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What happens at a citizenship ceremony?

A family displays their citizenship certificates Source: SBS

26 January is a big day for Australian migrants to become Australian citizens. Here's what you need to know about preparing for your citizenship ceremony.

The citizenship ceremony is the last step before becoming an Australian citizen. Once your citizenship application is approved, you’re required by law to attend the citizenship ceremony to make the Australian Citizenship Pledge.

What you need to know

The ceremony will be held at your local council, usually within six months of your application being approved. You’ll receive a letter of invitation from your local council or the Department of Home Affairs.

If you do not attend a ceremony within 12 months of your application being approved, and you do not have an acceptable reason, your application could be reviewed and cancelled.

How to prepare

You can invite friends and family to the ceremony. There might be a limited amount of guests you can bring, which should be indicated on your letter of invitation. Your children might not be able to sit with you so make sure somebody else is there to supervise them. Your guests will be allowed to take photos during the ceremony.

If you have special needs, you can let the Department of Home Affairs know at your citizenship appointment or you can call the Citizenship Information Line at 131 880.

Bring your letter of invitation and an official ID with a photo like a driver’s license or a passport.

There’s no official dress code, but the Department of Home Affairs suggests that you wear smart casual clothes and arrive half an hour early to have the time to register.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull poses for a photo with new Australian citizens at an Australia Day Citizenship Ceremony and Flag Raising event in Canberra, Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull poses for a photo with new Australian citizens at an Australia Day Citizenship Ceremony in Canberra, Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017.
AAP

The ceremony

The citizenship ceremony usually takes between one to two hours. There will be a formal introduction, speeches and an address before the pledge.

The presiding officer will then ask you to repeat the Pledge of commitment. There are two versions of the Pledge, one that mentions God, and one without. You’ll have to repeat the one you picked on your application form.

“Taking a pledge is a part of being a commitment as the final step in officially becoming an Australian citizen,” explains Damien Kilner, from the Family and Citizenship Programme.

“So for the vast majority of people, they are required to undertake the Pledge and they’re able to show their loyalty to Australia and accept the responsibility and privileges of Australian citizenship. It also signals a person’s commitment to being an active member of our society as well.”

Once you’ll have made that pledge, you’ll be an Australian citizen. The National Anthem will be played at the end of the ceremony.

You'll receive a citizenship certificate, Make sure the information on it is correct and store it somewhere safe; you'll need it to apply for an Australian passport.

An Australian citizenship recipient holds his certificate during a citizenship ceremony on Australia Day.
An Australian citizenship recipient holds his certificate during a citizenship ceremony on Australia Day.
AAP

After the ceremony

There will be time to take photos and have light refreshments. Sometimes, you’ll receive a small present from the organisers, like a native Australian plant.

You’ll be offered the opportunity to add your name to the electoral roll so you can vote at the next election. Since voting is compulsory in Australia, you can either enrol there or bring the forms to fill them at home.

You’ll also be eligible to apply for an Australian passport. You can find more info about this here.

Australian citizenship
Mark Alcorn of Ireland celebrates receiving his Australian citizenship at a citizenship ceremony on Australia Day in Brisbane
AAP

Useful information

Citizenship Information Line: 131 880 Between 8.30am and 4.30pm Monday to Friday

Information about Citizenship ceremonies by the Department of Home Affairs

Getting an Australian passport

Enrol to vote in Australia

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