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Major Australian Citizenship Changes

Written By Dion Hawkins
Mon, May 8, 2017
Dion Hawkins

The Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced changes to Australian citizenship on 20 April.  Changes include:

  • Requiring applicants to have lived in Australia as a permanent resident for at least four years (replacing a more generous one-year requirement);
  • Requiring all applicants to pass a stand-alone English test involving reading, writing, listening and speaking;
  • Requiring applicants to show the steps they have taken to integrate and contribute to the Australian community;


And specifically in relation to the citizenship test that forms part of the application process:

  • A revised citizenship test focussed on values and responsibilities;
  • Limiting to three the number of times that an applicant can fail the citizenship test;
  • Introducing an automatic fail for applicants who cheat during the citizenship test. 


The changes to the residency requirement directly affect people who first entered Australia on temporary visas – for example, as a New Zealand passport holder, on a 457 visa, or as an international student - and built up years of residency time on temporary visas before qualifying for permanent residency. In the past, those years on temporary visas could enable a person to apply for citizenship after one year of becoming a permanent resident. 

Note that while the new changes have immediate effect, they are still subject to the consent of Parliament, and it is expected that the enabling legislation will be introduced into Parliament later this year. In the event that Parliament were to reject the legislation, the citizenship rules in place before the 20 April announcement would - in theory - come back into effect. Alternatively, it is possible that the legislation may be amended in its passage through Parliament, changing the rules in some way.

When the legislation is introduced, it may be that exceptions to the residency requirement will be included similar to those that have been in place previously in place such as for partners of Australian citizens, defence personnel, members of specific occupations whose work requires extensive overseas travel or in cases where significant hardship is demonstrated.

The current uncertainty raises questions for people who want to apply for citizenship whether to apply at the present time if you meet, for example, the pre-20 April requirement but do not meet the new requirement.

Please feel free to contact TSS Immigration for a consultation if you believe you are affected by the changes.

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