The Australian government has recently announced significant proposed changes relating to applications for Australian Citizenship.
Whilst the legislation enacting these changes still needs to pass parliament, we now have a clear picture of what the proposed changes are.
The draft bill enacting the new legislative requirements for citizenship, if passed, will affect applications for Citizenship lodged on or after 20 April 2017, as follows:
General Residence Requirement
The new requirements are that you must:
- have been present in Australia for a period of 4 years as a permanent resident – the residency period was previously 1 year;
- not have been unlawful at any stage during the 4 years you have spent in Australia; and
- not have spent a total of 365 days or more outside of Australia during the 4-year period, and you must maintain your permanent residence during this time overseas.
There are concessions to the 4-year requirement for New Zealand citizens.
English Language Requirement
The new requirement for applicants aged 16 or more is that they must prove that they have “Competent English”, evidenced by a score of 6.0 or more on all four components of an IELTS test conducted in the 3 years before making the application.
There may come into effect some exemptions to this requirement for applicants who:
- are passport holders of the UK, Ireland, Canada, USA or NZ;
- have studied certain English language studies in Australia;
- have a permanent or enduring physical or mental incapacity;
- are aged 60 or over; or
- have a hearing, speech or sight impairment.
Pledge of Allegiance Requirement
A Pledge of Allegiance to Australia will be required for all applicants aged 16 or over. This will apply to citizenship applications by:
- conferral (the most common way of obtaining citizenship);
- descent (children born overseas to an Australian Citizen(s));
- adopted children of Australian Citizens;
- people resuming citizenship (e.g. an applicant who previously renounced citizenship);
- children born to a former Australian Citizen.
All applicants, no matter that their age, will be required to demonstrate that they are a person of “Good Character”. All applicants aged 16 or over will need to do a police check.
If an applicant has a criminal history or is subject to pending legal proceedings for an offence, you should contact us to check whether it is advisable to lodge a citizenship application.
If your application is refused on character grounds, you will not be able to apply again for 2 years.
The above is a summary of the most important changes. While the proposed changes need to pass through parliament, they give us a good guide of the sort of changes that will likely come into effect soon.
We will continue to keep our news feed posted with new developments as they occur.