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Can I get Australian citizenship with a criminal record?

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The Australian government in recent times is taking a much harder line when it comes to granting citizenship to a person who has a criminal record.

It is a requirement that any person applying for citizenship must be of ‘good character’. Good character is not defined in the Citizenship Act 2007. Each case is determined on its individual merits.

The term ‘good character’ refers to the enduring moral qualities of a person, and is an indication of whether an applicant is likely to uphold and obey the laws of Australia and the other commitments made through the pledge should they be approved for citizenship.

What is considered good character?

When considering whether a person is of good character consideration will be given to such things as:

  • respect and abide by the law in Australia and other countries
  • be honest and financially responsible
  • be truthful and not practice deception or fraud in their dealings with the Australian Government, or other governments and organisations
  • involvement in bogus marriage
  • concealment of convictions that could lead to the cancellation or refusal of a visa or citizenship
  • involvement in Centrelink or Australian Tax Office fraud
  • giving false names and/or addresses to police
  • not be violent, involved in drugs or unlawful sexual activity, and not cause harm to others through their conduct
  • not be associated with others who are involved in anti-social or criminal behaviour, or others who do not uphold and obey the laws of Australia
  • not have evaded immigration control or assisted others to do so, or been involved in the illegal movement of people
  • not have committed, been involved with or associated with war crimes, crimes against humanity and/or genocide
  • not be the subject of any extradition order or other international arrest warrant
  • not be involved in or providing assistance to, or reasonably suspected of being involved in or providing assistance to, terrorist organisations or acts of terrorism overseas or in Australia
  • not be the subject of any verifiable information causing character doubts.

You must provide police clearance when lodging your application for citizenship.

There are basically two different requirements for those people who hold a permanent visa and for those people who are applying for citizenship by descent, adoption or resumption.

If you have held a permanent Australian visa you need penal clearance certificates from overseas countries if:

  • you lived or travelled overseas since the age of 18 years or over, and
  • the total time spent overseas added up to 12 months or more, and
  • the time spent in any one country was more than 90 days, or
  • you are requested to do so by the department.

Provide a penal clearance certificate from every country that you spent more than 90 days in.

If you are applying for citizenship by descent, adoption or resumption you need penal clearance certificates from overseas countries if, in the last 10 years you:

  • have lived or travelled overseas since reaching the age of 18 years of age, and
  • spent time overseas that adds up to 12 months or more, and
  • spent more than 90 days in any one country, or
  • are requested to do so by the department.

New Zealand citizens who do not hold a permanent visa must provide a penal clearance certificate from New Zealand if they have left Australia since the age of 18, irrespective of destination or the amount of time spent overseas.

What do you do if you have a criminal record?

At Visa Australia, our Accredited Specialist in Immigration Law Glenn Ferguson AM has extensive experience representing applicants in relation to character issues (those with a criminal record) with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, in appeal and in the courts.

Contact our team of Migration Agents today to discuss your Australian citizenship options, even with your criminal record.


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