Australian citizenship law changes mean migrants will face tougher tests

Australian citizenship law changes mean migrants will face tougher tests

By political reporters Stephen Dziedzic and Henry Belot

20 Apr 2017

(Translation of this article appears in Arabic section)

The Federal Government has announced sweeping changes to the nation's citizenship laws, with the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull declaring that new arrivals must prize "Australian values" and prove their commitment to the nation.

Migrants will face a tougher citizenship test which will assess their commitment to Australia and their attitudes to religious freedom and gender equality.

Those with a history of family violence or organised crime could also be barred from citizenship.

Applicants will be asked to demonstrate that they have integrated into Australian society, for example by joining clubs or by providing evidence that they are employed and their children are in school.

A more stringent English language test will also be introduced, which will include "reading, writing and listening" components.

Migrants who become permanent residents will also have to wait four years before they can apply for citizenship — instead of the one-year wait they face at the moment.

If an applicant fails the test three times they will have to wait another two years before they can sit it again.

Test to focus on 'Australian values'

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the Federal Government was "putting Australian values at the heart of citizenship processes and requirements."

"Membership of the Australian family is a privilege and should be afforded to those who support our values, respect our laws and want to work hard by integrating and contributing to an even better Australia," Mr Turnbull said.

The Government has not decided exactly how it will assess "Australian values" in the citizenship test, saying it will consult with the public before it settles on the questions it will ask.

The test will focus heavily on respect for women and children, with possible questions about child marriage, female genital mutilation and domestic violence.

Mr Turnbull said the changes would be "empowering for applicants" and called on Labor to support them, rather than "rush off into the realm of their political correctness".

"Why should the test simply be a checklist of civic questions … about the Parliament and how many senators there are from each state?" he said.

"Fundamentally, the values that bind us together are those ones of respect, the rule of law, commitment to freedom, democracy … and our citizenship should reflect this."

Australian citizenship is the 'big prize'

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton admitted there was no way to stop applicants from lying about their criminal history when applying for citizenship.

"The fact that somebody might fudge an answer on a test or an application is no argument against us asking people if you want to become an Australian citizen, abide by our laws and our norms," Mr Dutton said.

The Government, he said, wanted applicants to view citizenship as a "big prize".


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