Australian Citizenship changes 2017- In the wake of the Australian Government’s recent paper “Strengthening the Test for Australian Citizenship,” Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton, stated that it is their prerogative to amend the requirements to become an Australian citizen.
The stricter Australian citizenship provisions are intended to include:
1. Residency Requirement:
Increasing the general residence requirement, which means an applicant for Australian citizenship will need to demonstrate a minimum of four years permanent residence in Australia immediately prior to their application for citizenship, with a maximum of 12 months outside of Australia during this time period.
This represents a change from the current requirement which allows time spent in Australia as a temporary resident towards a four year qualifying period and only requires a minimum of 12 months spent as a permanent resident immediately prior to applying.
2. English Language Testing:
Introducing an English language test, which means applicants will need to demonstrate competent English language listening, speaking, reading and writing skills before being able to sit the citizenship test.
3. Australian Values Statement:
Strengthening the Australian Values Statement in application forms for visas and citizenship to include reference to allegiance to Australia and require applicants to make an undertaking to integrate into and contribute to the Australian community.
4. Citizenship Test:
Strengthening the test for Australian citizenship through the addition of new test questions about Australian values, and the privileges and responsibilities of Australian citizenship.
Introducing a requirement for applicants to demonstrate their integration into the Australian community. Applicants will need to demonstrate their integration into the Australian community by providing, for example, documentation to the effect that people who can work are working, or are actively looking for work or seeking to educate themselves; that people are contributing to the community by being actively involved in community or voluntary organisations; that people are properly paying their taxes and ensuring their children are being educated. Applicants’ criminal records and adherence to social security laws are also relevant.
6. Pledge of Commitment:
Strengthening the Pledge of commitment in the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 to refer to allegiance to Australia; and extending the requirement for individuals aged 16 years and over to make the Pledge of commitment to all streams of citizenship by application, including citizenship by descent, adoption and resumption.
It is noted that the legislation to introduce stricter Australian citizenship provisions has not yet come into effect. The Federal Government has announced that legislation will be put before Parliament towards the end of 2017.
It is also noted that the four-year Australian permanent residency requirement is already in effect and should be met prior to lodging an Australian citizenship application.
The legislation changes mentioned above may also apply retroactively to Australian citizenship applications lodged after 20 April 2017.
Reference: “Strengthening the Test for Australian Citizenship,” Australian Government, April 2017 https://www.border.gov.au/ReportsandPublications/Documents/discussion-papers/citizenship-paper.pdf
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