The differences between being an Australian permanent resident and citizen

For most, the biggest struggle is in gaining permanent residency in Australia. The final step in making Australia your permanent home is becoming a citizen.

Permanent residency:

  • 5 year travel in and out of Australia
  • Subsidised healthcare via Medicare
  • Subsidised education (same fees as citizens)
  • Rights to live, work and study in New Zealand

Permanent residents have a 5 year validity on travelling out of and returning to Australia. If you were not to leave Australia at all, you will not need to renew your visa. To continue to travel freely, a permanent resident will be required to renew the travel facility on their visa, pending meeting the eligibility requirements.

Read: Resident Return Visa (Subclass 155/157) for Permanent Residents

Outside of an extended visa validity, permanent residency gives its owner and his family access to subsidised healthcare via medicare, and subsidised education in Australian schools and universities. As healthcare can be costly and university costs for international students being double or even triple what local students pay, being a permanent resident is a real bonus.

Permanent residency sounds good enough as it, so what does it mean becoming a citizen?

Australia is happy for their citizens to hold dual citizenship. If your home country accepts dual citizenship holders, there is no reason for you not to go on to apply for an Australian citizenship. However,  if your country does not support it, you risk losing your home country’s citizenship in gaining citizenship in Australia. Is it worth it?

Some examples of countries that reject dual citizenship with Australia include India, Nepal, China, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Netherlands (unless under specific conditions). This is not an exhaustive list.

What privileges does an Australian citizenship bring?

  • No need to renew visa, automatic right of entry
  • Australian passport
  • Voting rights
  • Subsidised healthcare through Medicare
  • Subsidised education
  • Access to HECS-HELP (Higher Education Loans Program)
  • There are certain scholarships that are only available to Australian citizens
  • Children born overseas to an Australian citizen will be granted citizenship by descent
  • Sponsor a spouse whilst not residing in Australia
  • May find hire in the public sector and the Australian Defence Force
  • Unencumbered rights to live, work and study in New Zealand
  • Working holidays in partner countries under the Working Holiday Maker arrangement

Let’s talk about some of the above.


Australian passport

Travelling in and out of Australia will become much easier and you will be free of the hassle of renewing your permanent residency every half a decade. If for any reason you need to, or want to be outside of Australia for a very extended period, you will not need to worry about failing the requirements for the resident return visa. Think of all the administrative costs ($360 AUD every 5 or so years), time and effort that you will save over the years.

Next up, the coveted Australian passport. With an Australian passport, you are able visit 169 countries (as of 6 January 2017) and territories visa-free or with visa on arrival, and Australia is currently ranked 8th in travel freedom.

Take a look at this list of the world’s most ‘powerful’ passports

If you’re coming from a country whose passport ranks low on this list, carrying an Australian passport will definitely make travel much easier and trouble free. Again, you’ll save on time, money and effort.



HECS-HELP, or simply known as HECS, is a student study loan programme that is offered by the government to allow Australian citizens to get a loan for higher education that they can pay back at virtually no added interest rate. The student will only need to start repaying this debt after their income surpasses the compulsory repayment threshold. The compulsory repayment threshold is adjusted each year. The compulsory repayment threshold for the 2016-2017 income year is $54,869. What a benefit! If you’re are family or thinking of furthering your studies, this could be very helpful.



For all of you singles, if you were to become an Australian citizen, take a long hiatus in another country and fall in love, you can sponsor your spouse whilst you are offshore. Australian permanent residents are expected to be majorly resident in Australia

As a permanent resident of Australia, you are given rights to live, work or study in New Zealand that are no different from an Australian citizen, but if you intend to be there for an extended period, you may run into difficulties fulfilling your resident return visa requirements.

Who doesn’t like travelling? We are often tied down by jobs, time and money. Working holidays are a great way for one to travel for long periods and sustain themselves through some work. Australia’s Working Holiday Maker programme allows for Australian citizens (18 years to 30) to gain working holiday visas with partner countries. This is something that permanent residents cannot have access to.

Are there any other boons besides possibly losing your former country’s’ citizenship? Being an Australian citizen comes with certain obligations. You have to vote and will be penalised if you do not do so. Australian citizens are also required to do jury duty is called upon. We don’t think any of these are real deal breakers, however. It is important to know nonetheless, to avoid trouble and fines.

Most importantly, the intrinsic and intangible value of being able to say you are a citizen of Australia (with the knowledge of the effort you made to create this life here) is unbeatable.

Read: Becoming a citizen in Australia