Many Australians hold two or more nationalities. As well as holding Australian citizenship, they are citizens (or 'nationals') of another country. If you are a dual national travelling to the country of your other nationality, you need to know how your citizenship can impact you.
Explore this page to learn about:
- how to know if you're a dual national
- passports and visas
- compulsory military service overseas
- access to public health care overseas
- marriage and family issues
- consular services for dual nationals
How do I know if I'm a dual national?
Whether you're a dual national depends on the laws of Australia and the other country. A country could consider you a national even if you don't accept that nationality.
You could be a dual national with another country if you:
- have a parent who is a national of that country (citizen by descent)
- marry a national of that country
- apply for and receive citizenship of another country
- were born overseas
Many countries ban their citizens from giving up their nationality. Some allow it, though only through a formal process to renounce it.
If you think you may be a national of another country, check with the embassy or consulate of that country well before you travel.
Passports and visas
An Australian passport is the most conclusive proof of Australian citizenship overseas.
Leaving and returning to Australia
Australians should use their Australian passport when exiting or entering Australia. This includes dual nationals.
You may experience issues returning to Australia on a foreign passport. For example, airlines may not allow you to board a plane to Australia without evidence of Australian citizenship or an Australian passport.
If you're a dual national and have a passport from another country, you may choose to travel on your other passport once outside Australia.
See the Department of Home Affairs website for more on citizenship and travel.
Entering and leaving your country of other nationality
Dual nationals may choose to enter and exit the country of their other nationality on that country's passport.
If you enter the country of your other nationality on that country’s passport, local authorities may not recognise you as Australian. This can happen even if that country recognises dual nationality. This can limit the Australian government’s ability to provide you with consular assistance.
Some countries have restrictions on their departing nationals. This can include requiring an exit permit (or exit visa) in their passport.
Check with the embassy or consulate of your other country, well before you travel.
Compulsory military service for dual nationals
Dual nationals may be liable for military service in the country of their other nationality. Some countries which may require dual nationals to undertake military service include:
As a dual national, you may be required by law to complete your military service. Some countries allow nationals who have been living abroad to enter and stay for a limited time before starting military service. Others induct their citizens immediately on arrival.
If you don't complete your military service, you're breaking the law. You could be arrested or jailed as a defaulter (draft-dodger). If you're past the age for military service, you could still be charged as a defaulter.
If planning to visit a country where you may be a national, check your military service obligations with that country's embassy or consulate. Get this advice in writing before leaving Australia and take a copy with you.
Access to public health care
Some countries may allow dual nationals to use their public health care system. However, being a national of another country doesn't always mean you can access local services. This is particularly so if you don't usually reside, or pay tax, in that country.
You may also find the quality of care in many public health systems to be far below the standard you're used to in Australia.
- Research the public health system there, see if it meets your standards.
- Get travel insurance, so you can be confident you'll receive medical assistance – when you need it.
Read our travel insurance advice.
Marriage and family issues
Marriages performed overseas
Australia recognises marriages performed overseas, provided they meet Australian legal requirements. However, some agencies will not accept an overseas marriage certificate as evidence of a name change.
You may need to apply to the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages in your Australian state or territory for a formal name change.
Marriages performed in Australia
Marriages performed in Australia aren't always recognised in other countries. For example:
- an Australian marriage between an Australian and a person holding another nationality may not be recognised in the other country
- an Australian in that country may find their marriage is not recognised and their children considered illegitimate
- an Australian same sex marriage may not be recognised in many countries (homosexual acts could also lead to arrest or jail)
Contact that country's embassy or consulate before leaving Australia to clarify local laws about marriage.
For more information, see the Attorney General's Department’s information about marriage.
Some families seek to arrange the marriage of a child in a country where the legal age to marry is lower than in Australia.
Under Australian law, regardless of dual nationality:
- a child under the age of 16 can’t marry
- a child aged 16 or 17 requires a court order, issued by an Australian court, to marry
These laws apply to marriages in Australia. If a child living in Australia under the age of 18, marries overseas without a court order, Australia won’t recognise the marriage.
For more information, see UNICEF's information about child marriage.
Forced marriage is illegal under Australian law. Australia may prosecute individuals who coerce, threaten or deceive another person to enter into a marriage. This includes forced marriages performed overseas.
Forced marriages are not recognised as legal marriages under Australian law.
For more information, see the Department of Social Services' information about forced and child marriage.
Some countries don't recognise divorces settled in Australia, even if you're a dual citizen.
If you're concerned about the recognition of an Australian divorce by another country, you should seek advice from the relevant authorities of that country.
If you have concerns about an overseas divorce being recognised in Australia, you should seek legal advice in Australia.
Some countries require citizens to file both a civil and religious divorce.
The Family Court has more information about divorce, including for marriages performed overseas.
Dual nationality can impact court decisions about child custody.
Consular services for dual nationals
Dual nationality can impact how and when we can help you overseas. If you're in your other country of citizenship, the government there may restrict what consular services we can provide.
If things go wrong and you need help overseas, turn to local resources for help first. You should first look to emergency services or local authorities available to you, as a national of that country.
The Consular Services Charter explains how and when we can assist Australians overseas.
What we can do in your other country of citizenship
- We can provide Australian passport services
- We can provide notarial (document legalisation) services, including certificates of no impediment to marriage
- We can provide a list of local, English speaking doctors or lawyers
What we can't do in your other country of citizenship
- We can't provide consular assistance if their government doesn't recognise you're Australian
- We can't get you out of compulsory military service if you've been called up, or out of jail if you've been charged as a defaulter
- We can't get you out of trouble if you've been arrested or jailed
- We can't provide legal advice
- See our information about Australian Passports
- See our advice for people travelling with children
- Read our advice on getting married overseas and information about forced marriage
- See our advice on a range of topics on taking care of your health
- Read and subscribe to Smartraveller travel advice for the destinations you plan to visit
- The Consular Services Charter how and when we can assist Australians overseas
- Learn what to do when things go wrong overseas
- Learn about passports for dual nationals from the Australian Passport Office
- For information about Australian citizenship, see the Department of Home Affairs
- If your country of birth previously expelled you, check if it will allow you to enter the country with that country's embassy or consulate
- See the CHOICE travel insurance buying guide