• When can you lose your Australian citizenship?

  • Australian citizenship gives people the right to remain in and return to Australian territory. It is possible to hold citizenship of two or more countries if the law of those countries so allows. This is known as dual (or multiple) citizenship.

    Many Australian citizens are not aware that they can lose their Australian citizenship.

    You can lose your Australian citizenship in the circumstances set out below.

    Renounce your citizenship voluntarily

    You can lose Australian citizenship if you take steps to renounce it.

    You may decide to do this because you are a citizen of another country, or you are entitled to become a citizen of another country. There is a detailed process that you must follow.

    Australia is a signatory to the relevant United Nations Convention, so our Government will not approve your application to renounce your Australian citizenship unless you provide evidence that you are a citizen of another country or you will acquire the citizenship of another country.

    Dual citizens will have citizenship renounced through certain conduct  

    In 2015 a further category of renunciation of citizenship was introduced. If a person is a dual citizen and engages in certain kinds of conduct that is considered to be inconsistent with allegiance to Australia, they are taken to have renounced their Australian citizenship, and will cease to be an Australian citizen.

    This will happen regardless of how the person became an Australian citizen (ie including if they became an Australian citizen on birth).

    The Minister for Immigration will give notice that they have ceased to be an Australian citizen. The person affected may seek a review in the Federal Court or High Court. In certain situations, the Minister may exempt a person from cessation of citizenship.

    This loss of citizenship applies to people aged 14 years or older.

    Examples of conduct that will lead to cessation of citizenship in this way are:

    • engaging in terrorist activities in Australia or overseas;
    • financing terrorist activities;
    • serving in the armed forces of a country at war with Australia or fighting for or in the service of a declared terrorist organisation outside Australia.

    There is no requirement for conviction by a court.

    Acquired another citizenship

    Before 4 April 2002, Australian citizens who became citizens of another country lost their Australian citizenship automatically. Since that date Australian citizens who become citizens of another country may in some circumstances become dual citizens.

    Citizenship revoked

    A person will lose Australian citizenship if it is revoked. The Minister may revoke Australian citizenship following certain convictions or actions, unless the person is an Australian citizen by birth, or the person is conferred citizenship and it would not go against the public interest for that person to remain an Australian citizen.

    The following are the relevant convictions or actions that the Minister may act on:

    • The person is convicted of making a false statement or false representation or producing a false document in relation to their application to become an Australian citizen.
    • The person became an Australian citizen as a result of migration-related fraud.
    • The person became an Australian citizen as a result of third-party fraud (for example, fraudulent conduct by a migration agent in the citizenship application).
    • The person was convicted of a serious criminal offence at any time before becoming a citizen that carries a prison sentence of 12 months or more.

    If a person is a dual citizen and is convicted of certain crimes (terrorism related) for which they are sentenced to at least six years in prison, and the Minister considers that the person has demonstrated that they have repudiated their allegiance to Australia, the Minister can revoke their citizenship. They will be deported on release from prison.

    Obtain legal advice

    A change in status of Australian citizenship has very serious consequences. Special rules apply in respect of children affected by a changed citizenship status. It is very important to obtain professional legal advice about these matters in a timely way.

    If you or someone you know wants more information or needs help or advice, please contact us on 02 9299 5815 or email info@brettslater.com

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