When you apply for Australian citizenship, any previous offences may be considered by the Department of Home Affairs for character assessment.
During the assessment of your Citizenship application, if you receive notice from the Department of Home Affairs for your character assessment because of any previous or recent offence you may have committed, you may not immediately be refused of your citizenship. You would usually be given a chance to respond to the Department’s character assessment. The requirement of ‘good character’ for a grant of citizenship does not mean that you must be of perfect character. In most cases, it would not be appropriate to automatically conclude that you are not of good character based on the fact that you have been convicted of an offence. The case officer will have to make a full assessment and consider different factors surrounding your case. Below are some examples of these considerations by the Department.
Weighing information in consideration of assessment of ‘good character’ include asking questions such as:
- What is the nature of the offence or behaviour – Offences that are subject of any Government initiatives may attract more weight, e.g. domestic violence.
- Is the offence serious or minor?
- Was the offence pre-meditated?
- Did the offence harm other people?
- Who were the victims? – If the victims were children, the elderly or the disabled or others who were reliant on you, the offence may attract more weight.
- Was it a one-off incident?
- Any associations with people or organisations of concern – E.g. outlaw motorcycle gangs or youth gangs.
Any mitigating circumstances would also be considered, including:
- Length of time since the offence was committed – In the case of a serious offence, a significant amount of time may have to pass before the Department could be satisfied that you are now of good character.
- Age at time of offence – If you committed the offence at a young age, the offence may be given less weight.
- Remorse regarding the offending behaviour
- Community support – E.g. character references
- Changes in the life of the applicant – E.g. relocation away from people who had a negative influence, treatment for addiction or mental illness etc
- Is there any other evidence that the applicant is of good character? – E.g. Is there evidence of length of employment, stable family life and/or community involvement, as these may be indicators of good character
- The best interest of a child – A severe detriment to the child might outweigh a minor fraud offence by the parent, whereas if it is only marginally in the child’s best interests that citizenship not be revoked, that may be outweighed by the parent’s conviction for a serious offence
We could assist in understanding your situation and making a submission to the Department that outlines how under the balance of all factors, you should not be refused on your Citizenship application. In the unfortunate event that your Citizenship application is refused, we may either assist in appealing the Department’s decision, or you may try applying for citizenship in several years.
A citizenship refusal does not deprive you of any rights you currently hold (e.g. permanent residency), nor does it prevent you from applying for citizenship again in a few years’ time when you can demonstrate a longer period of positive contribution to the Australian community.