Changes to Australian Citizenship 2017

Posted on Jul 17, 2017 by Rebecca McKenzie   |   Categories: Immigration Law

The Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures) Bill 2017 had its first reading in the House of Representatives on 15 June 2017.

If passed, the legislation will introduce many significant changes to the citizenship laws in Australia, including the following:-

  • A Pledge of allegiance will be used throughout the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 (Cth) (‘the Act’) in place of the current term ‘pledging loyalty’, along with the insertion of the term ‘sharing [Australia] values’

 

  • Changes to the processes for citizenship by birth and citizenship by adoption

 

  • In relation to citizenship by descent, the term ‘good character’ and requirement for same will be applied regardless of age (previously not required for applicants under the age of 18 years)

 

  • Also in relation to a grant of citizenship by descent, the insertion of offences relating to certain criminal activity that prevent citizenship being granted

 

  • The insertion of additional requirements relating to cancellation of an approved citizenship grant, including:-
    • Mandatory cancellation – identity requirements, adverse security issues, if the person is convicted of a national security offence, and certain provisions relating to adopted persons who have been convicted of offences
    • Discretionary cancellation – where new information has been received relating to eligibility criteria, the person failed to take the pledge within 12 months of approval

 

  • Application and eligibility to apply for citizenship, including amendments relating to ‘competent English’, Australian values and integration into the Australian community. Exemptions are available for applicants with physical or mental incapacity or applicants who are not capable of demonstrating an adequate knowledge of Australia and its values, applicants over 60 or under 16 years of age, or applicants with a hearing or sight impairment

 

  • English language – the Minister is yet to determine the circumstances in which ‘competent English’ will be tested or demonstrated.  The requirements may include (but still uncertain) the taking of a particular English test, the scores required (announced by the Government as a minimum IELTS 6 in each band or equivalent), waivers for specific passport holders or by way of study undertaken in English.  Evidence of English language competency must accompany citizenship applications, at the time of application

 

  • Australian values and integration into the Australian community – an applicant will be tested, through the citizenship test, on their knowledge of Australia, Australian values and the responsibilities and knowledge of the privileges of Australian citizenship.  In addition, although the manner in which this is determined has not yet been released, applicants will be required to demonstrate integration in to the Australian community.  This may include things like gainful employment, community contributions, the payment of taxes and ensuring children are being educated.  An applicant’s criminal history and social security history will also be taken into account

 

  • The general residency requirement is a very significant change.  For citizenship by conferral, the applicant will be required to have been a permanent resident (PR) for 4 years immediately before applying for citizenship and during that time not been absent for a period totalling more than 365 days and not been unlawful at any time during the four year period.  Certain waivers may apply to some applicants and some special provisions apply for New Zealand citizens

 

  • Other amendments relating to refusals and cancellation, the pledge of allegiance, revocation of citizenship in instances of fraud or misrepresentation, the Australian values document, changes to the review process by the AAT and the use and disclosure of personal information