Tougher citizenship rules will go ahead, says Australian Government

by Ray Clancy on January 29, 2018

in Australia Immigration

The Australia Government is pressing ahead with plans to make it harder to become an Australian citizen with the change now pencilled in for July 2018.

Originally the tougher citizenship rules were due to be introduced in March along with changes to the popular 457 visa stream but were blocked by the Senate.

Australia Citizens

(Markus Mainka/Bigstock.com)

But the Government has not given up hope of getting revised measures through parliament in the first half of 2018 with ministers hoping that some tweaks will get the legislation through. The details have not yet been released.

Under the Bill that failed to make it through the Senate the plan was to increase the time a permanent resident had to live in the country before qualifying for citizenship to four years from one year.

A tougher English test was also included which met with severe criticism with claims that it would require citizenship applicants to pass a test equivalent to university level English and was hailed as discriminatory as people who do not have English as a first language could struggle to meet the required level.

Alan Tudge, Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, confirmed that amendments have been made but added that the main aim is still to make sure that citizenship applicants have a good understanding of English and that they integrate well into the community.

He hinted that the English level could be reduced slightly but also that there is still likely to be restrictions on the number of times applicants can sit the citizenship test.

And he denied that citizenship applications are down as a result of the controversy over the changes. It has been remarked that on Australia Day on 26 January the numbers taking the pledge fell steeply from around 16,000 to 12,000.

‘It would be incorrect to make any assumptions about this year’s Australia Day citizenship numbers, especially given the proposed Citizenship Bill amendments are still before the Parliament,’ Tudge said.

He also denied that there is a backlog or delays arising from the announcement of the proposed amendments to citizenship. ‘The number of people attending citizenship ceremonies is based on demand which fluctuates from time to time,’ he added.

The 457 visa changes are also controversial as from 01 March it will no longer be possible to qualify for permanent residency if working in Australia with one of the two temporary visas that replace it.

Under the change there will be a two year and a four year temporary visa. Unless a visa holder is working in a job that will be on a list of 200 qualifying occupations the maximum stay will be two years.

It will be a major change, according to Anna Boucher, a senior lecturer in public policy at the University of Sydney. ‘In the past, the 457 was a major entry point into the permanent skilled immigration process, in particular through employer sponsorship,’ she told SBS News.

‘Now those on the short term visa won’t have that opportunity and they will have to go onto another visa, for instance a student visa, re-train and then apply. What it could see is the growth of more long term temporary migration into Australia and that is a big change for us,’ she added.

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