Changes to the requirements for Australian citizenship were announced on 20 April 2017. The draft legislation to enact these changes has now been released
Whilst the legislation must still pass Parliament, we can see more clearly how the new rules are likely to be implemented.
This article explains how the new rules will work based on the draft legislation.
Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures) Bill 2017 has bene introduced to Parliament, but has not yet passed and may be subject to further amendments before it comes into effect.
The Bill indicates following changes will be effective for any applications for citizenship lodged on or after 20 April 2017:
This means that applications lodged from this date will need to meet the new requirements, even though they were lodged prior to the legislation being passed by Parliament.
The balance of changes listed below would come into effect once the legislation is passed.
The new general residence requirement for citizenship by conferral has been set out in the Bill and is as follows:
This is in line with expectations based on the announcement of 20 April and effectively means that you must hold your permanent visa for 4 years, rather than 12 months which was previously the case.
New Zealand Citizens meeting certain criteria will not need to meet the new general residence requirement, but instead can apply under the previous arrangements where up to 3 years of time spent in Australia on a temporary visa can count towards the residence requirement.
The explanatory statement indicates that NZ citizens applying under the new NZ 189 stream will be able to apply under the old general residence rules.
The Bill indicates that you will need to demonstrate Competent English - this would require at least 6 in each band of IELTS or equivalent. Evidence of Competent English would need to be provided at lodgement for all applicants aged 16 years or over. Failure to provide this would result in the application being considered invalid. The Explanatory Statement indicates that test results up to 3 years old can be used.
The Bill mentions that exemptions may be set out in a legislative instrument - we do not yet have the draft instrument, but the Explanatory Statement mentions the following possibilities:
The previous Pledge of Commitment will be renamed as the Pledge of Allegiance. To become a citizen, the Pledge of Allegiance is required for citizenship by conferral for all applicants aged 16 or over.
This will also apply to the following ways of acquiring citizenship which currently do not require a Pledge of Commitment:
Currently, children born in Australia and who are usually resident in Australia acquire Australian citizenship by operation of law on their 10th birthday.
The Bill introduces significant limitations on this, and the child will be ineligible for citizenship in the following circumstances:
The Bill gives the Minister more power to do the following where there are character concerns:
Children under 18 will now need to meet the character requirement. Children 16 years or over will need to undergo police checks. Where there are known issues, Immigration may look into character for applicants aged under 16 years as well.
A citizenship application cannot be approved where a person is:
A 2-year bar eligibility bar for Australian citizenship applies after serving a serious prison term or 10 years for repeat offenders.
The Minister has the power to personally make a decision on character grounds which is non-reviewable, and the substitute a decision in favour of applicants at the AAT on character grounds.
A 2-year bar can apply where a citizenship application is refused on grounds other than meeting the residence requirement. If your applications is refused for instance on character grounds, you will not be able to apply again for a period of 2 years.
Where incorrect information is provided, this can result revocation of Australian citizenship. This can relate to:
The fraud or misrepresentation may have been done by a third party, and includes concealing relevant information. Any fraud or misrepresentation which has occurred up to 10 years prior to the revocation can be considered.
Whilst the Citizenship legislation still needs to pass Parliament to come into effect, the release of the Bill makes the Government's intentions much clearer.
We will continue to publish updates as the Bill progresses through Parliament - it is possible that we may see some changes made to the proposed legislation before it finally passes.