Are you a citizen or resident? Does it really matter?


Residency and citizenship are very personal matters. They are your own business, right?

Well yes, but where your status can become someone else’s business is if you wish to receive a Federal Government entitlement, perhaps a full or part Age Pension, or a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CHSC).

The Social Security Act of 1991 defines an Australian resident as a person living in Australia on a permanent basis, and meeting one of the following conditions:

  • An Australian citizen
  • Holding a permanent visa
  • Holding a Protected Special Category Visa (applies to New Zealanders)

You ‘become’ an Australian citizen by birth, grant (formerly termed ‘naturalisation’), descent or because you were adopted by Australian parents. From 2015, Australian citizenship was extended to include residents of Norfolk Island.

To prove your citizenship when applying for entitlements, you will need a birth certificate, passport or Australian citizen certificate.

As explained in our recent summary of Age Pension travel regulations , if you are no longer living in Australia on a permanent basis, or you leave the country for an extended period, your Age Pension entitlements can change.

Living in Australia ‘permanently’ means ‘ you normally live in Australia on a long-term basis’. This is not affected by holidays or short trips. There are many factors used by Centrelink to determine your ‘ties’ to Australia, including your accommodation, family relationships, employment, business, financial ties, assets located here, frequency and duration of travel and other relevant matters.

Your partner’s status may also affect your entitlements.

The rules seem clear, but there can be a deal of confusion for many people when applying for an Age Pension. As always, it seems that for every rule there can be an exception. Recently our team helped Marion who is a New Zealander who does not hold a Protected Special Category Visa, but her time living  in Australia and New Zealand meant that she would qualify as an Australian resident. Similarly for Steve, who arrived in Australia in the early 60s as a self confessed ‘Ten Pound Pom’. Steve felt he didn’t meet the criteria for residency, but again, after speaking with our team, he discovered he does indeed qualify and has since successfully applied for, and received, a CSHC.

Our Customer Service Team deals with these issues all the time so if you are uncertain of your residency status you can always book a consultation with one of our knowledgeable team.

Our online application services also has all the rules covered.  You can get started with our free eligibility calculator.

Check Your Entitlements