The most important conceptual issue associated with Australian Citizenship is whether a respondent understands that citizenship represents a person's legal status in relation to Australia. The legal requirements determining citizenship are complex and liable to change over time.
Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) has provided the following explanatory script which will assist in informing respondents to the standard question:
You are an Australian citizen if:
- you were born in Australia or one of its territories prior to 19 August 1986 (unless your parent was a foreign diplomat);
- you were born in Australia or one of its territories on or after 20 August 1986 and at least one of your parents was an Australian citizen or permanent resident at the time of your birth (see below *);
- you were born overseas to an Australian citizen parent/s, and you applied for and were granted Australian citizenship by descent;
- you were adopted overseas by Australian citizen parent/s in accordance with full Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption arrangements, and you applied for and were granted Australian citizenship by full Hague adoption;
- you have applied for, or were included in your parent's application, and have been granted Australian citizenship;
- you were legally adopted in Australia on or after 22 November 1984 by Australian citizen parent/s, and you were in Australia as a permanent resident at the time of your adoption.
* if you were born in Australia on or after 20 August 1986, but did not acquire Australian citizenship at birth, you automatically acquired Australian citizenship on your 10th birthday if you lived in Australia for a period of ten years from the day you were born.
For some interview purposes (e.g. telephone interview) a truncated version of the recommended script may be more appropriate but should include the following concepts:
With the exception of children of foreign diplomats, people born in Australia before 20 August 1986 acquired Australian citizenship. After that date, a person born in Australia acquires citizenship only if:
- at least one parent, at the time of the person's birth, was either an Australian citizen or a permanent resident of Australia; or
- if you were born in Australia but did not acquire Australian citizenship at birth, you automatically acquired Australian citizenship on your 10th birthday if you lived in Australia for a period of ten years from the day you were born.
- If you were born overseas and you have been granted citizenship
Besides the collection of Australian Citizenship data using the standard question, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) produces citizenship data based on Australian overseas arrivals and departures administrative data collected by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP). All people arriving in, or departing from, Australia are required to complete prescribed questionnaires in the form of Incoming and Outgoing Passenger cards. These cards provide information to DIBP for administrative purposes and serve as the source of statistics on overseas arrivals and departures. In some cases, pre-recorded visa data is used in lieu of passenger card data by DIBP. Citizenship is derived from responses given to the question 'Nationality as shown in Passport'. Data on 'Australian Citizenship' of overseas arrivals and departures are therefore not necessarily comparable with data collected using the standard question module, as some travellers may have dual citizenship and travel using a passport that is not Australian.