New amendments to citizenship laws proposed, 118,000 applications waiting to be processed

Those thinking the contentious changes to applications for Australian citizenship by conferral was thought to have been killed off last week, will need to think again.

Media outlets have reported that Immigration Minister Peter Dutton is intended to introduce an amended bill to replace the one that was struck off by the Senate.

The major difference? A watered down English language test. The new English language requirement will be reduced from what seems to be a band score of 6 of an International English Language Testing System (IELTS), down to a band score of 5. It is not known whether it will be the same rigid definition of Vocational English in the Migration Act 1958 (Cth), which requires no less than a score of 5 in all four bands of a single test, or whether an overall band score will suffice. It is also unclear whether equivalent English language tests will be allowed.

The proposals are listed on the Department of Immigration and Border Protection website. Applicants will be required to:

  • Hold a permanent visa for at least four years immediately prior to their application for citizenship with no more than one year spent outside Australia during that period,
  • Pass an English language test before applying,
  • Undertake to integrate and contribute to the Australian community,
  • Pass a harder citizenship test which includes more questions on Australian citizenship privileges and responsibilities,
  • Demonstrate their integration into the Australian community,
  • Extend the pledge of allegiance to applications by descent, adoption and resumption.

Importantly, these changes will not be retroactively applied, and will commence from 1 July 2018 subject to the new bill being passed. Applications lodged prior to this date will be assessed against current requirements. Doing this, however, will only exacerbate a rush to apply prior to the 1 July 2018 deadline. On that note, it was also reported that 118,000 citizenship applications are waiting to be processed.