IMPACT – MEDIUM

What is the change? A bill that would have made it more difficult to become an Australian citizen has been scrapped after the Senate failed to vote on proposed changes to the Australian Citizenship Act before an 18 October deadline.

What does the change mean? Citizenship applications received on or after 20 April will be processed under current application requirements. The Australian Government had put a freeze on the processing of citizenship applications after it proposed stricter requirements, but after the bill failed, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton confirmed that applications will be assessed against current criteria.

  • Implementation timeframe: Ongoing.
  • Visas/permits affected: Australian citizenship.
  • Who is affected: Foreign nationals who are seeking to become Australian citizens or who lodged an Australian Citizenship application on or after 20 April 2017.
  • Business impact: Employees seeking to apply for Australian citizenship will not be subject to stricter eligibility criteria that the Government had proposed on 20 April 2017.

Background: In April, the Government proposed tougher citizenship standards and tabled a bill to amend the Australian Citizenship Act in June. The bill would have lengthened the permanent residency requirement before applicants could apply for citizenship to four years, required applicants to pass an English language test, assessed an applicant’s commitment to Australian values, and required applicants to demonstrate how they had integrated into Australian society. The bill passed the House of Representatives, but met resistance in the Senate. Dutton attempted to amend the bill in the 11th hour, but the Senate would not go along with the amended proposal. Dutton subsequently confirmed that the freeze on citizenship applications would be lifted and that applications would be considered under current criteria.

BAL Analysis: The bill’s defeat is a setback for the Government immigration agenda, but will be welcomed by eligible foreign nationals seeking to become Australian citizens. Citizenship applicants may experience delays following the months-long processing freeze, especially if there is a rush to apply for Australian citizenship before the Government seeks to introduce a new bill to amend eligibility criteria.