Character Issues in Australian Citizenship Applications

Character Issues

Table of Contents

When an eligible person applies for Australian citizenship by conferral they need to demonstrate that they are of Good Character.

The most common reason that an application for Australian Citizenship is refused is because the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) has come to a conclusion that a given applicant is not a person of “Good Character”. This is a general eligibility requirement and may relate to a person’s criminal, immigration or personal history.

It is important that you are honest and forthright with the DIBP in your application for Australian Citizenship. The application form for Australian Citizenship asks you if you have ever been convicted of a criminal offence. If you have, you should answer yes and give full details of the offence, as the DIBP has access to your criminal records and reviews all applicants’ criminal histories when assessing their application for Citizenship.  You should disclose all offences, even minor offences, as honesty is vitally important when dealing with government departments.

As there is no definition of what constitutes good character in the Citizenship Act 2007, decision-makers rely on policy direction.  In applying policy the decision-maker may look at information from a number of external sources, including sentencing remarks, parole reports, victim impact statements, passenger cards, previous visa applications, criminal records of family members, references from employers and records of dealings with the Department of Immigration, ATO and Centrelink.

Current policy on character specifies:

‘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.

Policy provides the following direction to decision-makers when looking at whether an individual is of ‘good character’:

An applicant of good character would:

  1. Respect and abide by the law in Australia and other countries
  2. Be honest and financially responsible (for example, pay their taxes, and not be in dishonest receipt of public funds)
  3. Be truthful and not practise deception or fraud in their dealings with the Australian Government, or other governments and organisations, for example:
    • providing false personal information (such as fraudulent work experience or qualification documents) or other material deception during visa and citizenship applications
    • 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
  4. Not be violent, involved in drugs or unlawful sexual activity, and not cause harm to others through their conduct (for example recklessness exhibited by negligent or drink driving, excessive speeding or driving without licence or insurance)
  5. 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
  6. Not have evaded immigration control or assisted others to do so, or been involved in the illegal movement of people
  7. Not have committed, been involved with or associated with war crimes, crimes against humanity and/or genocide
  8. Not be the subject of any extradition order or other international arrest warrant
  9. 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
  10. Not be the subject of any verifiable information causing character doubts

Some of the circumstances for deeming that an individual is of ‘good character’ outlined above may appear reasonable.  However, the problem with giving decision-makers such a broad scope for applying this discretion and denying citizenship is that it means that an individual may continue to be punished for past conduct (for which they have already been held accountable) through the denial of Australian citizenship.

If you have received an “Invitation to Comment” on your application for citizenship in relation to questions about your character, you should contact us so we can advise you what sort of documents and information you should provide to try and overcome any character issues and a potential refusal of your citizenship application.

It is also important to note that if your application is refused by the DIBP, you are able to seek review of the decision to refuse Australian citizenship on character grounds through the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).

In addition to the good character requirements, the Citizenship Act 2007 deals specifically with criminal offences and provides that an application must be refused in a number of circumstances, including the following:

  1. Where there are any pending criminal matters
  2. Within 2 years of having had a 12 month custodial sentence imposed
  3. Within 10 years of having had more than one 12 month custodial sentence
  4. Within a parole period
  5. Where a good behaviour bond or other security has been imposed and not yet discharged.

Where an application is refused on such grounds there is little point appealing to the AAT.  Rather the person should wait an appropriate period to be able to show that they have reformed and then apply again with good supporting evidence of their good character.

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