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A Confusing Time for Australian Citizenship Explained

6 Nov 2017 / Ken Hunt

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A Confusing Time for Australian Citizenship Explained

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For anyone seeking Australian citizenship this year, 2017 has proven to be a “watch this space” scenario, and it’s still a subject of contentious debate in political circles, and a point of confusion for many, particularly for migrants who wish to officially call Australia home.  

On 20 April 2017, the Australian Government announced a shakeup of the Australian citizenship test that, according to the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton, was designed to “put Australian values at the heart of the citizenship processes and requirements.”

But what exactly are the current residency requirements for citizenship? Generally, they are as follows:
  • The applicant must have lived in Australia on a valid Australian visa for four years before applying &
  • been a permanent resident for at least 12 months and immediately lodge an application
Dutton’s Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 was introduced into Parliament on 15 June 2017, flagging three main broad changes to the criteria for Australian citizenship:
  • Required to have lived in Australia as a Permanent Resident for at least four years
  • Must pass a stand-alone English competency test considered University level
  • Provide evidence of integrating into the community and contributing to it

In addition to this, it also established that applicants can only fail the Citizenship test three times before being declared ineligible. The Opposition Leader Bill Shorten initially expressed support for the proposed changes, Labor decided to oppose the Government’s overhauled legislation and referred it to a Senate committee for further inquiry.

The inquiry findings (released in September) recommended that the Senate pass the bill but with a few key amendments, including toning down the level of the English competency test and allowing migrants who already have permanent residency to apply for citizenship under the old rules rather than making them wait the extra three years.

However, on 18 October 2017 this controversial citizenship bill lapsed and failed to pass the Senate. Despite this, MP Dutton still intends to amend citizenship laws. The legislation would need to be re-introduced into Parliament and passed by both houses before any changes will come into effect on the scheduled 1 July 2018.

With this unpredictable deadline looming, at Hunt Migration, we recommend that if you meet the current criteria and are thinking about applying for citizenship, don’t drag your feet. Applications for citizenship lodged before 1 July next year are assured to be assessed under the much easier old permanent residence requirements of one year compared to Dutton’s proposed new four years.

So, there’s no need to be confused or hesitant about becoming an Australian citizen, and our Migration Agents are ready and waiting to help with any questions or concerns. To avoid being affected by any future changes in the citizenship requirements we encourage all eligible candidates to act now and get their citizenship applications lodged.

For further information, get in touch with our qualified experts today.

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Kenneth Hunt

Solicitor & Migration Agent