Australia citizenship applicants face tougher tests

by Ray Clancy on April 21, 2017

in Australia Immigration

Becoming an Australian citizen is set to get tougher with the Government strengthening the requirements, including more stringent English language skills and a minimum of four years residency.

According to Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, the aim is to make sure that those applying for citizenship are committed to Australian values and integrating into the community. The package of reforms will apply to all new citizenship applications received.

The general residence requirement will be a minimum of four years prior to an application with a maximum of 12 months outside of Australia in this time period. This is a change from the current requirement which allows time spent in Australia as a temporary resident towards a four-year qualifying period and only requires a minimum of 12 months spent as a permanent resident immediately prior to applying.

Currently aspiring citizens are required to possess a level of ‘basic’ English which is tested when an applicant sits the Australian citizenship test. Now they will be required to undertake separate upfront English language testing with an accredited provider and achieve a minimum level of ‘competent’ in listening, speaking, reading and writing before being able to sit the citizenship test.

The Australian Values Statement on application forms for visas and citizenship will be strengthened to include reference to allegiance to Australia and require applicants to make an undertaking to integrate into and contribute to the Australian community.

The citizenship test will have new questions about Australian values and the privileges and responsibilities of Australian citizenship. They will cover areas such as understanding democracy, equality, integration, freedom of speech and expression and understanding education, employment and tax.

The new requirements will also limit the number of times an applicant can fail the citizenship test to three from the previous no limit, and introduce an automatic fail for applicants who cheat during the test.

Applicants will need to demonstrate their integration into the Australian community by providing, for example, documentation to the effect that people who can work are working, or are actively looking for work or seeking to educate themselves, that they are contributing to the community by being actively involved in community or voluntary organisations and that they are paying their taxes and ensuring their children are being educated.

In addition to existing police checks which are undertaken as part of any application for citizenship, an applicant will also be assessed for any conduct that is inconsistent with Australian values, such as domestic or family violence, criminality including procuring or facilitating female genital mutilation and involvement in gangs and organised crime.

The Pledge of commitment in the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 will be changed to refer to allegiance to Australia and the requirement for individuals aged 16 years and over to make the Pledge of commitment will be extended to all streams of citizenship such as citizenship by descent, adoption and resumption.

‘These reforms are integral to Australia’s future as a strong and successful multicultural nation, united by our allegiance to Australia and commitment to freedom and prosperity,’ said Dutton.

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