Changes to Australian Citizenship Legislation
Written By Thanushki Kankanange
Mon, Dec 11, 2017
On April this year, the Australian Government announced it’s strengthening of the integrity of Australian citizenship. The suggested objective of the proposed changes was to ensure that aspiring applicants for citizenship had sufficient time to integrate into the Australian community and develop an understanding of the Australian values.
The Federal government introduced ‘The Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment (strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures) Bill’ in June this year, which proposed the following significant changes:
- Increase the general residence requirement from one year as a permanent resident to at least 4 years as a permanent resident before they are eligible to apply for citizenship;
- Require most applicant to provide evidence of competent English Language proficiency (e.g: min overall average of 6 across all components in IELTS) before they can make a valid application for citizenship;
- Require applicants to demonstrate their integration into the Australian community. Suggested criteria for integration included the applicant’s; employment status, involvement with community groups, or study being undertaken by the applicant
- Amending the test for Australian citizenship through the addition of new test questions about Australian values and the privileges and responsibilities of an Australian citizenship
The bill was struck off the Senate notice paper in October as it failed to pass the Senate within the set timeframe. The government has stated that it plans to reintroduce the bill, aiming to have the new requirements come into effect on July 1 2018.
What will this mean for people who wish to apply for Australian citizenship in the future?
If you apply for citizenship before 1 July 2018 (subject to the passage of the proposed legislation) your application will be assessed against the current eligibility criteria.
From 1 July 2018, subject to the passage of legislation, the new requirements for Australian citizenship will take effect.
The Minister for Immigration, has confirmed that the government will redraft its citizenship reforms and reintroduce the bill. One of the expected changes is the lowering of the English Language requirement from competent to modest. The proposed changes to increase the general residence requirement to four years as a permanent resident is likely to remain unchanged.
The current general residence requirement for citizenship is as follows:
- Been present in Australia as a temporary or permanent visa holder in the last 4 years
- Have been a permanent resident in the last twelve months
- Have not been absent from Australia for a total period of 12 months or more in the last four years
- Have not been absent for more than 90 days in the last 12 months
If you meet the above criteria, you may be eligible to apply for citizenship provided you meet the relevant eligibility criteria. We suggest you assess your eligibility as soon as possible and apply for citizenship before 1 July 2018. Otherwise you may have to wait for a further three years to eligible to apply, if the new legislation comes into effect on 1 July 2018.
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