Does the Queen Need a Visa to enter Australia?

The Queen of Australia, Elizabeth II, arrived in Australia over the weekend for her 15th visit to the country she has been Head of State of for more than 50 years.

I have seen the Queen once – or to be more precise, I saw her hand waving out the window of her car as she drove past. It was 1970, and I was 5 or 6 years old, standing with many other children and adults on Breakfast Creek Rd in inner-Brisbane, all waving those little plastic Australian flags (which is one thing that doesn’t seem to have changed much in the last 30 years).

The Queen’s latest (and quite possibly last) visit to Australia, coupled with the fact I’ve just been trying to wrap my head around the minutiae of citizenship law, reminds me of a trivial but none the less interesting question – (well I find it interesting anyway).

Does the Queen of Australia need a visa to enter the country? If she does, what type, and if she doesn’t, does that mean she is an Australian citizen? And do Prince Philip or Prince Charles get treated differently?

Feel free to leave a reply saying what you think the answers are (although no prizes for getting it right this time). I did ask this question of a senior DIMIA official this question a couple of years ago, during a private briefing about on some new regulations or legislation from the time (I suspect I was getting a bit bored).

UPDATE – Answers to Questions:

(a) The Queen doesn’t need a visa, as she is Queen of Australia and Head of State. Under Section 1 of the Constitution, she is also part of the Federal Parliament.

(b) The Queen is not an Australian citizen. Citizenship is of Australia is defined by statute, not the Constitution, and she does not meet the criteria for Australian citizenship outlined in the Citizenship Act 1948. All Australian citizens are subjects of the Queen, but you can’t be a subject of or to yourself. (see this 1995 Research Note from the Parlimentary Library)

(c) Other members of the Royal Family are granted Special Purpose Visas via Regulation. (Regulation 2.40 of the Migration Regulations)

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  1. My rather uneducated guess is that the Queen does not require any Visa. The reason being that the Governor-General is, in effect, the Queen when she is not here, and so through that arrangement, the Queen is regarded as an Australian citizen.

  2. Presumably she can enter under the same conditions as any English tourist.

    Does she get fingerprinted along with all the other foreigners when she enters the US?

    Would she even have a passport?

    You know what they say about one law for the rich…

  3. didn’t she swear the citizenship oath under keating? therefore she’s a citizen, but how she can be head of oz state is beyond me as even as a member of parliament you may not have allegiance to another country

  4. Grow up don’t be pedantic,you must be a repubulican candidate to say or think such rot.

    She is our head and that’s that.
    Republics are run by dictators mainly ,and all republics don’t succeed any better than monarchies.

  5. Corrie.s, Senator Bartlett’s question is obviously hypothetical. There is no conceivable way that DIMA are going to take our head of state for an extended tour of Villawood detention centre while they run background checks.

    Never-the-less, the Question illustrates the attention to detail that is required to frame legislation that works 100% of the time in the real world.

    My answers: (A) no, she doesn’t need a visa because she is a Queen and entitled to go anywhere in her dominion, (B) but if she did it would be a working visa, and she would need to be sponsored by her employer, (C) no, that doesn’t make her a citizen, and (D) I can’t answer, because I have never wrapped my head around the different degrees of royalness.

  6. I’m with Alan…

    A) no, she’s the head of state. If they need photo ID she can just give them a 20c coin.

    B) a working visa sponsored by her employer, which is the Commonwealth of Australia, which is her.

    C) no, to be a citizen you would in effect need to be a royal subject. Which rules her out.

    D) I think if they point to her and say “I’m with her” it’s enough…
    In my opinion, they are ‘less royal’ than her because she’s the one on the currency. But, in the absurd English tradition, anyone related to her could expect identical treatment.

  7. I imagine most foreign heads of state require / hold a diplomatic passport, but that’s a vague guess at best.

  8. Those who think this question is pedantic or irrelevant have no idea what making laws are all about.

    Questions such as whether a Minister can choose to deport a permanent resident but not a citizen are important areas of legislation, and there are few people and politicians who actually study proposed laws to see whether or not they are fair and appropriate.

    If the queen was, in fact, required by law to possess a visa and entered the country without one, the Dept of Immigration would be obliged to either deport her immediately or detain her until her claim for refugee status could be determined.

  9. Well the Queen is a different kettle of fish muzz… she’s the head of state of our constitutional monarchy, she’s the Queen of Australia.

  10. Chiefs of state enjoy immunity from most immigration requirements under the Vienna Conventions on diplomatic and consular immunities. Monarchist fantasies about the GG aside, Elizabeth II is clearly chief of state somewhere and enjoys the same immunity. I’d guess you’d find an exemption reciting all this somewhere in the regulations under the Migration Act.

    The need to even think about whether Asutralia’s head of state needs a visa to eater Australia shows how tenuous the whole silly arrangement is getting.

  11. “Republics are run by dictators mainly ,and all republics don’t succeed any better than monarchies.”

    All hail dictator Chirac, Merkel….. Bush.

  12. I’ve added answers to the question as an update at the bottom of the main post.

    Alan (comment #5) was broadly correct about the Queen.

    As to the Royal Family – and also in answer to Geoff’s question at #9 about visiting heads of state and guests of the Australian government – they are all granted a Special Purpose Visa (as also is the Royal Party). I understand they all still need to have passports and passenger cards upon entry.

  13. I think it would be heartily cool for the monarch to get tossed in the Villawood Clink till her visa clears, the closest to transparency and accountability this country’s immigration would ever be.

    She isn’t the Queen of Australia, she is the Queen of England – different hemisphere, thank goodness. It is such an abhorrent and antiquated concept to continue on a tradition of honouring one family and bestowing them with riches above and to the exclusion of other citizens.

  14. All I can think of is a line from Monty Pyton and the Holy Grail – “How’d you get to be king [queen]? I didn’t vote for you.”

    No, but her ancestors were better at violence than my ancestors. Well that’s OK then.

    How anyone can believe we live in a society where we are all equal in terms of our intrinsic value as human beings and then say we should have a hereditary head of state, let alone one who’s a foreigner, is beyond me.

  15. Really ab… not our Queen?????

    Australia is a constitutional monarchy and a Commonwealth Realm. Queen Elizabeth II has been the reigning monarch since 6 February 1952. Under the Constitution of Australia, the Queen’s powers are delegated to the Governor-General, who is appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister of Australia. In all matters relating to Australia, the Queen acts solely on the advice of her Australian ministers.
    In Australia, the Queen’s official title is: Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of Australia and Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth. (“Commonwealth” here refers to the Commonwealth of Nations, not the Commonwealth of Australia.) In common practice, Queen Elizabeth II is referred to simply as “The Queen” or “The Queen of Australia” when in Australia, or when abroad and acting on the advice of her Australian ministers.

    Oooops…. it seems she is ab.

    Hey try looking at a few Australian coins… whose head is that ab????

  16. What would happen if she got sick while she was here? She’s getting on a bit. What if she fell down and broke her hip or something? And the injury was so bad she couldn’t be transported back to England? Would she be entitled to Medicare?

    Obviously she could pay up front so it’s a hypothetical question. The man we’re desperately trying to deport to Serbia is not entitled to Medicare because he’s not a citizen. He apparently has a special visa. What if one of the queen’s various rellies along for the visit on their special visas needed hospital treatment? Would they be entitled to Medicare?

  17. She isn’t the Queen of Australia, she is the Queen of England – different hemisphere, thank goodness.

    The last Queen of England was Elizabeth I, the one died in 1603.

  18. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that the Queen is here in Australia on an important mission and not just a tourist.

    She is opening Her Commonwealth Games.

    No what about the insistence of the Commonwealth Games organisers on not playing ‘God Save The Queen’. Bad form.

    On another matter I’m in the fortuitous position of holding two passports.

    By being a Swede and an Aussie I am an illoyal servant of the King of Sweden and the Queen of Australia.

    Until recently I would have had a hard time taking up Australian citizenship since I would have had to swear allegiance to the Queen (while being a subject of the King).

    It seems to me by allowing their citizens to hold more than one citizenship the remaining Western Monarchies are rapidly losing any relevance to real life issues.

  19. Lynette2

    I might be wrong, but I don’t think anyone on a Special Purpose Visa would be entitled to access Medicare (unless perhaps there was special discretion authorised). My understanding is that you normally need to be a permanent resident to access Medicare, although it is also attached to some temporary visas.

    I believe that even Australian citizens aren’t entitled to Medicare unless they are resident here. If you’re here on a visit but domiciled overseas, you aren’t entitled.

  20. Does anyone know whether God Save the Queen was played at the last Commonwealth Games not staged in a the UK? That would be Malaysia I think. Back in 1998

  21. Who pays for the monarch’s visit to Australia? The other Friday evening Chaser from ABC surveyed a backpacker hostel for more economical accommodation for her. In Sydney, the backbacker accommodation could then double for Condaleeza’s later arrival without needing to change the sheets.

  22. At best she is a ceremonial head of state for convict and colonial descendents who’ve been here for a couple hundred years, I don’t believe indigenous Australia ever needed a queen, and looks like no one else does anymore, either.

    Lynette has something there – did you see the poor old dear having to plant the tree? Honestly, who thinks up her itinerary?

  23. I have a website where people can post their stories about the 1954 royal visit. I hope to update it to include other tours. Andrew B., your story would fit right in. I find it interesting to hear how people’s actual experience of royalty during these events shaped their views.

  24. Of course the Queen doesn’t need a visa to come to this country. I can’t belive you’re wasiting your time on something like this. It’s not an issue of politics or philosophy but a matter of legistics. Either say something like “Should the queen require a visa” or just come out with some manhood and say “should we become a republic” or even better, just pull out your thumbs from your respective holes and get on with something useful in life. Like giving blood or registering as organ donors or joining a local arts group.

  25. Dear Andrew,

    You said you were bored at an (important) private briefing which to me is a privilege afforded to you as a supposed representative of the people.

    Obviously by raising such an innocuous subject as a visa for The Queen, you are still bored. Perhaps so much so that it is time you retired!


  26. I heard that the Queen of England is the only person in the world who is able to visit any country on the planet without a passport. Is this true? And does this also mean that the Pope and the US President have to carry a passport when the travel abroad?

  27. In response to #30, it is quite possible that Queen Elizabeth II is the only person allowed to travel abroad without a passport if one considers the laws of independant countries governing the issuance of passports. In the UK all passports are issued in the name of Her Majesty, therefor in effect BY her. Passports are issued to individuals by a higher authority and in the area of British passorts there isn’t a higher authority than The Queen. In the US, passports are not issued by the authority of the president but rather by the Bureau of Consular Affairs which is a part of the US Department of State. Yes, the US President has a passport, abiet a diplomatic passport as would the First Lady and any minor children (just as someone employed as a customs agent, etc. and their family would). It is however unlikely that the the President would ever be found tapping his foot as he waited in line at passport control! As with any high profile person he would be passed through without hassle while most likely an assistant/official had his papers processed. This is known to happen for some celebrities as well so that order can be maintained in check point areas – usually when their visit has been publicized and they’re unable to arrive quitely and as a normal person. As for the Pope, yes, His Holiness does in fact have a passport which is numbered “1” – this number is reissued for each consecutive Pontif. Why the Pope has a passport is a bit intriguing because since his rule is that of an Absolute Elective Monarch, it would be fair to reason that Vatican passports would be issued by the authority of the Pope making there no higher authority than himself…thus putting him in the same unique situation as The Queen. Anyway, I’m sure he doesn’t spend much time in line at passport control either. A final thought, Her Majesty is missing out a bit…part of the romance of travel is collecting stamps from where you’ve been and having that special momento.

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