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Peter Dutton, the Minister for Immigration, last week introduced to Parliament the Governments’ proposed Changes to the requirements for Australian Citizenship which were announced on 20 April 2017. This legislation must still pass Parliament, however this draft Bill makes their intentions much clearer.
Labour and Greens declared yesterday they will be voting again these changes – so watch this space!!
In this newsletter, we confirm the proposed changes based on the draft legislation introduced to Parliament. The Bill indicates that the changes will be applied retrospectively to any application that was lodged on or after 20th April 2017, when the changes were first announced by the Prime Minister and Minister Dutton.
This means that applications lodged on, or after 20th April 2017, will need to meet the new legislative requirements even if they were lodged prior to the legislation being passed.
General Residence Requirement
The new general residence requirement for citizenship by conferral has been set out in the Bill and is as follows:
You must, in general, have been present in Australia for a period of 4 years as a permanent resident of Australia.
You must not have been unlawful at any stage during the 4 years
If you depart Australia during the 4 years, the total period spent outside Australia must be less than 365 days, and you must maintain your permanent residence during this time
The Bill indicates that you will need to demonstrate Competent English– this would require at least 6 in each band of IELTS or equivalent and is required for all applicant aged 16 years of over.
The Bill mentions that exemptions may be set out and the draft Bill mentions the following possibilities:
Passport holders of the UK, Ireland, Canada, USA or NZ
Specified English language studies at a recognised Australian education provider
Applicants with a permanent or enduring physical or mental incapacity
Applicants aged 60 or over
Applicants with hearing, speech or sight impairment
Pledge of Allegiance
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.
Strengthened Character Requirements
The Minister will have more power to refuse applications, defer applications for up to 2 years, or cancel approval before, and after, the Pledge of Allegiance if 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:
Subject to pending proceedings for an offence
Serving a term in prison
Confined in a mental health facility by court order
Subject to home detention or residential program for mental health or drug rehabilitation
A 2-year eligibility bar for Australian citizenship applies after serving a serious prison term or 10 years for repeat offenders.
New Zealand Citizens and the Residency Requirement
New Zealand Citizens, meeting certain criteria, can apply under the previous arrangements – i.e 4 years in the country on any visa and at least 12 months as a permanent resident prior to lodgement. The draft Bill indicates that NZ citizens applying under the new NZ 189 stream will be able to apply under the old general residence rules.
2-Year Bar where Citizenship Refused
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.
Please contact our office should you have any further questions.
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