The Australian Government has announced today that it intends to change the requirements to become an Australian citizen.

The main changes that have been proposed are:

  • Increasing the general residence requirement from one to four years as a permanent residence before being eligible to apply for citizenship
  • Requiring proof of integration into the Australian community, such as by working, paying taxes, being involved in community or voluntary organisations, and ensuring children are being educated.
  • Introducing an English language test to be sat in addition to the citizenship test and requiring a higher level of English language proficiency (‘competent’ rather than ‘basic’).
  • Adding new questions to the Australian citizenship test about Australian values and the privileges and responsibilities of Australian citizenship.
  • Limiting applicants to three attempts at the Australian citizenship test, and introducing a two-year bar on making a new application after a previous citizenship application is refused.
  • Making changes to the Australian Values Statement and the Pledge of Commitment.

When will these changes apply?

The Government has announced that it intends to introduce legislation to make these changes by the end of 2017. If the legislation passes through Parliament, the Government has announced it intends to backdate the changes to today, 20 April 2017.

Importantly, the Government has not yet changed the law, and it is not yet clear that there is enough support in Parliament for the proposed changes to pass. If you are currently eligible for citizenship, or are becoming eligible for citizenship later this year, we encourage you to continue to lodge your application for citizenship as normal, especially if you have concerns that you may not satisfy the more stringent requirements that have been proposed. You may still be able to receive a decision on the law as it currently stands.

What this means for you

  • If you have already applied for citizenship, you are not currently required to do anything.
  • The citizenship laws have not yet changed, so if you are currently eligible to apply for citizenship, you can still apply for citizenship.
  • Until the citizenship laws change (possibly by the end of 2017) and you meet the existing citizenship requirements, you can still apply for citizenship. Your application may be approved prior to the changes changes becoming law.
  • When you become eligible, we encourage you to apply for citizenship, as your application may be approved prior to the changes becoming law.
  • If you have identity, criminal or other concerns that relate to your visa, we encourage you to obtain legal advice before applying for citizenship (due to the risk of visa cancellation that can be triggered by applying for citizenship).
  • You may provide your views on the proposed changes to Government until 1 June 2017 via email: [email protected]

If you need advice on how these proposed changes will affect you and what action you can take to protect your rights, please contact our friendly team.

We are offering 15 minutes of free phone advice to all new clients. Book your consultation through our website wlwlawyers.com.au or by calling 03 9088 6264.

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