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Research Guides


Chinese Immigrants and Chinese–Australians in NSW


Certificates of Exemption from the Dictation Test, Certificates of Domicile and associated forms

Certificates of Exemption from the Dictation Test (CEDTs) and Certificates of Domicile were issued to immigrants who were leaving Australia temporarily and allowed their return within a specified time. Clause 3n of the Immigration Restriction Act 1901 permitted the entry of any person previously domiciled in the Commonwealth. This clause was repealed in December 1905 and replaced by section 4B, which allowed the issue of a CEDT to people of good character who had resided in Australia for five years.

The books of certificates contain triple copies – one issued to the person departing to be presented on re-entering Australia, one probably retained at the port of departure for comparison with the certificate presented on re-entry for verification of identity and validity of the certificate, and the book butt, which recorded details of the certificate issued. The two certificates usually have two photographs of the applicant attached. The book butts do not include photographs.

Form No. 32 ('Customs Officers' certification of receipt of CEDT and verification of identification of holder') is sometimes attached to the CEDT. A copy of the applicant's fingerprints was usually placed on the back of Form 32, probably to compare with those placed on the CEDT.

Image 4: Certificate of Exemption from the Dictation Test, Impression of left hand, Go Gee (wife of Hin Gee) No. 477

Image 4: Certificate of Exemption from the Dictation Test, Impression of left hand, Go Gee (wife of Hin Gee) No. 477
NAA: ST84/1, 1908/471-480
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Image 3: Certificate of Exemption from the Dictation Test, p. 44, Go Gee (wife of Hin Gee) No. 477

Image 3: Certificate of Exemption from the Dictation Test, p. 44, Go Gee (wife of Hin Gee) No. 477
NAA: ST84/1, 1908/471-480
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Register of applications for certificates of exemption from the dictation test, 1902–59
Sydney
Recorded by: 1902–45 Collector of Customs, Sydney (CA 785)
1945–59 Department of Immigration, NSW (CA 957)

This series contains registers listing people already resident in NSW who were applying for CEDTs, to permit them to renter Australia after going abroad.

For each individual, the registers list the certificate number, date of issue, name (of applicant), vessel, date and port of departure, vessel and date and port of return, officer who examined, file number (mainly 'C' or 'N' files), and remarks (usually details regarding the certificate or renumbering of the file).

Volume 4 may be an adjunct to the main registers. In chronological order by date of application, entries in volume 4 record the file number, number of times the person had applied for a Certificate of Exemption (ie first, second, third, etc), name and date of application.

Series: SP726/1
Quantity: 0.9 metres
Register of applications for Certificate [of] Exemption [from the] Dictation Tests, 1902–59 SP726/1, register 2
Register of applications for Certificate [of] Exemption [from the] Dictation Tests, 1902–59 SP726/1, register 3
Certificates of exemption from the dictation test, 1905–51
Recorded by: 1905–45 Collector of Customs, Sydney (CA 785)
1945–51 Department of Immigration, NSW (CA 957)

This series includes both CEDTs and Certificates of Domicile. The certificates are arranged numerically and are often annotated with re-entry details such as the date of re-entry and name of ship. The earliest Certificates of Domicile date from 1904.

Each certificate describes the applicant's nationality, age height, build, particular marks, birthplace, complexion, (colour of) hair and eyes. Photographs and hand, thumb or fingerprints of the applicant are attached to the certificate. Examples of a certificate and associated papers appear on the following page.

Series: ST84/1
Quantity: 8.46 metres
Certificates of exemption from dictation test (forms 32 and 21), 1902–46
Sydney
Recorded by: 1902–45 Collector of Customs, Sydney (CA 785)
1945–46 Department of Immigration, NSW (CA 957)

This series comprises copies of forms 32 and 21 arranged chronologically by ship of re-entry. These certificates were probably copies issued to people departing Australia, which were presented on their return.

Details on the certificates include a physical description and two photographs of the person exempted. Most of the certificates were issued to Chinese immigrants or residents. Examples of a certificate and associated papers appear below.

The easiest way to locate individual records in this series on RecordSearch is to enter the name of the ship of re-entry (if known) in the 'Keywords' box in the 'Search' screen. Archives' reference officers will also provide assistance.
Series: SP11/6
Quantity: 1.62 metres

Chinese passengers per SS Changte at Sydney, 4 January 1928 SP11/6, NN
Chinese passengers per SS Tanda at Sydney, 25 December 1927 SP11/6, NN
Folders – Certificates of Exemption and related papers for passengers arriving in Australia by ship, 1878–1943
Sydney
Recorded by: Collector of Customs, Sydney (CA 785)

This series contains folders of copies of forms 21 and 32, arranged chronologically by ship of re-entry, which were probably issued to people departing Australia and presented on their return.

Details on the certificates include a physical description and two photographs of the person exempted. Most of the certificates were issued to Chinese immigrants or residents. Some give the related 'C' file number.

Series: SP115/1
Quantity: 24.84 metres
[SS] Tanda, 22 September 1939 SP115/1, box 76
Book butts of certificates of exemption from dictation test, 1941–59
Sydney
Recorded by: 1941–45 Collector of Customs, Sydney (CA 785)
1945–58 Department of Immigration, NSW (CA 957)

This series contains book butts of certificates issued for NSW by the Sub-Collector of Customs, Sydney and the Commonwealth Migration Officer, Sydney. Each book contained 100 certificates, the butts of which record the number of certificate, name (of applicant), nationality, date of issue, ('C' or 'N') file number, and fee (paid). The book numbers covered are 564–567, 571, 572, 576 and 587.

Series: SP605/8
Quantity: 0.18 metres

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Chapter 4
Arrivals, Residence and Departures