What is the difference between Permanent Residence and Australian Citizenship?

People regularly confuse permanent residence (“PR”) and Australian citizenship however, they are not the same and it’s important to understand the distinction between the two.

A permanent resident can live, work and study without restriction in Australia and has most of the rights and entitlements of a citizen, but there are some important differences, some of which are set out below:

  • As a citizen of Australia, you are allowed to stay in Australia forever and can leave and return to Australia whenever you wish to do so provided you hold a valid Australian passport. However, as a permanent resident, you do not have the automatic right to return and are usually permitted a five-year travel facility. This means that after the five-year period is up, you will need to apply for a Resident Return Visa (“RRV”) in order to maintain your travel rights. You can read more about RRVs here.
  • Generally, a permanent resident cannot vote in Australian Government elections unless you enrolled (as a British subject) before 26 January 1984. In fact, in Australia, voting is mandatory for every Australian citizen aged 18 years or over. Failure to vote may incur fines.
  • Only citizens of Australia are entitled to consular assistance in any country that you visit.
  • Whilst permanent residents are able to enrol in Australian universities as domestic students, only Australian citizens have access to HECS financial assistance programs. This initiative allows students to defer payment of their study fees until they are employed and earning enough to begin repaying the debt.

And of course, only a citizen can hold an Australian passport and proudly say that “I’m an Australian” which is something that you cannot do as a permanent resident!

To discuss your eligibility to apply for Citizenship as well as the process involved, please contact the migration specialists at KU Legal:

+61 (0) 429 133 911


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