Australia Immigration

Migration agents say citizenship changes would create two tier system

by Ray Clancy on June 26, 2017

in Australia Immigration

Proposed changes to the criteria for meeting the Australian citizenship test may be unattainable for many current permanent residents of Australia and should be re-examined, according to migration agents.

The Migration Institute of Australia, which represents agents across the country, believes that if the proposals are voted through by Parliament they will lead to a two tier system of citizens and permanent residents who cannot become citizens.

(fintastique/Bigstock.com)

It has hit out at some of the key changes currently being discussed in Parliament and has made public the evidence it gave to Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. In particular the MIA says that the proposal to change the current 12-month period of permanent residency needed to apply for citizenship should remain and not be increased to four years as outlined in the current proposals.

‘The MIA recommends that if changes are made to the Australian citizenship requirements, that transitional arrangements be made for those who have held a permanent resident visa for one year and who previously held temporary visas for at least three years,’ it says in its submission to the Government.

It is highly critical of the proposals. ‘It is difficult to determine the factual reasoning for this proposal to strengthen the Australian citizenship test. The changes appear to be based on opinion, rather than evidence based research,’ the report explains.

‘If the Australian Government has evidence that the proposed Australian citizenship requirements promote civic integration and will thereby improve the safety and security of all Australians it should make such evidence public. If such evidence does not exist, the proposed changes are at best merely symbolic and at worst pander to an overly strident section of Australian society,’ it points out.

It also believes, like many other critics, that the proposed new English test is too tough and the English requirement for citizenship should be set at functional English and that there should be no stand alone English test.

‘The MIA recommends that those who have already provided evidence of having the required level of English for a previous visa application should not be required to demonstrate their English language ability again,’ the submission adds.

The submission also points out that the proposed residency requirements will prevent some people from being able to apply for specific government jobs and programs which require Australian citizenship. ‘Many of these jobs require high level technological and scientific skills and have far reaching benefits to Australia,’ it says.

There has been a lot of criticism of leaked question that could be included in the test relating to domestic violence and schooling and the MIA calls for specific details of what questions are being considered to be made public as soon as possible.

The MIA is also concerned about the definition of integration and how it will be assessed in terms of granting citizenship and does not back the plans to limit the number of times that a person can apply for citizenship.

‘The MIA recommends that the Government should as a matter of urgency demonstrate that migrants and refugees are not being unfairly targeted by the proposed changes to Australian Citizenship requirements and that the Government should as a matter of urgency demonstrate that Australia is still a welcoming and inclusive nation,’ the submission adds.

‘Citizenship is an important mechanism to foster integration and make people feel fully connected and committed to Australia. There is a risk, however, that if citizenship is too hard to attain, a two tier system of permanent residency will develop in Australia: those who are full citizens, and those who failed to become citizens, though they are permanent residents,’ it concludes.

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