British subjects and Australian citizenship

07 March, 2011

Booklet - Australia Ahead, circa 1951
Booklet - Australia Ahead, circa 1951
Source: Museum Victoria

Question: My husband was a baby when he came to Australia in 1951 as a 10 Pound Pom. He has lived here all his life and never left the country. We are trying to find out if he is considered an Australian citizen. Do you know if this was automatic in 1951?

Answer: In the years immediately after WW2, in order to increase both national productivity and boost our defence capabilities, the Australian Government focused on expanding the population through immigration. There was, however, concern in the community about who would make up this new, expanded population – it was felt at the time that too many non-British immigrants might alter Australian society in an undesirable way. With this in mind, Arthur Calwell, the first Minister of Immigration, developed a national immigration policy, making it easier for British subjects living in Australia to gain citizenship.

So it was out of the shadow of the White Australia policy that the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948 was formed, gaining support on both sides of the political divide.

For a brief time between 26 January 1944 and 26 January 1949, a British subject resident in Australia, automatically became an Australian citizen. Otherwise, before and after this time, an application for citizenship has been required in order to obtain Australian citizenship.

Comments (70)

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Jason 24 November, 2015 10:48
Hi my Grandmother was naturalised as Australian after being a british subject in 1967, a time when my mother was a minor. Would my mother have been granted citizenship as well?
Isabelle 11 November, 2015 15:36
My father was born in the Uk then migrated to melbourne in 1952. Was he automatically granted citizenship or classified as a permanent resident? He left Australia for Papua New Guinea and had lived there for over 30 years. Any suggestions on how he can reside back in Australia? Regards, Isabelle
Discovery Centre 11 November, 2015 16:47
Hi Isabelle - we are unable to comment on eligibility for citizenship or residency. You'll need to approach the Department of Immigration for advice.
Pia Robinson 5 November, 2015 13:25
I was burn in England in 1955 when my Australian parents were posted there for a few years (for work). I have lived here all my life, and have held previous Australian passports, but the last expired in 2000 and apparently is not useful in proving I am a citizen. I have an aust drivers licence, tax papers, home rate notices, bank cards, medicare card etc etc. I have never, since being born, been a British resident, though I do have a British passport (out of date). Will the documents I have be adequate for applying for a new passport? The old one can not be renewed as it expired in 2000. Would be grateful for your advice as I need to organise a new passport asap. Many thanks, Pia Robinson
Discovery Centre 5 November, 2015 15:17
Hi Pia,

You will need to contact the Department of Immigration and Border Protection with your query.
Darren Candey 27 October, 2015 07:26
Born 1970 Uk, traveled to Aus under fathers passport in 1970, never became Aus cit, father p/port expired long ago.. effectively now a stateless entity as Uk wants me to go to Uk to get processed for a p/port, but can't leave Aus without p/port.. British consulate is no help, neither is immigration.... suggestions pls.
Rajeev 30 August, 2015 11:44
HI, i was born in Australia in the year 1991, soon after that we moved back to a different country. i am back here in Australia can i apply for Australian citizenship right away as i hold a Australian birth certificate
Anita Jones 27 August, 2015 16:01
I was born in England and my parents immigrated to Australia in 1968. I have never left the country and worked here all my life. Am I an Australian Citizen? Or do I have to apply for citizenship? If so how long will it take and do I get an exemption or reduction of cost as I had no part in the decision to come to Australia? I regard Australia as home and just do not understand the situation!
Tarrah 30 June, 2015 15:59
My mother was born in 62 in Cardiff Wales, both parents are from the United Kingdom, imagrated to Australia in 66, mum got her permident residency issued in March of 1966 as a 5 year old. She has never left Australia since arrival in 66, i want to take her on holiday but scared she will not be able to re enter the country since it's a permident resident you not citizenship. Although back then the law stated if you stayed without leaving for 7 years you automatically became a citizan is this true? What do I do to gain the information? Aver one I've called just sends me in circles to ring someone ele until it enters back to them again. Why does no one know? Please help.
Discovery Centre 1 July, 2015 10:00

Hi Tarrah,

You should contact the Australian Government Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs for immigration and citizenship queries.

Michael 13 May, 2015 01:30
Hi, My partners Grandmother was born in Australia in 1920 but was resident in the UK in 1949, did she automatically become an Australian citizen in 1949 or did she have to apply? Where can we find records of an application? Would appreciate any guidance you can give on this point.
Michael 19 May, 2015 17:51
Many thanks, given the citizenship act only came into force in 1949 and the Grandmother was not resident in Australia at that time, I was wondering if this impacted her eligibility. From your response it appears not!
Discovery Centre 18 May, 2015 15:35
Hi, if your partners Grandmother was born in Australia, she was an Australian citizen.  Have we misinterpreted or misunderstood your question?  If so, please send us some further details to
Barbara 10 May, 2015 07:44
Hi, I was born in New Zealand to Australian parents, we moved the UK in 1973. I lived there for 11 years and have British citizenship then moved to Australia and had a daughter in 1986. Can she apply for British citizenship? She is currently in the UK on a two year working visa. thank you for any help with this
Kate 7 May, 2015 21:59
My mother was born in Australia in 1962 to british citizen parents. She moved back over to Uk only a few months old. She became an australian citizen at birth. Was she automatically a british citizen too due to her british parents? if so im considering au citizenship by descent,will i loose my british citizenship in doing so or will it mean dual citizenship? thanks
Discovery Centre 8 May, 2015 14:10

Hi Kate,

For enquiries about citizenship eligibility, please contact the Australian government's Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

Redmond 13 April, 2015 23:49
For a brief time between 26 January 1944 and 26 January 1949, a British subject resident in Australia, automatically became an Australian citizen. Otherwise, before and after this time, an application for citizenship has been required in order to obtain Australian citizenship. Not quite correct. There was no "before" this time. Australian citizenship was created on 26th January 1949. All British Subjects who had been resident in Australia during the 5 years before the creation of Australian citizenship were, along with everybody who had been born in Australia, granted Australian citizenship on 26th January 1949. When it was created, Australian citizenship was as well as, and not instead of, British Subject status. As the original Act stated, anyone who became an Australian citizen also became a British subject.
Redmond 13 April, 2015 23:39
It all depends on which country you were born in. If you were born in the US for example, you would have citizenship. If you were born in Germany, you would have no claim on citizenship. British citizenship can be inherited from your mother, only if you were born on or after 1 Jan 1983.
judy cashel 22 March, 2015 13:18
I know that those born of a British Armed Forces person, overseas, were offered a choice of the citizenship of their mother or father, or the citizenship of the country the parent was posted to.
Tash 21 May, 2015 06:27
Hi I was born in Colechester Jan 1984 as my father was posted there for 2 years and serving there at the time of my birth for the Australian Army. However we all moved back before I even turned 1. I am wanting to apply for a british passport so that I can work/live there without visas etc do you know if this is possible? It doesn't actually say on my birth cert that my father was in the Aus Army, well as far as I can remember it doesn't as its lost and I am ordering the original now. Any help please as I plan to move over at the end of this July
A Natu 1 March, 2015 23:35
Hello, i am an australian citizen, my grandmother was born in november 1920 ( she is still alive) in Poona, India, then Part of British India. Is she a british national or subject, and can i claim british status by desent.
Redmond 13 April, 2015 23:36
You cannot claim British Citizenship through you mother, unless you were born on or after 1 Jan 1983. Before that date, citizenship passed only through the father.
Discovery Centre 2 March, 2015 09:55
A. Natu - We can't give official advice on citizenship matters. For information about eligibility for British citizenship, try the UK government citizenship page:
maureen beverley 11 February, 2015 19:02
today I applied to renew my passport. The procedure has changed. I had the wrong form. I was asked for my citizenship paper which I proved as on previous occasions, and was told it was invalid. It was issued in 1974. It is different from the document the postmistress showed me, but the only proof I have.
discoverycentre 12 February, 2015 10:19

Hi Maureen,

The original question referred to on this page was an historic event. Unfortunately Museum Victoria is not an expert in current citizenship policy. For this reason it would be best for you to contact the Department of Immigration & Citizenship.

Sally Ducrow 29 December, 2014 01:32
Can you tell me how long an Australian passport was valid if issued in 1967 - 5 years or ten? Could it have been renewed in London during the 1970s? And could it have been renewed there even if it was already out of date?
sandy 25 December, 2014 23:59
My day holds a British Subject - Australia passport. Born in June 1949 (65years of age) Living in Australia since 1959 (10years old) Holds Australian Citizenship since 2010. He is applying for his British Passport. Does NOT hold an Australian Passport Never left Australia Will he lose his Aust. Citizenship? Will he be forced to move back to Vanuatu?
Redmond 13 April, 2015 23:33
Australian citizens must leave and re-enter Australia on their Australian passport. Your father may have a UK passport as well if he wants.
Discovery Centre 26 December, 2014 08:48

Hi Sandy,

Please refer to the answer above.

John O'Gorman 3 November, 2014 22:17
Hi, I would like to check if my sons are able to apply for a British passport. I was born in Manchester England in May 1962. My parents and I emigrated to Australia in 1971 aged 9. My farther is still a British Citizen and holds a British Passport. I became a Australian Citizen in November 1985. Please advise Regards John
Redmond 13 April, 2015 23:30
You are a British Citizen, and entitled to a UK passport. A British Citizen does not lose British Citizenship unless they formally renounce it, and pay the correct fee.
Discovery Centre 4 November, 2014 13:09

Hi John,

The original question referred to on this page was an historic event. Unfortunately Museum Victoria is not an expert in current citizenship policy. For this reason it would be best for you to contact the Department of Immigration & Citizenship.

John Cotter 2 November, 2014 09:19
Arrived in Aus early March '69 on the Achille Laura. Are there any related records to the emigrant arriving in those timesa
Graham Page 7 October, 2014 21:47
I came over to Australia aged 13yrs as a ten pound pom with parents (now gone) in 1969 I have worked and lived in Australia all my life and now am looking at travelling with my Australian wife. Big Problem I was born in a british army hospital in Germany 1955 and have been told i am not a british subject because i was not born there so no british passport ---just because i was born in Germany does not entitle me to a German passport ---to obtain an Australian passport I need a lot of information that i do not have and have no idea how to obtain it even to see if i am an Australian citizen or permanent resident all i know is my father was in the RAN reserves,I have voted all my life and payed taxes and have a medicare card
Redmond 13 April, 2015 23:27
It does not matter where you were born. If you are legitimate, then you are a British Citizen. You are not an Australian citizen unless you have been naturalised.
Discovery Centre 8 October, 2014 13:51

Hi Graham,

I would be best for you to contact the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

Stephen Cork 26 August, 2014 01:05
My parents were married in England in 1945 - he Australian, she British. They traveled to Australia in 1956, I think on an assisted passage. Would they have required passports under that scheme, and if so could my mother have appeared on my father's passport? I have never seen or heard anything that indicates that my mother had a passport. I am trying to gather documents for a citizenship application. Thanks.
Redmond 13 April, 2015 23:21
My parents, my sister and I came to Australia as "ten pound Poms". We did not have passports, just an identity document.
Discovery Centre 31 August, 2014 10:19

Hi Stephen. A good question - we checked with the relevant Curator here, and they said that they would've assumed passports were needed, but in many circumstances the individuals wouldn't have had an existing passport prior to the migration process, so the question is whether they got them specially done to migrate. Wives and children may have been listed on the husband’s passport but women also certainly could have their own.

Our collections hold a couple of application forms regarding the application for UK passports in the 1950s-60s such as this, which refers to both joint and separate passports for women. People also had to surrender their British passports for 2 years upon arrival, so it might be also worth the enquirer looking for a certificate of identity which was given in exchange for a passport.

We hope this helps, and best of luck with your research.

Helen Liberti 2 August, 2014 19:42
I arrived in Australia with my parents and older brother on 16th October 1970. I was 8 months old at the time. What citizenship form will I need to complete and can I have dual citizenship and retain my British passport. And also because i was 8 months old when I arrived and am now 44 years old and spent (other then overseas holidays) my entire life in Australia will I still be required to sit the citizenship test. Cheers
Discovery Centre 3 August, 2014 10:18

Hi Helen,

It would be best for you to contact the Department of Immigration & Citizenship, who will be able to answer your questions about citizenship.

John Brook 29 July, 2014 15:42
I was born in Australia, March 1966. I now have no one to ask about my travel, then aged 3 months. I can find nothing about babies in passport history and there seems to have been no passport for me. I have heard about being on my mother's passport. Was that the case? Thank you...
discoverycentre 30 July, 2014 10:32

Hi John,

It was not uncommon for young children to be list under their parents passport.  If you are wanting to find your parents migration material you can contact the National Archives of Australia which is the repository for all migrant records into Australia.  While a physical file exists it's worth mentioning that online only a small percentage of files are currently available to view.

Joe 26 July, 2014 22:14
Need some clarification on the following: (1) What citizenship status would a person born of a British Father and an unknown native woman in New Guinea in the early 1900s have had? and (2) What citizenship status would a person born of European heritage (both parents half cast raised solely by white fathers) in 1930s in New Guinea have had?
Discovery Centre 6 August, 2014 15:18
Hi Joe - This is a little out of our area of expertise, you might like to have a look at the information at the Department of Immigration's Citizenship website for further assistance.
Cj 25 July, 2014 14:55
My parents, sister and i immigrated to Australia in 1991. My sister and i appear on my Dad's citizenship certificate but i was wondering, does that mean my sister and i are citizens of Australia or do we have to get our own certificate? Thanks for your time.
Redmond 13 April, 2015 23:13
If you are listed on your parent's naturalisation certificate, then you are a citizen.
discoverycentre 25 July, 2014 15:10

Hi Cj,

You should contact the Department of Immigration and Protection who can assist you better with questions direrectly relating to modern citzenship practises.  Our current information is based on historical scenarios, particularly during post war migration periods.  They are better placed to tell you about your current citzenship situation.




Ronald Meredith 6 June, 2014 15:44
I immigrated to Australia in 1960. enlisted in the Australian Army and served 20 years. I received my citizenship in 1976. Do I still retain my British citizenship.
Redmond 13 April, 2015 23:12
You do not lose your British Citizenship when you become an Australian citizen. To lose your British Citizenship, you have to fill out a special form to renounce your citizenship, and pay a fee.
Discovery Centre 7 June, 2014 10:27

Hi Ronald,

It would be best for you to contact the Department of Immigration & Citizenship, who will be able to assist you to determine the status of your British citizenship.

Sheila Whillas 21 November, 2013 20:59
I came to Australia with my mother 14yrs old in 1952. I have not been naturalised. Served WRANS and married an Australian. I wish to go to Denmark next July for holiday. What is the easiest way to get a passport, I seem to be hitting my head against a brick wall. Thank you if you can help.
Redmond 13 April, 2015 23:09
The only way to get an Australian passport is to become an Australian citizen through naturalisation. This will take a few months to happen. I presume you are originally from UK. You will need a UK passport, and a Resident Return Visa to get back to Australia.
Discovery Centre 22 November, 2013 09:51
Hi Sheila - sorry to hear you're having trouble. You'll need to speak to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship I imagine, as we cannot assist with citizenship or documentation issues. All the best!
Michael 21 June, 2013 14:29
Hi, I'm actually an Australian Citizen who would like to renounce my citizenship and be a British Subject in Australia. Can I do this?
Redmond 13 April, 2015 23:05
You cannot renounce your Australian citizenship unless you have a second citizenship. The government will not allow you to become stateless.
shahneela 11 January, 2013 15:07
I am a 31 years old women, my grandfather arrived in australian in 1935 from (british india). he spent all his life in australia (his passport shows he acquired australian citizenship in 1981) he died in australia in 1998. but my father who was born in british india in 1930's never visited australia during his father's life. and never applied for the australian nationality.. he is now roughly 70 years old.. so my question is, can he still apply for australian citizenship, given that his father who spent all his life in australia and was an australain citizen has already passed away.. Pleae inform me and could u please send me an email reply that I may be able to read your response.
Discovery Centre 11 January, 2013 16:36
Hi Shahneela! For enquiries about citizenship eligibility, please contact the Australian government's Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
Mary Matthews 25 September, 2012 23:19
I am a British subject and my husband is South African, and we live in South Africa. Our daughter married a NZ citizen in Australia and both our two Grandchildren were born there... the whole family are Australian citizens - would we be allowed to immigrate to Australia?
Discovery Centre 27 September, 2012 10:14

Hello Mary,

It would be best for you to contact the Department of Immigration & Citizenship, who will be able to assist you determine your eligibility for immigration to Australia

Terri Newton 25 July, 2012 20:21
Hi my Husband was born in Australia in 1967 his parents moved there in 1966 and came back to the UK five years late, can he apply for a Australian Citizenship as we would like to move there.
Redmond 13 April, 2015 22:58
Anyone who was born in Australia prior to 20th August 1986 was automatically an Australian citizen. Thus your husband is an Australian citizen. If he has any children, he can register them as Australian citizens through the Australian High Commission. There is a fee, and if they are over 18 they must be "of good character" = no criminal record.
Jason Maclaren Boude 31 January, 2012 14:50
I was born in Australia on the 4th of August in 1985 when my dad was studying for 3 years in Brisbane. We came back to PNG in 1986 and I was given an Aussie passport with Australian as my nationality. I havent travelled anywhere ever since but I'll be going to Australia this year for a course, can I apply for an Aussie passport and use it to come back to PNG?
Discovery Centre 31 January, 2012 16:27

Hi Jason,
It would be best for you to contact the Department of Immigration & Citizenship, who will be able to assist you determine the status of your Australian citizenship:


Sandra Wilcox 15 December, 2011 20:50
Is an Australian citizen also a British subject ?
Disocovery Centre 18 December, 2011 10:37
Hi Sandra, in Australia the status of British subject was retained in Australian law until Part II of the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948 was removed by the Australian Citizenship Amendment Act 1984 which came into force on 1 May 1987.
Patricia Di Blasio 31 October, 2011 23:41
Hi I arrived in Australia as a child in 1966 and was wondering if I am automatically an Australian Citizen after 40+ years, I was told that british citizens once they turn 60 automatically become Australian Citizens, please advise.
Discovery Centre 1 November, 2011 14:21

Hi Patricia, the answer to this is in the article above:

For a brief time between 26 January 1944 and 26 January 1949, a British subject resident in Australia, automatically became an Australian citizen. Otherwise, before and after this time, an application for citizenship has been required in order to obtain Australian citizenship.

You should look at the Immigration Department website that is linked at right and contact them with your citizenship questions.

Robin Ruth Henderson 9 April, 2011 22:50
I was born in Australia. My parents are Anglo-Australians. When I was 16, in 1960, I left Australia to study in Italy. I was issued with a passport that read on the cover BRITISH SUBJECT Australian Citizen. I need to find a record of the issue of that passport. Where would I enquire about that? The Australian Embassy and Passports cannot tell me anything about my original 1960 passport.They also advise that that passport application forms were not archived. I find it difficult to believe that there is no record of my 1960 passport or even of my departure from Australia. Can anyone there direct me to where I might enquire and hopefully get some information please? When I returned to Australia in 1966 I was issued with a passport in Rome, at the Australian Embassy that also read on the cover British Subject Australian Citizen. Was I a British subject in 1966? Are Australians still British Subjects today in 2011?
Discovery Centre 12 April, 2011 12:40
Hi Robin, have you tried the National Archives of Australia to see if they hold documentation regarding passports? Australian citizens are no longer considered British Subjects. The second external link on the right gives some of the history of the term.
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