Today the Australian Government announced even more changes to the immigration program. This time, their target was Australian Citizenship applications. This is what we know so far:
All citizenship applicants must sit an English test to demonstrate they have at least competent English before they sit the citizenship test. Previously, applicants only needed to demonstrate that they had basic English skills which was tested at the time an applicant sat the citizenship test.
One of the biggest modifications in the Department’s changes spree includes increasing the permanent residency requirements. Applicants now need to demonstrate that they have been living in Australia as a permanent resident for the 4 years immediately before applying for citizenship. In addition to this, applicants can not spend more than a total of 12 months outside Australia during this time. Before this, the requirement was only 1 year of permanent residency, but 4 years of lawfully living in Australia. This means that new Citizenship applicants will not be able to count time spent in Australia on any temporary visas.
Integration to Community
The Department is now requesting evidence that applicants have made an attempt to integrate into the Australian community. Applicants will need to demonstrate that they are working, looking for work or studying, are paying taxes correctly, are educating their children and are contributing to the wider community by participating in community or voluntary organisations. In addition to these, the Department will undertake extra security and character checking on top of police clearances to ensure applicants are not encouraging behaviours that are not accepted in Australia (e.g. domestic violence).
Shared Values Statement
When an applicant applies for citizenship, they are asked to conform to Australia’s shared values. Broadly, these values are respect, freedom and equality. In addition to these, applicant will also have to affirm that they will integrate into the Australian community and contribute to their community.
The current citizenship test will have a facelift, with new questions about Australian values and the privileges of becoming an Australian citizen. The test is designed to gain an understanding of whether the applicant comprehends the Australian values and the importance of these values. Previously, an applicant could sit the test however many times they liked, however with these new changes, an applicant can only take the test 3 times before being suspended for 2 years.
Pledge of Commitment
All applicants aged 16 and over will be asked to pledge their allegiance to Australia before they can become a citizen. The only exemptions in place are people who are not physically or mentally fit to do so.
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