The government’s previously defeated legislation that would see citizenship requirements significantly tightened is set to make a potential comeback.
A senator for the Greens party, Nick McKim, recently questioned the Department about the bill—entitled the Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures Bill 2017— at a Senate Estimates hearing for the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee.
The Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, Alan Tudge, has confirmed that he is currently consulting with multicultural and business groups about the feasibility of the test.
“We’ve signalled that we’re looking into this and we haven’t determined the final settings,” Tudge said.
“It might apply for permanent residency in terms of there being some sort of English language requirement, and potentially at citizenship, but we haven’t finalised our proposals yet.”
“The key thing that we want is for people to be able to integrate with others. So that people can have a chat with their neighbour, they can go to the shops and interact,” he said.
Tudge also stated that the test would require “a competent level of English”, but denied that it will be set at university level.
Senator McKim—who has previously been highly vocal in his criticism of the citizenship legislation—has said that while he has not seen a copy of the new legislation, he will continue to oppose any proposed changes that would make it harder for new migrants to become Australian citizens.
“We will be opposing the new bill and will work with other Senators to block it in the Parliament,” McKim said.
The Turnbull government had previously tried to introduce the legislation last year, however it was defeated in the Senate by a coalition of Labor, the Greens, and the Nick Xenophon team.
If the new legislation successfully passes then it will result in several key changes to the citizenship criteria, including the introduction of a new values test, stronger character checks, a tougher English language test, and an extension of the permanent residency period before applying for citizenship from one to four years.
Citizenship applicants will also be required to demonstrate their integration into the community by “behaving in a manner consistent with Australian values”.
The confusion surrounding the legislation has contributed to the Department of Immigration’s growing backlog of applicants that are still waiting to be processed, with recent research showing that more than 200,000 migrants are still awaiting the outcome of their application.
In May a member of the Department of Home Affairs informed a Senate Estimates Hearing that the “number of citizenship applications on hand as at 30 April for conferral is 209,826”.
The CEO of Absolute Immigration, Jamie Lingham, said that announcement is an important reminder for any individuals looking to apply for citizenship.
“We would recommend that any permanent resident who wants to ascertain their eligibility for citizenship contact us as soon as possible to discuss the application process,” Lingham said.
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