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Australian Citizenship: Why I Applied

As of last Wednesday, I have officially been a permanent resident of Australia for one year.   While it may seem that I’m celebrating yet another milestone because I can, this one actually has a pretty special significance. Australian citizenship rules require that you live in the country continuously for four years and that you are a permanent resident for at least one year, so Wednesday also marked the day that I became eligible for Australian citizenship.

Did I apply? Absolutely. I put in my application as soon as I could on Wednesday morning. The application process was a breeze compared to permanent residency; I had to fill out a form with all the basic questions that my other seven Australian visas have asked for as well as provide a few certified documents to prove my identity. Now I just have to wait for the immigration office to provide me with an interview/test appointment.

Vegemite and Marsupials

Some people believe I should eat vegemite before I am allowed to become a citizen. I disagree.

A few people have asked why I would apply for citizenship when I already have nearly all the rights that a citizen has. The main reason I did it is because Australia is a great place that I truly love living in, and I would love to be able to say that I’m one of its citizens. While that is the true driver for putting in my application, there’s a lot of little things that go along with it, like:

  • Never having to apply for a visa again: As a permanent resident, I’m allowed to leave and re-enter Australia as much as I want…for five years. After that, I have to start applying for resident return visas every five years if I want to go abroad…which I will.
  • Getting an Australian passport: Australia and New Zealand have “Smart Gates” where you just scan your passport and enter the country, avoiding the nasty immigration queues. I’d be sold just on that. Plus, while I will still get called out for my accent, it would be nice to occasionally be able to introduce myself as Australian and avoid the inevitable conversations about American politics that often come from saying I’m from the US (although that’s gotten a lot better since Bush left office).

    Australian Citizenship Study Booklet

    The study booklet for the Australian citizenship test.

  • Not having to worry about changing residency rules: My mother has been a permanent resident in the US since the 1970s, and she occasionally has to worry about changes to permanent residency laws and how they will affect her. I’d like to avoid that.
  • Voting: A lot of people in America don’t vote at all. In Australia, that’s not an option. Once I get citizenship, I will be legally required to vote in all elections…and you know what? That’s fine with me. It would be nice to have my voice heard, especially when there are issues important to me at stake — like the Labour government’s goal to push as many foreign workers out of the country as possible.
  • Fulfilling my childhood dream: When I was 11, I declared to my parents that I was going to move to Australia and live there forever. It was partly to do with the fact that Pat Rafter was my favourite tennis player and partly to do with the amazing montages of Australia that always seemed to appear on screen while he was playing. My mom sighed and told me that I needed to graduate from college first. That’s exactly what I did, but I feel like getting citizenship would be the ultimate way to fulfill that childhood dream.

A lot of people have asked me about how this affects my US citizenship and whether I intend to renounce it. Definitely not. Both the Australian and US governments allows dual citizenship. For the US, all that is required if I willingly apply for another citizenship is to inform them when I apply for my next passport that I did not intend to renounce my US citizenship in attaining my Australian citizenship.

My US Passport

My well-used (and treasured) US passport.

I would never consider giving up my US citizenship. It’s my country; it’s where I grew up and where many of my friends and family still live. I wouldn’t give up having the option of moving back there at some point, and I wouldn’t give up the right to freely enter the country to visit. My parents chose for me to be an American citizen rather than a British citizen when I was born, and I’m not going to throw that away.

So now, it’s time to wait and see when I’ve been scheduled to take the next step in the process. In the meantime, I’ll read a bit of “Australian Citizenship: Our Common Bond” while avoiding offers of food from anyone who believes that eating Vegemite should be a part of the citizenship test!

Have you ever been faced with a citizenship decision? What did you do?

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3 Responses to Australian Citizenship: Why I Applied

  1. Heather June 25, 2012 at 9:25 am Reply

    I’m so happy for you 🙂 Can’t wait to hear how things progress because 1) I’m so glad to see you pursuing a dream and 2) Gavin and I will be there in several years and it’s nice to see someone else experiencing something similar 🙂

    • Kristin June 25, 2012 at 10:52 pm Reply

      Thanks Heather! Hopefully I’ll be able to give you some good news soon…and I hope that you and Gavin are able to get through all of your visa and citizenship applications with no issues. My mother’s actually going to be applying for American citizenship soon so I’ll let you know how long that takes too 🙂

  2. Catherine @ The Spring July 2, 2012 at 1:01 pm Reply

    Hello Kristin,

    It was great meeting you at the Blogopolis drinks on Saturday evening! I’m going through the process of becoming permanent here in Australia too, and while I agree that I’d never want to give up my Canadian citizenship, not having to worry about visas changing or having my employers constantly wanting to reconfirm my legal status will be so refreshing! Australia is a country I can be proud to call home… although to be honest, I wish someone else would organise the paperwork!

    Looking forward to keeping in touch!

    x Catherine @ The Spring

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