Australian citizenship

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Eight ways South Africans can get Australian permanent residency and citizenship

(Partner content) In most countries you must spend several years living and working there before you can qualify for permanent residency. Australia is different.

Australian citizenship

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Australia offers a range of permanent visas that allow you to stay in the country indefinitely from the moment your visa is granted. Here are some Australian visas that can lead to permanent residency and citizenship.  

Australia continues to be the destination of choice for many expats

Australia’s high quality of life, prosperous economy, diverse population, excellent healthcare and world-class education system continue to make it one of the most popular countries for people looking to settle abroad. 

In 2018, there were 7.3 million migrants living in Australia, making up 29% of the country’s total population. People born in England continued to be the largest group of overseas-born residents, accounting for 4.0% of Australia’s total population.

Country of birthNumber of people
England 992, 000
China 651, 000
India 592, 000
New Zealand 568,000
Philippines 278,000
South Africa 189,000
Italy 187,000
Scotland 135,000

Permanent residency and citizenship continue to rise

In the period 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2019, 127,674 people became citizens of Australia through residency (also referred to as conferral by the Australian government) – an increase of 58.3% from the previous year. In the same period, 238,300 people became Australian citizens.

Moving to Australia: How you can make a permanent move Down Under

Before you can obtain Australian citizenship, you must first become a permanent resident. Permanent residency allows you to live in Australia indefinitely and leave and re-enter the country as often as you wish. You’ll also enjoy many of the rights and privileges of citizens, such as access to free or subsidised legal and health services. 

Permanent residency is a five-year visa, but what’s great about this visa is that even when it expires, you’ll still be allowed to stay in Australia indefinitely without breaching immigration regulations.

While there are Australian visas that are temporary and can eventually lead to permanent residency and citizenship, there are some that can fast-track the process. 

If your goal is to live in Australia permanently and become a citizen, these are the visas you should apply for.

Employer-sponsored visas

To be eligible for these visas, you need to find an Australian-based employer that will sponsor you. Employers can only sponsor you if they can’t find an Australian citizen with the skills and experience needed for the job. When you receive a sponsorship, you can only work for the employer who sponsored you.

Temporary Skilled Shortage visa (subclass 482)

The Temporary Skilled Shortage visa (TSS) has a short-term stream and a medium-term stream. To qualify for permanent residency, you must work in an occupation on the medium-term stream for three years. 

Jobs on the short-term stream are only eligible for a two-year visa and will not allow you to qualify for permanent residency. Should your occupation fall on the short-term list, it is possible to extend your stay for another two years. Your employer will need to submit a new nomination and you will have to apply for a new visa.

Employer Nomination Scheme visa (subclass 186)

This is a permanent visa, which means that you’ll be a permanent Australian resident the moment your visa is granted. There are three streams under this visa, all of which allow you to:

  • Stay in Australia indefinitely
  • Work and study in Australia
  • Enrol in Medicare, Australia’s public healthcare scheme
  • Bring your relatives with you 
  • Travel in and out of Australia for five years
  • Apply for citizenship, if eligible

Temporary Residence Transition stream

You’ll need to apply for this visa if you’re already in Australia on a medium-term 482 visa and have worked for your employer for at least three years. Your employer will need to sponsor your application for permanent residency.

Direct Entry stream

You can apply for this stream if you work in an occupation on the medium-term stream and have an employer willing to sponsor you. Usually you are living outside of Australia or have only briefly worked in Australia. As part of your application, your skills will be assessed to ensure they meet the standards of the occupation you’re applying for. You’ll need to receive a positive skills assessment to apply for this stream. 

Agreement stream

You’ll be eligible for this stream if you’re currently working or will work for an employer under a labour agreement. Labour agreements allow approved businesses to sponsor skilled overseas workers when there isn’t a suitable Australian candidate and standard temporary or permanent visa programmes are not available. 

Skilled visas

 The skilled migration visa for Australia works on a points-based system. Points are awarded based on your age, qualification, experience and English language skills. Your eligibility for the visa is determined by your occupation. Having an occupation that is in demand gives you the greatest visa options. 

Skilled Independent visa (subclass 189)

This is a permanent resident visa and one of the most sought-after visas because it allows you to live and work anywhere in Australia. To be eligible you must be under 45 years of age, score at least 65 points on the immigration points test and have an occupation on the Medium and Long-term Strategic Skills List (MLTSSL). 

Skilled Nominated visa (subclass 190)

To be eligible for this visa, you must be nominated by a state or territory government. To be nominated or invited to apply, you must first submit an expression of interest to the specific state or territory you want to work in (e.g. New South Wales or Queensland). 

You must be under 45 years of age, score at least 65 points and have an occupation on the Short-term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL). 

Skilled Work Regional (Provisional) visa (subclass 491)

This visa allows you to live and work in specific regional areas in Australia for up to five years. To apply, you will need to be sponsored by an eligible relative or nominated to apply by a state or territory government agency. 

If you’re being sponsored by a relative, they can be one of the following: 

  • A parent
  • A child or stepchild
  • A sibling, including adopted and step siblings 
  • An aunt, uncle, adoptive aunt, adoptive uncle, step-aunt or step-uncle
  • A nephew, niece, adoptive nephew, adoptive niece, step-nephew or step-niece
  • A grandparent
  • A first cousin

Your relative must also: 

  • Be 18 years old or older
  • Reside in a designated regional area in Australia* 
  • Be an Australian citizen, permanent resident or an eligible New Zealand citizen
  • Be you or your partner’s eligible relative

*Regional Australia is defined as: South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia, Australian Capital Territory, Victoria (except the Melbourne metropolitan), Queensland (except the greater Brisbane area) Northern Territory and New South Wales (except Sydney).

The cut-off age for this is 45 years. As with the other skilled visa, you must score at least 65 points or more and your occupation must be on the list of eligible occupations. After three years of living on the 491 visa you can apply for permanent residency. 

Business visa routes

There are various options for individuals wanting to establish a business or invest in Australia. 

Overseas business sponsorship

If you own a business, you can move Down Under by expanding your business to Australia. This is done by applying for an overseas business sponsorship as well as the 482 visa. The process from your first application through to obtaining Australian citizenship comprises four stages.

Stage 1 – Become an overseas business sponsor 

This stage is a three-step process. You’ll need to:

  • Apply to be an overseas business sponsor
  • Nominate a position within your new Australian business
  • Apply for your TSS 482 visa 

You can bring your family with you to Australia by including them on your visa application. Once you’ve been granted your TSS 482 visa, you can move to Australia and establish the Australian branch of your business. 

Stage 2 – Become a standard business sponsor and get Australian permanent residency

To make the transition from a temporary residence visa to a permanent residence visa, your Australian-based company must first obtain a standard business sponsorship. 

Stage 3 – Become a permanent resident on the Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186)

You’ll move onto this stage once you have lived and worked in Australia for three years. 

When applying for your permanent visa, you will need to show that your Australian business can meet its obligation of paying staff members and other statutory requirements. You must also show that you’ve lived in Australia and worked for your sponsoring business for three years. 

Stage 4 – Apply for Australian citizenship

Once you’ve lived in Australia for the qualifying period and met all the requirements, you can apply for citizenship.

Business Talent (Permanent) visa (subclass 132)

The Business Talent (Permanent) visa is suited to business owners, investors or property developers. In the last 20 years, the Australian property market has provided an average capital growth of 6.8% a year. A growing economy and population have led to a huge demand for houses.

Sable International has created a special programme that helps entrepreneurs meet the requirements of the Business Talent visa and start a business. The programme requires that you form or join a property development company that will allow you to build and sell property in Australia. With the assistance and guidance of our team in Australia, you can continue to buy, develop and sell property within your own company.  

To be eligible for the Business Talent visa, you must:

  • Submit an Expression of Interest (EOI)
  • Be nominated by an Australian state or territory government agency
  • Be invited to apply for the visa
  • Have the required funding or assets

This visa has two streams: 

  • The Significant Business History stream, which allows experienced business owners to start a new or existing business in Australia
  • Venture Capital Entrepreneur stream, which allows you to start a new or existing business if you have sourced venture capital funding from a member of the Australian Investment Council (AIC), in the Venture Capital Membership category

Significant Business History stream

To be eligible for this stream, you must: 

  • Be under the age of 55* 
  • Have an overall successful business career
  • Have a genuine intention to establish a qualifying business in Australia, or participate in an existing business
  • Be committed to the business in a manner that benefits the Australian economy
  • Have a total net asset of at least AU $400,000 as the ownership interest in one or more qualifying businesses for at least two of the four fiscal years immediately before you are invited to apply
  • Have an annual business turnover of at least AU $3 million for at least two of the four fiscal years immediately before you are invited to apply
  • Have total assets of at least AU $1.5 million that can be transferred to Australia within two years of the 132 visa being granted 

*This requirement can be waived by a state or territory if your proposed business offers substantial economic benefit to the nominating state or territory.

Venture Capital Entrepreneur stream

To qualify for this stream, you need to source venture capital funding from a member of the Australian Investment Council (AIC), in the Venture Capital Membership category. You must: 

  • Have agreed with a venture capital firm to provide capital funding for either an early phase start-up, commercialisation of a product, development of a business or the expansion of a business
  • Have at least AU $1 million in funding from a venture capital firm
  • Have a genuine intention to establish a qualifying business in Australia, or participate in an existing business
  • Be committed to the business in a manner that benefits the Australian economy

How to get Australian citizenship

Obtaining citizenship through residency is also sometimes referred to as by conferral. This route applies to:

  • Australian permanent residents aged 18-59
  • Children aged 16 or 17
  • Children 15 years or younger applying with a parent or guardian
  • Partners or spouses of an Australian citizen

To qualify through this route, you must fulfil the following residency requirements: 

  • Have lived in Australia for four years
  • Have been a permanent resident for at least 12 months
  • Have not spent more than 365 days outside of Australia in the past four years
  • Have not spent more than 90 days outside of Australia in the past 12 months

You also need to meet the following criteria:

  • Pass the Australian citizenship test (unless you are over the age of 60)
  • Be a permanent resident at the time of application and decision
  • Satisfy the residence requirement
  • Be likely to reside, or to continue to reside, in Australia or to maintain a close and continuing association with Australia
  • Be of good character

Other pathways to Australian citizenship


If one of your parents was an Australian citizen at the time of your birth, you can claim Australian citizenship. You’ll be entitled to citizenship irrespective of your country of birth or if your parent has lost their citizenship.


If you were born in Australia between 26 January 1949 and 20 August 1986, then you could be eligible for citizenship. People born after 20 August 1986 do not automatically become Australian citizens as the status of their parents dictates whether a claim can be made.


To qualify, at least one of your parents must have been an Australian citizen at the time of your adoption. You must be able to show that you were fully and permanently adopted under either the Hague Convention or a bilateral agreement and that you are of good character.

If you’re interested in finding out more about gaining Australian citizenship and exploring your visa options, get in touch with our Australian immigration agents at or on +61 (0) 38651 4500.