AUSTRALIA – Government Announces Stricter Criteria for Citizenship
On 20 April 2017, the The Government announced that a package of reforms will apply to citizenship applications received on or after 20 April 2017.
Legislation relating to these reforms will be put before Parliament by the end of 2017.
What changes were announced?
- Applicants will be required to have lived in Australia as a permanent resident for at least four years, compared to one year under current rules.
- Applicants will need to demonstrate competent English language listening, speaking, reading and writing skills before being able to sit the citizenship test.
- The test will refer to allegiance to Australia and require applicants to make an undertaking to integrate into and contribute to the Australian community.
- New questions will be added to the test about Australian values, and the privileges and responsibilities of Australian citizenship.
- Applicants will have three attempts to pass the citizenship test, after which their application will not be approved. Integrity measures will be adopted including the introduction of a two-year bar on making a new application after a previous application is refused. There is currently no limit to the number of times a candidate can take the test.
- Applicants will be required to confirm that they can work or are working, are actively looking for work or are seeking to educate themselves; that they are contributing to the community by actively being involved in the community or voluntary organisations; that they are paying their proper taxes and ensuring their children are being educated.
- Criminal records and adherence to social security laws will also be tested.
- The pledge of commitment will be strengthened to refer to allegiance to Australia; and the requirement for individuals aged 16 years and over to make the Pledge will be extended to all streams of citizenship by application, including citizenship by descent, adoption and resumption.
Permanent residents intending to apply for Australian citizenship should seek professional advice. It may be important to submit an application before these changes take effect.