What is the change? Australian officials announced Wednesday that they will make it more difficult to obtain Australian citizenship.

What does the change mean? Applicants for citizenship will be required to meet more difficult English-language requirements, will need to have lived in Australia for at least four years as a permanent resident and will be given a revamped test that includes questions aimed at assessing their commitment to Australian “values and responsibilities,” among other changes.

  • Implementation time frame: Immediate and ongoing. Government officials said the requirements will apply to all new citizenship applications.
  • Visas/permits affected: Australian citizenship.
  • Who is affected: Applicants for Australian citizenship.
  • Impact on processing times: No significant impact on processing times is expected, though residents will have to wait longer (four years as opposed to one) before they can apply for citizenship. Additionally, those who fail the citizenship test three times will be forced to wait two years before taking it again.

Background: Officials made the announcement closely after unveiling a plan to abolish the Subclass 457 Temporary Skilled Work visa programme and replace it with a new Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) visa stream that will more tightly control the hiring of foreign workers. Officials said the citizenship application changes will include:

  • Requiring applicants to demonstrate competent English by passing a tougher exam that will include testing of writing, listening and speaking abilities.
  • Requiring applicants to have lived in Australia as a permanent resident for at least four years, up from the current minimum one-year general permanent residency requirement.
  • Changing the citizenship test to include questions that “assess an applicant’s understanding of – and commitment to – our shared values and responsibilities.”
  • Requiring applicants to demonstrate what steps they have taken to “integrate into and contribute to the Australian community.” These steps may include holding a job, membership in a community organisation or enrolling their children in school.
  • Imposing a two-year ban on applying for citizenship for applicants who fail the test three times.
  • Automatically failing any applicants who cheat on the citizenship test.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton said that “conduct that is inconsistent with Australian values” would be counted against applicants in the citizenship process. Such activity may include criminal activity, including domestic violence and involvement in gangs or organised crime.

BAL Analysis: Both the visa and citizenship changes reflect the Turnbull Government’s renewed emphasis on promoting Australian workers and values. Taken together, the changes will make it more difficult for foreign nationals to work and obtain citizenship in Australia. BAL is in ongoing consultation with the Government to ensure that client needs and requirements are protected to the maximum extent possible.

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