Australia Immigration

Australia plans to change citizenship rules to crack down on fraud

by Ray Clancy on November 25, 2014

in Australia Immigration

Plans are underway to overhaul citizenship rules in Australia, which will make it tougher for those who want to make the country their permanent home.

According to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP), change is aimed at ensuring that those who want to become an Australian citizen have a connection to the country, rather than to an Australian.

AUSTRALIAcitizens

Thechange is aimed at ensuring that those who want to become Australian citizens have a strong connection to the country

‘Australian citizenship is a privilege to be given by the Australian people, rather than a right to be claimed by an individual,’ said a DIBP spokesman.

The government wants to strengthen the integrity of the citizenship programme, which would mean giving Immigration Minister Scott Morrison the powers to revoke citizenship where it has been obtained by fraud or misrepresentation.

This would mean that anyone who applies for citizenship and gives false or misleading information during the visa and citizenship processes may not be granted citizenship, even if they have no prior criminal convictions.

Currently, the majority of people who apply for citizenship must live in Australia for four years before their application, including spending at least 12 months as a permanent resident. Changes could mean that applicants would need to live in Australia continuously for 12 months.

The overhaul would also remove any abuse of the partner discretion, limiting when an applicant, who is married or in a de facto relationship with an Australian citizen, can count overseas absences as part of the residence requirement for citizenship.

According to officials, this change is necessary because recently, courts have taken a broad interpretation of the provision, allowing it to be used when an applicant has barely spent time in Australia.

In one case, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal allowed the discretion for a person who was working in Papua New Guinea while his Australian spouse was living in Fiji. The applicant spent just 131 days in Australia in the four years before applying for citizenship.

Under the proposed changes, the partner discretion would only apply if the applicant spends 365 days in Australia over the four years and is in a ‘genuine and continuing relationship with an Australian citizen’.

The changes are outlined in a new piece of legislation, the Australian Citizenship and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2014.

It has also been confirmed that Morrison has rewritten his minister’s message, which is read out at every citizenship ceremony. ‘As a nation we can only become as great and as good as our citizenry,’ the reworked message will now tell new citizens.

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