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Citizenship in the APS

See also Conditions of Engagement

1. Where Australian citizenship is required

Evidence of  Australian citizenship

A list of documents that can confirm Australian citizenship is available from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Information on Australian citizenship—including how to obtain  evidence of Australian citizenship—is available from the Department of  Home Affairs at www.citizenship.gov.au.

Australian Citizenship is generally required in order to  obtain a security clearance. For more information, see Section 11.4 of the  Personnel security guidelines, part  of the Australian Government Protective Security Policy  Framework.

Providing  evidence of Australian citizenship as a condition of engagement

Where satisfactory evidence is not provided prior to  engagement, then evidence of citizenship should be required as a condition of engagement, under subsection  22(6) of the Public Service Act 1999 (PS Act).

It is good practice for an agency's letter of offer make  clear:

  • the  requirement for the employee to provide evidence (as specified) of Australian  citizenship within a specified timeframe
  • that employment can be ended if the  condition is not met within the specified timeframe.

Obtaining  Australian citizenship as a condition of engagement

An agency may require the person to obtain Australian  citizenship as a condition of  engagement, under subsection 22(6) of the PS Act. Where this is the case, a potential employee must be  notified.

It is good practice for an agency's letter of offer to  make clear:

  • the  requirement for the employee to provide evidence (as specified) of Australian  citizenship within a specified timeframe
  • the  requirement for the employee to provide evidence (as specified)—and within specified  timeframes—that they are actively seeking citizenship
  • that employment  can be ended by the agency if the condition is not met within the specified timeframes.

While it may seem impractical to impose the condition  where an engagement is for a short period of time, agencies should be mindful  that periods of employment can be extended in certain circumstances, and that a condition of engagement can only be  imposed at the time of engagement.

Moving to another APS agency

Where an employee moves to another agency, the gaining  agency can determine whether the requirement to obtain citizenship continues to  apply. The gaining agency is responsible for:

  • confirming  whether the requirement exists, and has not been met
  • making  it clear to the employee that the requirement in continuing—for example in the written  agreement to transfer.

Where the condition continues to apply, a person's employment  may be ended by the new agency if the condition is not met under subsection  29(3)(f) of the PS Act.

Citizenship, as a condition of  engagement, cannot be imposed by the new agency if it was not initially  imposed by the agency that made the engagement.

2. Where Australian citizenship is not required on engagement

Where Australian citizenship is not required by an agency  head, a person who is not an Australian citizen and who is eligible to work in Australia can be employed in that  agency on an ongoing or non-ongoing basis, subject to the normal provisions of  merit in the APS1.

The decision  of the agency head or delegate to engage a person who is not an Australian  citizen should be documented and retained in the employee's personal records.The  employee should be made aware that—without Australian citizenship—they may not  be eligible to be employed in other APS agencies unless the relevant agency  head agrees.

A  person who holds a temporary visa would normally only be engaged on a  non-ongoing (temporary) basis, in line with the time available on their visa.

Eligibility to work in Australia

A person who is not an Australian citizen must hold appropriate work  entitlements in order to be employed in the APS. This is an independent legal  requirement. It applies regardless of whether a related condition of engagement has been imposed or whether the person was  notified of such a requirement at the time of their engagement.

Where an employee no longer holds a valid work entitlement, their  employment can be ended for loss of an essential qualification under subsection  29(3)(b) of the PS Act.

It is good practice for an agency to:

  • inform  an employee who is not an Australian citizen—in the letter of offer—that if  they cease to hold valid work entitlements, their employment will be ended
  • make  regular checks with the Department of Home Affairs to  ensure a person's work entitlements have not changed.

Information on visa requirements for foreign nationals  working in Australia and on employer obligations is available from the Department of Home Affairs www.border.gov.au/.

3. Dual citizenship

Some Australian citizens also hold citizenship of another  country (dual citizenship). If a person in this position can demonstrate  evidence of Australian citizenship, they can be engaged as an APS employee,  regardless of other citizenship they may hold at the same time.

Employment of a dual citizen can lead to employment-related  issues, for example where the person is required to obtain a security clearance  or to work in an area where their dual citizenship could be seen as a conflict  of interest.

4. Recruiting outside Australia

There is no APS-wide sponsorship scheme for recruiting  people who are not Australian citizens from overseas. Agencies should contact the  Department of Home Affairs for information on employer  sponsorship schemes.

If an agency decides to recruit outside Australia, requirements  in relation to notifying vacancies in the Public Service Gazette (www.apsjobs.gov.au) still apply.

If an overseas applicant who is not an Australian citizen  is being considered for employment, the agency should be satisfied that the applicant is eligible to obtain the appropriate work entitlements before an offer of employment is made. A person who is not an Australian citizen must  hold appropriate work entitlements in order to be employed in the APS.

5. Locally engaged staff

Under section 74 of the PS Act, agency heads can engage  persons overseas, to perform duties overseas. These persons are not APS  employees under the PS Act and there is no citizenship requirement under the  Act for locally engaged staff. These persons are engaged in accordance with  local employment law in the relevant jurisdiction.

6. Legislation

Public  Service Act 1999

Subsection 22(6)

An agency head may impose conditions on the  engagement of an APS employee.

These  conditions must be notified to the employee.

Conditions  may include matters dealing with citizenship.

Subsection 22(8)

An agency head must not engage a person who  is not an Australian citizen as an APS employee 'unless the agency head considers it appropriate to do so'.

The  discretion to engage a person who is not an Australian citizen is with the  relevant agency head.

An  agency may have policies that limit the circumstances under which a person who  is not an Australian citizen can be employed—for example only where, as a condition of engagement, an employee  must obtain Australian citizenship.

Subsection 29(3)(f)

An agency head may terminate the employment  of an APS employee for failing to meet a condition  of engagement imposed under subsection 22(6) of the PS Act.

Additional note

Subsection 22(6) of the PS Act can only be used to impose  conditions at the time a person is being engaged  in the APS. This subsection cannot be used to impose or vary conditions of  employment after engagement.

If a condition is not imposed at the time of engagement, then subsection 29(3)(f) of the PS Act cannot be used by an agency  to end employment if the condition is not met.


1 As described in the Australian Public Service Commissioner's Directions 2016–Chapter 3.