The Federal Parliament will now consider the Prime Minister’s proposed changes to Australian citizenship requirements which were announced on 20th April this year. Since the announcement, the citizenship changes have been a controversial topic in the media.
According to SBS News, there are concerns that one of the laws brought before Parliament will grant the Immigration Minister the power to overrule decisions by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) regarding the Department of Immigration’s citizenship refusals. Currently the Immigration Minister already has the power to override the AAT’s decisions related to visas but not in relation to citizenship.
The concerns are that the Immigration Minister will have irrefutable powers to determine who is given the rights to citizenship, similar to concerns earlier in the year when the Australian Government considered a bill which would allow the Immigration Minister to require certain groups of foreign nationals to revalidate their visa if deemed to be in the public’s interest. Read our post on this here.
In addition to this, the new citizenship laws could also enforce a more stringent English language test. Citizenship applicants currently need to meet a ‘basic’ level of English language skills, however if the new laws are passed, applicants will need to demonstrate an English level of at least ‘competent’.
Pino Migliorino from the Federation of Ethic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) is opposed to the introduction of a stringent language test saying, “I know thousands and literally thousands of older Australians now who don’t speak English well who’ve made an enormous contribution.” Another issue to consider is the fact that skilled migrants already undertake English language tests as part of their skilled visa application, meaning they will be required to prove their English proficiency twice if applying for citizenship. This can become a costly exercise for the applicant.
There has also been a lot of news about changes to the citizenship test to determine how well applicants have integrated into society. If the new laws are passed, the new citizenship test questions will assess the applicant’s views on democracy, social freedoms and equality.
Applicants will also only be eligible for citizenship if they have lived in Australia as a permanent resident for 4 years (instead of one year) and their willingness to integrate into Australian society will be assessed closely during this period of time – for example, by making tax payments, by being willing to work or become educated, by contributing to community or voluntary organisations and by abiding by social security laws.
We will keep you updated on the whether the citizenship changes are passed by Federal parliament. To read more about the proposed citizenship changes, read our post here. Or to find out if you are eligible for Australian citizenship, we encourage you to contact Interstaff’s registered migration agents on [email protected] or (08) 9221 3388 for a free assessment.