The Australian Government recently announced changes to the requirements for Australian Citizenship and will be introducing relevant legislation into Parliament by the end of 2017. The new requirements (unless this legislation is not passed) will affect applications made from 20 April 2017. Applications lodged before 20 April 2017 will be processed under the old requirements. Under the new Australian Citizenship requirements, applicants must satisfy the following:
1. The Residence Requirement
Applicants must now wait until they have completed at least four years in Australia as a permanent resident (instead of one year). A maximum period of 12 months outside of Australia within the last four years is acceptable. This change greatly impacts applicants who in the past were able to meet the Residence Requirement by relying upon the time spent ‘in Australia’ whilst on Subclass 457 visas or other Australian temporary visas.
2. Competent English Level Applicants must demonstrate having a competent level of English, unless they are over the age of 60 or below the age of 16 at the time of applying, or with an enduring or permanent mental or physical incapacity. Competent English must be demonstrated in areas such as reading, writing, listening and speaking. The English language tests must be taken upfront and with an accredited provider. A minimum English level of ‘competent’ (the minimum threshold under the ENS criteria) must be achieved to be successful. Based on existing English language requirements for Australian visa applications, we expect that passport holders from English speaking countries (USA, UK, Canada, New Zealand and Ireland) would be exempt from having to demonstrate this. 3. Allegiance to Australia The Australian Values Statement in the application form for Australian Citizenship has been updated to include an applicant’s allegiance to Australia, and the applicant undertaking to integrate into and contribute to the Australian community.
4. Test for Australian Citizenship The Australian Citizenship test will be revised to include additional new questions about Australian values (such as the democratic beliefs, freedoms, equality and integration), and the privileges and responsibilities of being an Australian Citizen. An applicant can only fail this test three times.
5. Integration into Australian Community Applicants must be able to demonstrate that they have integrated into the Australian community by providing evidence of employment, undertaking education prospects, properly paying their taxes, educating their children, or making a contribution to the community, being involved in community or voluntary organisations.
6. Security Checks
Applicants will now have to provide police clearances to satisfy the character requirements. In addition, applicants will also be assessed for any conduct that is inconsistent with Australian values (such as domestic violence, involvement in gangs and organised crime). If you are affected by these changes and would like to discuss your options, please do not hesitate to contact us.