Shortly after announcing the overhaul of the 457 visa scheme, the Government has announced changes to the existing test for Australian citizenship. The changes can be summed up as follows:
- You must hold permanent residency for longer;
- Formal English language testing;
- An updated citizenship test; and
- Evidence that you have integrated into Australian society
These changes reflect the theme of the adjustments made to the temporary skilled visa program; the requirements for citizenship have been made much stricter, in an effort to truly test your commitment to becoming an Australian citizen.
Holding permanent residency for longer
The general residence requirement for citizenship has increased.
Where previously, it was sufficient to have lived in Australia for one year upon obtaining permanent residency, you now must have lived in Australia for four years as a permanent resident before becoming eligible for citizenship.
Formal English language testing
Prospective Australians will now need to pass an English language test, in order to prove their competency. This test will include reading, writing and listening components.
Whereas the English language requirement was previously needed to obtain permanent residency on the path to citizenship, there had not been any test imposed on those seeking citizenship until now.
An updated citizenship test
The Government has also added a test of your allegiance to certain key Australian values.
The test consists of questions related to certain topics relevant to Australian society. Although the finer details of this test are yet to be finalised, we do know that the questions will focus on such concepts as respect for women and children, with possible questions about child marriage, female genital mutilation and domestic violence.
The test will also touch on respect and commitment to general freedom, diversity, democracy, rule of law, rejecting violence as a solution and even broach the somewhat controversial topic of welfare being a “safety net” and not a “way of life” that is looked to as a main source of income.
In the worst case scenario that you fail the citizenship test, you may have another go.
However, you may only take it a total of three times before being prohibited from taking it again. In this case, you would need to wait a period of two years before being permitted to try again, in what the Government calls “integrity measures.”
The Government will introduce new Citizenship legislation at the end of 2017. However, these changes to the citizenship test have already taken effect, as of 20 April, 2017. This means all new applications will be subject to the changes.
Integration into Australian society
Merely having lived in Australia won’t be sufficient to get you citizenship. The new changes include a test of the extent to which you have made an effort to integrate yourself into the society around you.
This can include membership in local clubs, long-term employment, or proof that your children are enrolled in school or otherwise obtaining a proper education.
Additionally, there are updates on the role of police checks.
Police checks have always been a part of the citizenship process. But under the new measures, the government will make more detailed inquiries into any prospective applicant’s criminal histories, with a newly specific focus on any history of domestic violence or gang affiliation.
Anyone with a history of either family violence or organised crime will face a steep uphill battle to obtaining citizenship.
The next step
If you’re looking to become an Australian citizen or wish to know more about how you could become one, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We can explore pathways to obtaining citizenship for you, and do our best to ensure your application is a successful one.