In April this year the Australian Federal Government announced that it was considering a number of changes to the country’s current immigration requirements.
Peter Dutton, the immigration minister, unveiled the proposed citizenship changes on 20 April, significantly raising the hurdles on gaining citizenship, badging the proposal a national security measure.
What are the proposed changes?
Extended stay before citizenship is granted
The minister’s proposed changes would include extending the waiting time migrants would have to spend in the country before they would be eligible to apply for Australian citizenship. The proposal is that migrants who hold permanent residents’ status must do so for a minimum of four years before they will be permitted to apply for Australian citizenship. This waiting period is 1 year at the moment.
Tougher English Exams
New residency applicants will also have to complete and pass tougher English language test. The minimum pass mark has been set at 75%. This is equivalent to level 6 of the international English language testing system (IELTS).
IELTS General Training
The IELTS General Training test is for those who are going to English speaking countries for secondary education, work experience or training programs. It is also a requirement for migration to Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK. The test focuses on basic survival skills in broad social and workplace contexts.
The IELTS Academic test is for people applying for higher education or professional registration in an English speaking environment. It reflects some of the features of academic language and assesses whether you are ready to begin studying or training.
Strengthening the citizenship test
The Australian citizenship test is taken by migrant permanent residents seeking Australian citizenship. The test is designed to test the applicant’s knowledge of the Australian society, its morals and values as well as its culture and history. The new test is said to include more meaningful questions that assess an applicant's understanding of - and commitment to - our shared values and responsibilities.
Integrate and Contribute
Citizenship applicants will have to lay evidence that they are integrated into Australian life and valuable members contributing to a prosperous society. Examples would include evidence of employment, membership of community organisations and school enrolment for all eligible children.
The new Citizenship rules will also limit the number of times an applicant can fail the citizenship test. It is proposed that if a permanent resident fails the test after the third attempt they would be disqualified from taking the test again. At the moment there is no limit to the number of times an applicant can fail the test.
In April Minister Dutton said, “In our democracy, the most important title is "Australian citizen". Citizenship brings with it great privileges and responsibilities and so deserves respect and commitment from those who seek it, as well as those who are granted it.
Those who choose to become Australian citizens are making a solemn commitment to our democracy, to our way of life. And that commitment, made by 5 million since 1949, has helped secure and enrich our nation”.