For many who arrive on work or educational visas, Australia becomes home to the extent that they seek citizenship. In fact, immigrants are doing so in larger numbers than ever before, however immigration and citizenship remain a hot topic for the Australian government, and so the situation is always under review. The goal for legislation is to attract the skills and talent that will benefit the country as a whole, and that means adjusting the process to target specific demographics or skills, and this is particularly relevant after 2020.
With its beautiful cities, incredible outback and friendly, welcoming culture, Australia has a lot to offer. A fantastic lifestyle and thriving job market, alongside first-class educational facilities, bring it all together as one of the very best places in the world to live. It is no surprise then, that Australia is also at the top of many people’s list of immigration destinations, whether to build a career and a life, get a great education or just enjoy a better standard of living.
The global pandemic caused by Covid-19 has hit many countries hard, and while Australia has fared better than many, the steps needed to halt the spread, closing borders and so on, has had a significant economic impact. This has led to changes in strategy for immigration to focus on the skills needed immediately to counter that issue. However, while many were expecting similarly broad changes to Citizenship too, those have largely not materialised. There has been an adjustment to the process, with the Citizenship itself, and changes to the English language learning system too.
The Citizenship Test
Announced towards the end of 2020 and officially introduced on November 15th, 2020, the Citizenship test has been significantly overhauled for the first time in ten years. The goal of these changes is to promote Australian values as described by the government minister, believing that this will aid integration and improve social cohesion in the country.
In practice, this means the updated test will include five multiple-choice questions that address the stated values, including equality, democracy, mutual respect and more. Examples of the kind of questions this will produce include:
- Should those living in Australia learn English?
- Why is it important Australians vote in National Elections?
- Do you agree that men and women should have equal opportunities in everything they do?
These five questions are part of an improved twenty question test that applicants must achieve at least a 75% score in to be able to qualify for citizenship. Of course, the test is only a small part of the citizenship process, and for most applicants, the new questions will not be any kind of hindrance at all, however, it is important to know that these changes are not in place and all those seeking citizenship now should prepare for that.
The Adult Migrant English Program
In tandem with the citizenship changes, there have been changes to the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) too. The reasoning is the same, a desire to promote integration and social cohesion, with a recent census showing that nearly half of immigrants that arrive in the country with no English skills, still have none after 15 years. The government argues that without English skills, it is difficult for people to get the jobs and guidance they need, and struggle to function unaided in society.
Until now, the answer has been the AMEP, which offered 510 hours of free English language education in the first five years, to enable each individual to gain the functional English language skills needed. However, the changes lift that 510-hour cap along with the time limit. Now, AMEP gives each person unlimited English education until they reach that functional standard.
It is hoped with these changes that more people will be encouraged to join the program and obtain the language skills that will help them build their life in Australia.
Looking to the Future
The rapid changes to the immigration process have seen a focus on families and skills that can aid the post-pandemic recovery. While some believed that wholesale changes to the citizenship process were likely too, this has so far not come to pass.
Instead, the measures that have been put in place focus on helping new citizens find their place within Australian society rather than sit outside it. This is beneficial to all parties, and with preparation, the new test does not put barriers in front of citizenship, while the AMEP changes provide new options even for those that have been in Australia for an extended period already.