Australian Citizenship changes revealed

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Amid continued rhetoric of “Australian values” and national identity, the Turnbull government has announced it is overhauling Australia’s citizenship laws

The changes to Australian citizenship laws announced today by PM Turnbull and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton mean migrants will need to pass tougher hurdles, including a stand-alone English text, have lived in Australia as a permanent resident for a minimum of four years, and will need to demonstrate “the steps they have taken to integrate into and contribute to the Australian community”.

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The new citizenship requirements follow Tuesday’s announcement of the abolition of 457 visa to be replaced with a new visa system for bringing in skilled temporary foreign workers.

The new citizenship requirements include:

*Applicants pass a stand-alone English test, involving reading, writing, listening and speaking (Relevant exemptions will apply, such as for permanent or enduring incapacity and for those under 16 years of age);

*Extending the time an applicant must have lived in Australia as a permanent resident from one year to at least four years;

*Strengthening the citizenship test with “new and more meaningful questions that assess an applicant’s understanding of – and commitment to – our shared values and responsibilities”;

*Applicants demonstrate steps they have taken to integrate into the community, such as getting a job, joining community organisations and ensuring their children are enrolled at school;

*Limiting the number of times an applicant can fail the citizenship to three – currently there is no limit;

*Automatically failing people who cheat during the citizenship test

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“The Turnbull Government will strengthen Australian citizenship by putting Australian values at the heart of citizenship processes and requirements,” a statement from the Prime Minister’s office said.

“Membership of the Australian family is a privilege and should be granted to those who support our values, respect our laws and want to work hard by integrating and contributing to an even better Australia.”

The Prime Minister’s office also said that any conduct considered “inconsistent with Australian values”, such as a history of criminal activity or family violence, could lead to someone being denied citizenship.

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Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (L) and Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton speak on Australia’s citizenship test during a news conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, April 20, 2017. AAP/Lukas Coch/via REUTERS

A statement from the office of Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells welcomed the reforms to citizenship requirements. The changes have been informed by feedback from the National Consultation on Citizenship, conducted by Senator Fierravanti-Wells and Philip Ruddock MP in 2015 and the 2016 Productivity Commission Report ‘Migrant Intake into Australia’.

In the statement, Senator Concetta Fierravanti–Wells said, “Our consultation, which began in 2015, was detailed and widespread and I am pleased that the views of over 3,000 people and organisations have been reflected in today’s changes.”

“Citizenship is a vital institution, but as our National Consultation demonstrated, there is a sense in the community that it is undervalued and misunderstood. These reforms are critical to our future as a strong and successful multicultural nation.”

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The current citizenship test, put into place in 2008, requires applications to demonstrate they have a basic knowledge of the English language by answering 20 multiple-choice questions about Australia’s political structures. To pass the test, applicants must answer 75 per cent of the questions correctly.