If you have applied for Australian Citizenship and are waiting to hear if it has been granted, you may wish to know the average Citizenship times for government processing have blown out from 12 months in March 2016 to 16 months this financial year. Interstaff looks into three reasons why.
Increasing number of applicants
Department of Home Affairs Officer, Luke Mansfield says one factor driving the increased Citizenship times is the substantial growth in the number of applications. Mr Mansfield told a Senate Committee, “The number of applications has been increasing year-on-year from a very significant base.” He said that as of April 30, there are almost 210,000 citizenship applications “on hand,” however the Department have allocated a 16 percent increase in processing staff since July 2016 to manage the demand.
Tightened security measures
Mr Mansfield says another factor affecting citizenship times is the fact that the Department are focusing on undertaking more rigorous character assessments. As the Government require more substantial levels of evidence this can also become more time consuming to assess. Mr Mansfield says, “The Department has increased the integrity screening and checking processes from a national security and criminality risk perspective.”
Registered Migration Agent from Interstaff, Sheila Woods also believes the Department’s level of rigour around character assessments is likely to have impacted Citizenship times.
Ms Woods says, “While we expect the citizenship requirements will be finalised by the Government in the next few months, it’s clear that character issues have already become a significant focus. If there is anything that might lead the Department to determine you have a character issue, we suggest that you seek migration advice. Anything from traffic infringements to offences committed when you were a minor could form part of the Department’s assessment.”
Ms Woods explained the extent to which character is assessed. She said, “People mistakenly believe that if they were granted permanent residence, they will be granted citizenship – but the Department considers citizenship to be a privilege, which once granted is difficult to revoke. The character requirements are far broader for a citizenship application than for a visa so matters which seem to be minor can contribute to the way the Department assesses as person’s overall patterns of behaviour.”
In addition, statistics from the Department of Home Affairs show that during 2016-17, over half of the applicants who were refused Australian Citizenship were due to failing police checks, involvement in criminal organisations and failure to establish proof of identity.
The nature of incoming applications
Mr Mansfield said the nature of applications coming into the Department had also changed and he believes there is an increased need to establish proof of identity, which has the potential to cause delays. He says, “There has been an increase in the number of applications from people who arrived some years ago without any form of identity documentation, and the processes around positively establishing identity obviously take quite some time to achieve.”
These circumstances can include those who migrated to Australia decades ago as a child and who may be looking to apply for Citizenship to make it easier to travel internationally and become eligible for other benefits. Read our article on the benefits of becoming an Australian Citizen here.
Are you eligible for Australian Citizenship?
Interstaff will continue to keep you updated on factors affecting your Citizenship application, including the Government’s proposed changes. Be sure to like our Facebook page for updates as they happen. Citizenship legislation is currently being discussed in parliament and has been designated ‘priority status’ by the Department of Home Affairs, therefore we believe changes are likely to be confirmed in the next few months.
We also believe part of the increasing interest in applying for Citizenship may be due to the upcoming changes to the eligibility requirements, which could soon render people ineligible. You can read about the proposed citizenship changes here.
Interstaff advises that if you are interested in applying for Australian Citizenship, you may wish to do so without delay. The first step is to find out if you are eligible to apply. If you have been an Australian permanent resident for at least 4 years, contact our registered migration agents on 08 9221 3388 or [email protected] for a free eligibility assessment and find out how we can assist with your application.