Australian Citizenship FAQs - October 2017
By Mark Webster
Monday, 23 October 2017
What is the Status of the Proposed Changes to Australian Citizenship?The Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures) Bill 2017 lapsed on 18 October 2017, without being passed by the Senate. As a result, the legislation would need to be re-introduced into Parliament and pass both houses before any changes would come into effect. Whilst the rules were planned to apply to all applications lodged on or after 20 April 2017, this will not be the case. The rules which applied prior to 20 April 2017 are still in place.
I have Lodged my Application for Australian Citizenship. What is my Status?If you have lodged your application for Australian citizenship, you should be assessed under the rules as they applied prior to 20 April 2017. All applicants should soon receive an email confirming this shortly. We understand that the Department of Immigration had put processing of many citizenship applications lodged after 20 April on hold - we are hopeful that processing of these applications will now re-commence.
Will the Australian Government Seek to Change the Requirements Again?It seems likely that the Government will look at re-introducing legislation to Parliament. This would most likely:
- Increase the residence requirement
- Require an English test for many applicants - though probably lower than Competent English
- Possibly introduce an integration test
- Possibly increase the Minister's power to refuse applications for citizenship, cancel citizenship approvals and postpone citizenship ceremonies for applicants of concern
If Changes are Made, When would they Come into Effect?The Government has indicated that if changes are made to the requirements, they would not apply to applications lodged before 1 July 2018. If you are affected by the changes (eg an increased residence requirement), you should apply for citizenship before 1 July 2018 to avoid the effect of the changes.
What is the Current Residence Requirement?When applying for citizenship by conferral, you must meet the "General Residence Requirement" in most cases. This would require you to have been in Australia for at least:
- The last 4 years, on any temporary, permanent or bridging visa, with a maximum of 12 months overseas; and
- The last 12 months, on a permanent visa, with a maximum of 3 months overseas
What is the Proposed Residence Requirement?The proposed residence requirement would only allow you to apply for citizenship once you've held a permanent visa for 4 years. In other words, you cannot count time spent in Australia on temporary or bridging visas towards the above 4 years residence requirement.
What is the Current English Requirement?You will need to complete a citizenship test which is conducted in English and requires a basic level of English to complete. There is currently no separate formal test of English to qualify for citizenship.
What is the Proposed English Requirement?The Australian Government proposed that applicants complete a formal test of English language ability - such as the IELTS or one of the other recognised tests of English language ability. The required level was quite high - Competent English - 6 in each band of IELTS or equivalent. Serious concerns were expressed by many parties that the proposed level was too high and would make many people ineligible for citizenship. Many applicants do not need to do an English test to obtain permanent residence, or can qualify with less than Competent English. This would include applicants for:
- Family Sponsored Visas: for example Spouses, Parents, Remaining Relatives, Carers, Aged Dependent Relatives etc
- Employer Sponsored Visas: for example ENS Temporary Residence Transition Stream, ENS and RSMS Direct Entry with English waiver