Citizenship in the APS
A person may only be engaged in the Australian Public Service (APS) if they are not an Australian citizen where an Agency Head has considered it appropriate to do so, in accordance with subsection 22(8) of the Public Service Act 1999 (PS Act). Australian citizenship may also be a condition of engagement imposed in accordance with subsection 22(6) of the PS Act.
Where citizenship is waived, the decision should be made before the decision to engage the individual. Where citizenship is imposed as a condition of engagement, agencies should ensure evidence of citizenship is collected as part of the onboarding process.
Agencies need to consider how citizenship may interact with security clearance requirements. Further information on security clearances can be found in the Australian Government Protective Security Policy Framework.
Waiving the requirement for citizenship
An Agency Head may waive the requirement for citizenship prior to engaging an individual, where they consider it appropriate to do so. The waiver may be:
- temporary, with a corresponding condition of engagement requiring the individual to obtain citizenship within a specified timeframe or
- on an ongoing basis where the individual will not be required to gain citizenship.
Where an Agency Head is considering waiving the requirement for citizenship on an ongoing basis, they are encouraged to undertake a risk assessment and consider whether any risk mitigations are required, such as imposing specific limitations or conditions of employment.
Regardless of whether the requirement for citizenship is waived on a temporary or ongoing basis, an individual who is not a citizen must be eligible to work in Australia. For further information refer the eligibility to work in Australia section on this page.
Where an Agency Head is considering engaging an individual who is not an Australian citizen, factors they may take into account include whether the:
- individual has confirmed their intention to gain citizenship within a reasonable timeframe and
- vacancy could otherwise be filled by an Australian citizen.
Agencies should be mindful that short term engagements are not, in themselves, a reason to waive the requirement for citizenship.
Movement between agencies without citizenship
The decision to engage an individual who is not an Australian citizen should be documented and retained in the employee's record. The employee should be made aware that without Australian citizenship they may not be eligible to work in other APS agencies.
Conditions of engagement cannot be imposed for existing APS employees. Therefore, prior to making an offer or agreeing to an employee movement an agency should:
- determine whether citizenship is a requirement for the role or the agency (e.g. a condition of employment) and
- confirm whether the employee is a citizen or has a waiver for citizenship.
This provides an opportunity for the agency to determine whether they would still like to proceed entering into an agreement.
Where an employee has been granted a citizenship waiver and seeks to move to another agency, the employee and the agency should communicate this to the receiving agency.
Further information on Australian citizenship and conditions of engagement can be found on the Conditions of Engagement webpage.
Eligibility to work in Australia
An individual who is not a citizen must be eligible to work in Australia and should confirm that they hold a valid work visa. This applies regardless of whether a related condition of engagement has been imposed or whether the individual was notified of such a requirement at the time of their engagement.
Where the citizenship requirement has been waived for a temporary visa holder, engagement should be on a non-ongoing basis and limited to the time available on the temporary visa.
If an employee no longer holds a valid work visa, 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 a citizen in the letter of offer that their employment will be ended if they cease to hold a valid work visa
- make regular checks with the Department of Home Affairs to ensure the employee’s work visa has not changed.
Further information on visa requirements for non-citizens working in Australia and on employer obligations can be found on the Department of Home Affairs website.
Recruiting outside of Australia
Agencies considering recruiting from outside Australia should contact the Department of Home Affairs for information on employer sponsorship schemes. There is no APS-wide sponsorship scheme currently in place.
The requirement to notify vacancies in the Public Service Gazette still applies where an agency decides to recruit outside Australia.
If an overseas candidate who is not a citizen is being considered for employment, the agency should be satisfied that they have the appropriate visa prior to engagement.
Locally engaged employees
Under section 74 of the PS Act, an Agency Head can engage people overseas, to perform duties overseas. They are not APS employees and therefore Australian citizenship is not required. Locally engaged employees are engaged in accordance with local employment law in the relevant jurisdiction.
Further information on locally engaged employees can be found on the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website.
HR practitioners seeking more information on Australian citizenship in the APS can contact the Employment Policy team via email@example.com or call the advice line on (02) 6202 3857.