The Citizenship Bill, if Passed.
For all citizenship applications on and from 20 April 2017, the applicant must:
- Hold permanent residency for at least four years before they can apply for citizenship
- In their time as a permanent resident, cannot have spent more than 365 days overseas
- Provide evidence of competent English language proficiency – the scores for competent English for citizenship is likely to be the same as that which is required under the GSM scheme
- Sign Australian Values Statement
- Demonstrate having integrated into the Australian community and in a manner that is consistent with Australian values –
- This may include evidence of the applicant’s
- employment status
- study being undertaken
- involvement in community groups
- children’s enrolment in school
- However if the applicant has a history of criminal activity or has submitted fraudulent evidence, this would work against their application
- This may include evidence of the applicant’s
- Pass the citizenship test within three tries, have complied to the rules regarding the test and cannot have found to have cheated during the test
Details on the requirements surrounding English proficiency, integration and number of times an applicant may sit for the citizenship test are not being written into the Act and instead will be released through a Ministerial Instrument. This means that any Minister at any time can alter the requirements for meeting a competent level of English, how an applicant will need to demonstrate their having integrated into Australia, or if an applicant is eligible to retake the citizenship test after having failed. The citizenship Bill is yet to be passed and these Instruments have not yet been released.
If a citizenship application is not approved on grounds other than a failure to meet the residence requirements, a two year bar on a person making another application for citizenship may be introduced through Regulation or an instrument made under the Act.
Where an applicant may have a history of criminal offences, the Minister has discretion to extend the bar on approval. This also applies to applicants who are under the age of 18. If the applicant has served or is serving a prison sentence for a serious offence (defined under Section 3 of the Act), the applicant cannot be approved for citizenship for another 2 years.
Pledge of Allegiance
After a citizenship application has been approved, the applicant must make a Pledge of Allegiance to obtain their certificate of citizenship. Previously the Pledge of Commitment, the now renamed Pledge of Allegiance also carries a few new requirements.
In the time between an applicant’s citizenship application has been approved but the Pledge of Allegiance has not been made,
- The Minister may on discretion, delay and/or cancel the approval of Australian citizenship if the applicant no longer meet the relevant requirements for being approved as an Australian citizen
- The Minister may on discretion, delay and/or cancel the approval of Australian citizenship on the grounds that the applicant is subject to prohibitions on approval related to identity, national security or criminal offences
- For conferral applicants required to demonstrate integration, this includes where the Minister is no longer satisfied that the applicant has displayed behaviour consistent with Australian values
Even after a citizenship application has been approved, the Minister holds discretion on if to cancel an applicant’s approval for citizenship if the Pledge of Allegiance is not made within 12 months and the reason for the failure is not one prescribed by the Regulation.
Acquisition by birth in Australia
Also to note for the application of citizenship for children born in Australia and have spent their first 10 years ordinarily resident would not be eligible for automatic acquisition of Australian citizenship if:
- the person’s parent had privileges or immunities under relevant legislation;
- the person was present in Australia as an unlawful non-citizen;
- and unless the person was a New Zealand citizen, the person was outside Australia and, at that time, the person did not hold a visa permitting the person to travel to, enter and remain in Australia;
The visa of the applicant’s parents matters too. The applicant would not be considered to have been ordinarily resident:
- if a parent of the person did not hold a substantive visa at the time of the person’s birth, and that parent entered Australia before the person’s birth, and at any time during the period beginning on the parent’s last entry into Australia and ending on the day of the person’s birth, the parent was present in Australia as an unlawful non citizen
Essentially these changes are going to put a stop to the practice whereby parents remain in Australia unlawfully under the radar to attempt to gain their children citizenship after 10 years of residency here.
Cessation of citizenship
A person who has ceased to be an Australian citizen, cannot be eligible for citizenship for at least 12 months from the date of cessation.
If a person is found to have acquired citizenship through fraudulent documents, their citizenship may be revoked. This includes any previous visa applications that are connected to their obtaining citizenship.
However the new law does indicate that citizenship cannot be revoked if the individual holds no other citizenship for another country. In other words the government is not allowed to make you “stateless” like poor old Tom Hanks stuck at the airport for months.
Should you need help with your Australian citizenship requirements, contact our team of Australian migration professionals.