My children and I will soon be Australian dual nationals. My wife insists that some of her friends in a similar situation have never bothered applying for Australian passports for their kids: instead, they apparently use their foreign passports to exit and re-enter Australia. (Their parents do have Australian passports.)

Citizenship Australia says this should be impossible, but proceeds to contradict itself by saying it's actually possible but difficult:

As an Australian citizen you must always leave and enter Australia on an Australian passport. ... People trying to enter Australia as an Australian citizen but without an Australian passport face difficulties and delays.

The Passport Office, though, only says that you "should" use an Australian passport:

You may be able to travel on a valid foreign passport if you are a dual national, but you should enter and leave Australia on your Australian passport.

And Smartraveller makes the obvious point that without an Australian visa or passport, airlines are unlikely to let them board:

An Australian citizen who arrives without an Australian passport may be delayed until their identity and claims to enter Australia have been checked. If a foreign passport holder claims to be an Australian citizen, immigration officers must confirm and verify this through official databases, which will cause delays. ...

In the absence of an Australian passport, airlines are unable to verify a claim of Australian citizenship at the time of check-in and may refuse boarding. The airline may have to make inquiries with the Department of Immigration and Border Protection in Australia seeking approval to carry the passenger, which takes time and may cause delays.

So what's the deal?

(And yes, we'll be getting passports for the kids. To me it sounds like a pretty minimal cost to avoid potentially serious hassle. But I'm still curious.)

  • Do your wife's friends have a passport that allows them limited visa-free travel to Australia? If so, that might explain how the airline will let them fly to Aus in the absence of an Australian passport
    – Gagravarr
    Nov 13, 2014 at 13:24
  • 1
    AFAIK the only passport that allows visa-free travel to Australia is New Zealand, and they're not Kiwis. Nov 13, 2014 at 21:24
  • The Electronic Travel Authorisation is effectively the same thing. Nov 15, 2014 at 5:00
  • Not really, because ETAs have to be applied for in advance, and Australian citizens are not eligible for Australian visas. Nov 15, 2014 at 11:18

5 Answers 5


I recently had the chance to test this out first hand, since I entirely forgot to get one of the kids their shiny new Aussie passport (oops) and only realized this the day before our flight (double oops). So here's the deal, straight from a grandmotherly exit immigration officer and subsequently validated in practice:

As of April 2015, the Immigration and Citizenship people don't talk to each other, so even after your citizenship bit is flipped, any old visas in previous passports remain perfectly valid by default.

More specifically, if all these conditions hold true:

  1. You have recently naturalized, and
  2. you still have the passport that contained your Resident Return Visa you had as a permanent resident, and
  3. that passport is still valid, and
  4. your Resident Return Visa has not expired,

Then you can just show the old passport at Immigration with no further explanation, and they will not notice a thing when you are leaving the country or entering the country. Likewise, if the airline runs a check to ensure that you have an Australian visa, which they will, that check will pass with flying colors.

If conditions 3 or 4 are not true, I suspect you may well be able to transfer the visa to a new passport and/or extend it as well with nobody the wiser, but I haven't personally tried this, nor do I intend to.

As to whether it's strictly speaking legal to do this, as opposed to merely being a loophole that Immigration is not particularly keen to publicize, I don't know, but I'm looking into it and will update this answer once I find out. And obviously Immigration may at any time update their process and start canceling old visas the instant citizenship is granted.

Also FWIW, I called the DIBP citizenship hotline the day before our flight and talked to an officer, who said we would be let out of the country if we insisted, but would have a hard time getting back and that our airline would be heavily fined for bringing in a passenger without proper documentation. Needless to say, this was complete bullshit -- although it may well be true for somebody whose RRV and/or passport has well and truly expired.


I just attended the ceremony not long ago and will be leaving for overseas tomorrow. I did not apply for an Australian passport for various reasons. All I can tell is when I checked online using VEVO, about 2 weeks after my citizenship ceremony, my Australia PR visa got cancelled and is showing visa class: null; visa type: permanent resident/citizen. I will report back if I exit Australia successfully.

As far as I can tell, in the previous answer, it says:

As of April 2015, the Immigration and Citizenship people don't talk to each other, so even after your citizenship bit is flipped, any old visas in previous passports remain perfectly valid by default.

The above is not true anymore, and the date now is October 2016.

  • 2
    can you update on the result of exiting without a passport?
    – Ofer Zelig
    Apr 12, 2017 at 10:05

My mother is born in 1953 in a British Army hospital in West Germany. Her father was serving in the British Army as a dual Australian and British national. Several years later they returned to Australia. My mother has lived in Australia almost continuously since 1957 but never received an Australian passport until recently. Previously when she travelled overseas (from Australia) on her British passport she needed to a have a Resident Return Visa, see link.

  • Having a Resident Return Visa means that she is a permanent resident of Australia, not a citizen: immi.gov.au/Visas/Pages/155-157.aspx Nov 19, 2014 at 9:57
  • My mother's father was Australian so she is a citizen by descent. She just didn't get her passport until recently.
    – ozOli
    Nov 19, 2014 at 10:54
  • 1
    Since current Australian citizens are not eligible for RRVs (see link above), I suspect she was eligible for citizenship by descent, but didn't actually get it until recently. Nov 19, 2014 at 11:00
  • @jpatokal Or she was really a citizen but they didn't know about it…
    – Gala
    Nov 19, 2014 at 12:46
  • she qualified to be a citizen but didn't want to go to the ceremony.
    – ozOli
    Nov 20, 2014 at 10:02

This is not exactly the same situation as my children are Australian Nationals by birth and US Citizens by descent but the scenario may apply. I wanted to save money and only have the Australian passports for them. But I was urged to have both. It was suggested that there would be questions asked in the USA why I was entering with my US Passport and my children on Australian passports, such as did I have permission to leave the country with them etc.

And as an Australian Permanent resident, I do on return require a RRV (Resident Return Visa), which expires every 5 years. In the long run the passports would be cheaper than the RRVs. I think mine was $300 in 2011.


Your children would not have valid passports and/or visas for the country you're going to, hence refusal to board from the airline! Simple

I left Australia without my Australian passport once but was lucky enough to have time for them to take 2 hours at the airport to confirm my identity using my UK passport (easy to enter UK). I was then noted in the system so an early return to the airport in UK allowed a check and I was able to return to Australia without my Australian passport as well. Not to be recommended though!

  • Please read the question: they're dual nationals with valid passports for their other nationality. Jun 24, 2018 at 13:15

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