IMPACT – MEDIUM

What is the change? A bill that would make it more difficult to become an Australian citizen lacks support in the Australian Senate and is unlikely to pass in its current form. The bill must be voted on by 18 October or will effectively be scrapped.

What does the change mean? If the current bill is not passed by the Senate, without a new amended bill being tabled by the Government, the suspension on the processing of Australian citizenship applications that has been in effect since 20 April will be lifted and processing of applications will resume against current application criteria.

  • Implementation timeframe: Ongoing.
  • Visas/permits affected: Australian citizenship.
  • Who is affected: Foreign nationals seeking to become Australian citizens or who have lodged an Australian Citizenship application on or after 20 April 2017.
  • Business impact: If the bill fails, employees seeking to apply for Australian citizenship would not be subject to the proposed stricter eligibility criteria such as holding Australian permanent residency status for at least four years, meeting minimum English language requirements, and Australian values and integration questions.

Background: In April, the Government proposed tougher citizenship standards and tabled a bill to amend the Australian Citizenship Act in June. Among the proposals, the bill would lengthen the permanent residency requirement to four years before foreign residents could apply, require applicants to pass an English language test, assess an applicant’s commitment to Australian values, and require applicants to demonstrate how they have integrated into Australian society.

The bill passed the House of Representatives but the Senate has signalled the bill lacks majority support in the upper house of Australia’s Parliament. On Wednesday, the Senate passed a motion to scrap the bill if it is not voted on by 18 October.

BAL Analysis: If the bill fails and the Government does not introduce new legislation in its place by 18 October, the freeze on citizenship applications will be lifted and individuals interested in lodging a new application, as well as those whose applications have been pending since 20 April, will be able to have their applications adjudicated based on current criteria under the Australian Citizenship Act.