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An Australian permanent resident and an Australian citizen are not the same thing. Get to know the key differences here as well as the privileges and responsibilities of being an Australian citizen.

Permanent residency visa

An Australian permanent resident is someone who holds a permanent visa but is not a citizen. 

A permanent resident can live, work and study without restriction in Australia.

Differences in rights and entitlements

A permanent resident has most of the rights and entitlements of a citizen, but there are some differences: 


Australian citizen
Australian permanent resident
Travelling A citizen has an automatic right of entry to Australia.   
If a permanent resident chooses to travel internationally they need to ensure they have a permanent visa with a valid travel authority if they wish to return to Australia as a permanent resident.
Voting A citizen can vote in Australian government elections.   
In most cases permanent residents can’t vote in Australian government elections. However, if a permanent resident was enrolled to vote (as a British subject) prior to 1984, they may remain eligible to vote.
Government services and benefits Eligibility for government services and benefits depends on the rules set by the relevant government agency responsible for the service or benefit.   
Eligibility for government services and benefits depends on the rules set by the relevant government agency responsible for the service or benefit.

Applying for a permanent residency visa

If you want to apply for permanent residency, there are a number of requirements you need to meet. You can make an application on humanitarian grounds, as a migrant, or part of a family unit.

For more information about how to become a permanent resident, visit the Department of Immigration and Border Protection website.  

Australian citizenship

Being an Australian citizen means you can say, ‘I am Australian.’ Making Australia a permanent home is the goal of many of Melbourne’s migrants and comes with many privileges and responsibilities.

Becoming an Australian citizen means you are making an ongoing commitment to Australia and everything Australia stands for.

General eligibility criteria for citizenship

Generally, those over the age of 18 who apply for Australian citizenship must:

  • have passed a citizenship test (unless over the age of 60)
  • be a permanent resident at the time of application, and also, at time of decision
  • satisfy the residence requirement
  • be likely to reside, or to continue to reside, in Australia or to maintain a close and continuing association with Australia
  • be of good character.

Children may also apply for Australian Citizenship, although different requirements apply. Please visit the Department of Immigration and Border Protection website for more information.  

Residence requirement

Any adult who became a permanent resident on or after 1 July 2007 must have been lawfully residing in Australia for four years immediately before applying for Australian citizenship. This includes:

  • 12 months as a permanent resident
  • absences from Australia of no more than 12 months
  • absences from Australia of no more than three months in the 12 months before applying.

A Citizenship Wizard is available on the Department of Immigration and Border Protection website to help you determine if you meet the residence requirement.

Citizenship test

If you satisfy the general eligibility criteria, you will need to pass a test before applying for Australian citizenship. Those covered by other situations (such as those aged under 18 or over age 60, or people who suffer from a substantial impairment or loss of hearing, speech or sight) are not required to sit a test.

The Australian citizenship test has been designed to help future Australian citizens gain an understanding of Australia's:

  • values
  • traditions
  • history
  • national symbols.

The test is an important part of ensuring you have the capacity to fully participate in the Australian community as a citizen and maximise the opportunities available to you in Australia. It promotes social cohesion and successful integration into the community.

To sit the test you must:

  • be an Australian permanent resident
  • satisfy the department of your identity during the process of registering for the test
  • allow the department to take a photograph of you or provide one yourself.

Find out more about the citizenship test, including practice tests.

Privileges of Australian citizens

Being an Australian citizen entitles you to the right to:

  • live in Australia
  • apply for an Australian passport and to leave and re-enter Australia without applying for a resident return visa
  • seek assistance from Australian diplomatic representatives while overseas
  • work in the public service
  • serve in the armed forces
  • register as Australian citizens by descent any of your children born overseas after you become an Australian citizen
  • stand for Parliament
  • vote to elect members of Parliament.

Responsibilities of Australian citizens

Citizenship also brings with it responsibilities. For example, citizens are required to:

  • obey Australian laws
  • defend Australia should the need arise
  • serve on a jury if called to do so
  • enrol on federal and state/territory electoral registers
  • vote in elections.

More information about the privileges and responsibilities of Australian citizenship can be found in the Australian citizenship: your right, your responsibility Commonwealth Government document.