australian government.
You can apply for Australian citizenship by descent online or via physical forms. The cost of the application is A$230, unless you are applying at the same time as your older sibling, in which case your fee will only be A$95. After your application is processed you may be sent additional documents to fill out, but generally speaking it will still be a much less painful process than the other citizenship options. The entire process from submitting your application until receiving the government’s decision generally takes about 6 months, making this one of the quickest pathways to citizenship.
Steps to Citizenship
Unless you have the opportunity to receive Australian citizenship by descent, there are five main steps you have to follow to apply for Australian citizenship. We already discussed the first two steps above: temporary residence and permanent residence. The first steps on your pathway to citizenship involve applying for and receiving a temporary visa. You can then use your temporary visa to apply for an appropriate visa that would grant you permanent residency in Australia. Above, we’ve outlined the best temporary and permanent visa options for entrepreneurs, investors, and exceptionally talented employees.
After receiving permanent residency, there are three more steps to apply for Australian citizenship: naturalization, a citizenship application, and successfully completing the Australian citizenship test.
After becoming a permanent resident of Australia, you must actually live in Australia for four years before applying for citizenship. One year out of the four must have been spent as a permanent resident. The other three years can come from time spent in Australia before you became a permanent resident. For example, if you lived in Australia as a student, those years are applicable towards naturalization.
During the naturalization period, you cannot have been absent from Australia for more than 12 months total or for more than three months in the year before applying for citizenship. If your business interests require you to travel outside of Australia frequently, you’re going to have to pay close attention to the amount of time you spend away from the country.
The Australian Citizenship Application
After the four year period of naturalization, you’ll be able to apply for Australian citizenship. Most people will be able to apply for Australian citizenship online. If you are applying as a migrant with permanent residence, you’ll be applying for citizenship by conferral. For those under the age of 60, you’ll be applying for citizenship under the here.
If you are over the age of 60, you will be allowed to have a citizenship interview instead of taking the test.
Being Approved for Citizenship
After you pass the citizenship test or interview, your journey to Australian citizenship is not yet complete. You must attend a citizenship ceremony, make a pledge, and sign some documents before you officially become an Australian citizen. For some, the citizenship ceremony is a moving experience, for others, it’s just another time consuming step.
Afterwards, you can apply for a passport, which you’ll need in order to cash in on the travel benefits of holding Australian citizenship.
The final stage in the process to becoming an Australian citizen is the citizenship ceremony. You’ll be invited to attend a ceremony after your application has been successfully approved and you have passed the citizenship test. You must attend the ceremony within 12 months of your application being approved.
The ceremony usually takes about two hours. At the ceremony you’ll be asked to make the Pledge of Commitment. After you have said the Pledge out loud, you are officially an Australian citizen.
Following the ceremony, you will receive your citizenship certificate, which is needed when applying for an Australian passport.
You will also be offered the opportunity to register to vote in Australia. Although you are not required to put your name on the electoral roll as a part of the ceremony, it is recommended that you do to save yourself later hassle. Unlike in the US, you are legally required to vote in Australia.
In the majority of cases, it only takes about 16 months between the time you submit your application for citizenship and the day you make the Pledge of Commitment.
Getting a Passport
Your application for Australian citizenship was processed through the Department of Home Affairs. If you would like to receive an Australian passport, you will have to submit a separate application though the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Like your citizenship application, you’ll be able to apply for a passport online. As a new citizen, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will ask you to provide your Australian citizenship certificate, as well as documents proving your residential address. The online application will explain in further detail the documents you must provide and steps you must take depending on your situation.
In some cases, you may also be asked to provide a guarantor/referee to confirm your identity. Your guarantor/referee must be an Australian citizen over the age of 18, known to you for more than a year, not related to you in anyway, not living at your address or romantically involved with you, and possessing a valid Australian passport or registered to the electoral roll at their current address for at least 12 months.
Your guarantor/referee may have to fill out a portion of the application and endorse one of your passport photos, writing ‘This is a true photo of (applicant’s full name)’ on the back in black pen. He or she may also be contacted by the Australian Passport Office and asked a few questions.
Although beginning your application online will make your life much easier, all applications must be submitted in person. That means you’ll have to print your online application checklist and make an appointment to lodge your passport application at your closest Australian post. If overseas, you’ll have to find your nearest Australian consulate and file your application there.
You will have to submit all original documents at the consulate or post. The official handling your case will make copies of your documents and promptly return them to you. You will also be asked to sign your application, endorse your passport photos, and pay the application fee.
Once you successfully submit the application and all required documents, plus the fee of A$282, you should expect to receive your passport within three weeks.
If you’re in a hurry, you can apply for a priority passport for an additional fee of A$186. In this case, your application should be processed and your passport issued within two business days of receiving your application.
For Australians applying overseas, you’ be able to receive your passport, but will be expected to pay an additional fee of A$105. And yes, Australia does allow citizens to hold multiple citizenships and passports.
How to Get Australian Citizenship: Summary
Getting Australian citizenship may seem like a mind-numbing, long, and expensive process. That may be, but it’s a lot simpler than other options out there. The naturalization period is also half the time of some countries. Plus, Americans and Canadians won’t have to learn a new language or take a language test.
True, you will have to spend a significant amount of time wrangling bureaucrats, but much of the process is automated and can be completed from the comfort of your couch. The few times when you will need to meet with an immigration official, you will do so by appointment. I know it sounds crazy, but not all immigration offices in the world offer appointments. When I renew my residence permit each year, I have to arrive at an immigration office before 7 am and wait in line for about five hours before meeting with an official.
To summarize, the process for Australian citizenship is as follows:
1. Temporary residence
2. Permanent residence
3. Naturalization (after four years)
4. Australian citizenship test
5. Citizenship ceremony
If you’re applying for Australian citizenship by descent or if you are married to an Australian citizen, the process will be much easier and faster. So yes, it may seem onerous, but don’t despair, as far as the citizenship applications go, applying in Australia is significantly less hellish than some other developed countries like the United States.
What’s important is that you find the proper citizenship for you. If you’re an investor and speed in obtaining citizenship is important, you might consider citizenship by investment as an alternative to Australian citizenship. While the Australian passport is hard to beat, it does come with rather high tax implications that might be a turn-off to some business owners.
If you’d like help finding the best passport for your needs, you may contact us for help.
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- How to Get Australian Citizenship: the Ultimate Guide - June 30, 2018