On 19 April 2017, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced several changes to the requirements to become an Australian citizen. The changes are yet to be implemented, however permanent residents seeking to obtain citizenship may be impacted by the new requirements, which are expected to come into effect by the end of 2017.
Am I eligible to apply for citizenship?
It’s important to note that the changes are subject to approval by the Parliament which the Government hopes will occur in late 2017. The Government has said that the changes will be retrospective, in that they will seek to have them apply to applications received from 19 April 2017 however, this will be subject to approval by the Parliament. Interstaff understands that citizenship applications submitted after the government announcement will be retained by the Department but not processed until the new legislation is considered by the Parliament.
Are New Zealanders affected by the changes?
There have been a few concerns in the media lately that New Zealanders will no longer have direct access to Australian citizenship following the Government’s recent citizenship changes. Read our article on this here.
What are the changes?
4 years permanent residence period required
• Citizenship applicants will need to have lived in Australia as a permanent residence visa holder for 4 years instead of 1 year
• Time spent in Australia on a temporary visa will no longer count towards the residence period
• Applicants must have spent a maximum of 1 year outside of Australia during the residence period
Introduction of an English language test
• Applicants will need to undertake an English language test and achieve a level of ‘competent’ English, rather than ‘basic’. The Government has not clarified if this will be equivalent to an overall International English Language Test Score (IELTS) of 6, or some other English competency standard.
• Exemptions to apply for those over 60 or under 16 years of age at the time of application and those with an enduring or permanent mental or physical incapacity.
Citizenship test to assess ‘Australian values’
• The new citizenship test questions will assess the applicant’s allegiance to Australia, particularly if the applicant holds multiple citizenships
• Test questions will seek to confirm the applicant’s values by assessing views on democracy, social freedoms, equality and integration into Australian society
• Australian value statements will also be incorporated into citizenship application forms
Applicants to demonstrate their integration into the Australian community
• Applicants will need to demonstrate the applicant’s integration into Australian society – for example, tax payments, a willingness to work or educate themselves, contributions to community or voluntary organisations, and adherence to social security.
• There will be an increased focus on applicants’ “character” and assessments for “conduct consistent with Australian values” with a focus on domestic or family violence, criminality and involvement in gangs and organised crime.
Assistance with your citizenship application
It is vital to receive professional assistance with your citizenship application as applicants will only have a maximum of three attempts to pass the citizenship test, and if refused, applicants can only reapply after a period of 2 years. Permanent residents interested in applying for Australian citizenship are encouraged to contact Interstaff to discuss how we can assist with your citizenship application in accordance with the Government’s changes.