Proposed changes to eligibility for Australian citizenship
The Australian Government is strengthening the requirements to become an Australian citizen. On 20 April 2017 the Australian Government proposed changes to Australian citizenship eligibility by publishing a paper, Strengthening the test for Australian Citizenship (9.14MB PDF)
The proposed reform includes:
- Increasing the general residence requirement from 12 months to four years. This means that all applicants will need to have lived in Australia as a permanent resident for at least four years prior to applying for citizenship;
- Introducing an English language test, which means applicants will need to demonstrate a competent level of English (at least 6 in each band of IELTS, or equivalent test) in listening, speaking, reading and writing before being able to sit the citizenship test;
- Strengthening the Australian Values Statement to include reference to allegiance to Australia and require applicants to make an undertaking to integrate into and contribute to the Australian community;
- Strengthening the test for Australian citizenship through the addition of new test questions about Australian values, and the privileges and responsibilities of Australian citizenship;
- Introducing a requirement for applicants to demonstrate their integration into the Australian community. Examples may include evidence of work, membership of community organisations and school enrolment;
- Strengthening the Pledge of commitment as a citizen of the Commonwealth of Australia in the Australian Citizenship Act 2007to refer to allegiance to Australia; and extending the requirement for individuals aged 16 years and over to make the Pledge to all streams of citizenship by application, including citizenship by descent, adoption and resumption;
- Limiting the number of times an applicant can fail the citizenship test to three (Currently, there is no limit to the number of times an applicant can fail the test); and
- Introducing an automatic fail for applicants who cheat during the citizenship test.
Subject to the passing of legislation required to enact these changes, the reform will come into effect, and apply to all applications made on or after 20 April 2017. The changes do not apply to applications made before 20 April 2017.
Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures) Bill 2017 has not yet passed Parliament and may be subject to changes before coming into effect. Such changes may include exemptions to the English test, exemptions to the residency requirement for New Zealand citizens and strengthened character requirements. We will continue to provide updates as they occur.
Update 18.10.2017: We are back to the old citizenship rules. Peter Dutton’s controversial citizenship bill has failed to pass the Senate, meaning that the existing citizenship rules apply. It is understood that there are over 80,000 applications in the pipeline and these will now continue to be processed under the old rules.