WHAT IF I GAVE FALSE INFORMATION IN MY CITIZENSHIP APPLICATION?
If you are not an Australian Citizen by Birth, then receiving the Australian Citizenship is one of the most important events for you, because finally you can say that ‘you are an Australian Citizen’. You have several options to apply for the Australian Citizenship. The Department of Home Affairs has a well established structured approach for granting Citizenship. It is always important to follow all the correct instructions to ensure that you properly obtain your Citizenship. Let’s say that you have given false information in your Citizenship application. Then what will happen. In this article we will share important information for you to read to have a thorough understanding of what truly can happen if you provide false and misleading information on your Citizenship application.
Firstly, we want to highlight that providing false and misleading information on your application is a clear NO! Because if you have given false or misleading information not only that will be an offence but also it will impact your good character declaration as well. You must always take necessary steps to provide true and correct information. If an applicant has provided false or misleading information the Department of Home Affairs have strict measures given under the Australian Citizenship Instructions. As instructed the decision makers in the department are required to actively check all the information given in the application. So, it will not be any advantage for you to provide any false or misleading information, because at the end the department will find that the information is incorrect.
You may ask, what could constitute false or misleading information? For example, let’s say that the applicant has a prior conviction for an offence, where the applicant may not know if it is a minor offence or a serious offence. Then the applicant decided not to include this information, that is a clear violation of the provision. Following are some of the offences which are considered as providing false or misleading information.
- Providing Bogus documents includes altered documents or counterfeit documents used to support an identity or an application.
- Identity fraud, including impostors or document fraud.
- Fraudulent relationship claims for citizenship by descent. This may include, in some circumstances, claims to citizenship by descent through non-biological parents or adoptive parents.
- Non-compliance with the rules of conduct for taking a citizenship test.
It is important to be aware of what constitutes false or misleading information. The best practice is always to disclose accurate and correct information. If you are unsure, you should always ask for help without deciding not to include the correct information. Because if you give false information, there will be severe consequences and measurements, as outlined below.
What is the law?
Because this is a serious offence not only a person will not receive their Citizenship, but it can lead up to serious penalties. Under section 50 of the Australian Citizenship Act, providing false statements or representation will be an offence which results in a penalty of 12 months imprisonment because of the seriousness of the offence. Section 50 says that if an applicant commits an offence where the applicant makes false or misleading representation or a statement in relation to their Citizenship application then that will be an offence. Not only if the applicant gives false or misleading information, but also if the applicant hides information which is relevant to the application, then that will be an office which will receive the same penalty.
Let’s say that a person is found that they have been providing false or misleading information. Then the department will make several considerations before taking any prosecuted actions to deprive the person’s Citizenship. The first decision will be determining whether to take actions; to do that, each case will be carefully examined. As per section 50, a person can be prosecuted at any time. Furthermore, before the decision maker decides whether to act, one of the primary considerations is the decision maker’s weight on the facts and the surrounding circumstances. These include:
- The severity of the given false or misleading information.
- The reasons the applicant was not encouraged to provide the correct information.
- The applicant’s circumstances at the time.
- Addition to that the decision maker will consider the degree of culpability in connection with the offence.
- Another primary consideration is the decision maker’s evidence in front of them. If there is strong evidence that you have intentionally provided false or misleading information, then there is a higher chance the decision maker will act.
Therefore, if you have given false or misleading information, there is more chance that the decision maker will find out because as said each case is examined very carefully. Moreover, the decision maker would seriously consider initiating an action if they identified that a person was aware of the correct information and deliberately provided the false information. On the other hand, if the false information would not have led to the Citizenship application being refused, then the decision maker would not consider this an offence which they have to act on towards a prosecution.
In some situations, providing false information in the citizenship application may replicate or be related to a deception that occurred in a person’s application for entry to Australia. In such and other circumstances the Migration Act prevents an applicant from providing misleading or false information. The section 234 says that a person must not give any false or misleading information in a way of documents, knowledge, or any other material. If the incorrect information leads up to be an offence under the Migration Act, then the penalty for ‘Migration fraud’ will be up to 10 years imprisonment or a heavy fine which will be a higher cost.
Giving incorrect information is not only an offence in relation to migration law, but it is also considered as a criminal act. In the Criminal Code Act which says that a person commits an offence if the person knowingly makes a misleading statement if it is orally, in a document or any other way in an application then it is an offence with a penalty of 12 months imprisonment.
What will the department do if they find you have given incorrect information?
Before the Citizenship application is approved.
If the decision-maker becomes aware that a person has provided false information before the Citizenship application is approved, then the decision-maker will take this into account as information which needs to be considered before approving the application. If so, the decision-maker will allow the person to provide information in response to these circumstances as a part of Natural Justice (You can find more information about the rule of Natural Justice in our article Natural Justice, the protector of fairness in decision making’). Then the person will either receive this information in writing or be called to have an interview with the department. This is a fair opportunity for the person to disclose the correct information if they have made a mistake. Therefore, It is always important to ensure that you provide all the correct information from the beginning. Because, if identified, then this will also impact your assessment of the good character component of your application.
After the application is approved for Citizenship
If the decision-maker becomes aware that a person has provided false information after their application is approved, but before they acquire the Citizenship, then the decision-maker will consider cancelling the approved application. Also, the decision-maker will consider whether the person will be prosecuted in relation to the alleged offence. Before taking any actions, the decision-maker will allow the person to respond as well. During this period, the decision-maker will also consider delaying making the pledge or cancelling the approved Citizenship.
After a person acquires Citizenship
A person can acquire their Citizenship by descent or by conferral. Suppose the decision-maker becomes aware that the person has provided false information after acquiring the Citizenship. In that case, the decision-maker will consider whether to revoke the Citizenship or not. The decision-maker will decide this by going back to the time when the person applied for the Citizenship. In other words, if the decision-maker was aware that the person had given false information at the time of the application, then what would have been the decision at that time. Let’s say that the decision-maker decided that the application outcome would be different, such as refusing the application. Then the matter will be referred to the Citizenship Operation Section in the department.
What will happen next?
Suppose a decision-maker identifies information that suggests that an offence has or may have been committed, by a person who already has a Citizenship. In that case, the decision-maker will contact another internal team in the department, known as the Citizenship Operations Section for advice and assistance. The Citizenship Operations Section will then assess the information and forward it to the Border Watch Allegations and Referral Team (BWART). Then BWART will conduct another investigation about the alleged offence. During this investigation it will determine whether to revoke the Citizenship of the person. If decided, then as explained below the Minister has the power to revoke a person Citizenship even after they had it. Simultaneously as mentioned above, the department will consider all relevant factors before prosecuting the person as well.
As said, as per section 34 of the Citizenship Act, the Minister can revoke a person’s Citizenship, either acquired by descent or conferral. This would happen, if the Minister identified through the investigations that the person has committed an offence under section 50 of the Citizenship Act. The Minister will send a notice in writing. In this notice, the Minister will include the date when the person needs to surrender their Citizenship. The usual time frame is 28 days after the day the Minister sent the notice. If a person receives a notice of surrender of their Citizenship, the person must do it. Failure to surrender the Citizenship is an offence under section 38 of the Citizenship Act with a heavy penalty. If the Minister revokes the Citizenship, then the person ceases to be an Australian Citizen at the time of the revocation. Also, it is important to note that if the person has a child, then, unfortunately, the child’s Citizenship will also be revoked.
What is the best practice?
There are a number of ways that you can avoid providing false information on the Citizenship application. As we discussed in this article, it is not the best practice to provide false information at any point during your application because it will cancel your application or even the Citizenship will be revoked from a person who already acquired it. Therefore, the best practice is to give the correct and most accurate information. The Department of Home Affairs website has given clear instructions for the applications. At the same time, these applications and the information requested by the department can be a challenging process. If so, then it is always a good decision to speak with a person who is a specialist in Australian Citizenship applications. If you follow the correct instruction or speak to a person with knowledge you can avoid unnecessary complications and continue to receive your Australia Citizenship.
If you need advice, we offer Skype, Zoom and phone consultations. Call +(02) 8054 2537, 0434 890 199 or book online today to speak to our migration specialists.