Following the Senate’s rejection last month of a Bill which would reform the Australian citizenship test, the Department of Immigration has received a rush of applications.
The proposed reforms to the Australian citizenship test included a tougher English language exam and a test which quizzed candidates about Australian values. The changes would have also seen an increase in waiting times for permanent residents from one to four years.
In October, the legislation missed the parliamentary deadline to pass the Senate. Once this was announced, there was a surge of applications for Australian citizenship made to the Department of Immigration.
Currently, more than 118,000 people have submitted Australian citizenship applications and are awaiting the result pending processing by the Department of Immigration. The department’s stated ‘standard timeframe’ for processing citizenship applications is 13 months, which it says is the case for 90% of the applications it processes.
Every year, tens of thousands of people apply to become an Australian citizen, attracted by job opportunities, world-class education facilities, and lifestyle, among other factors. In 2014-15, 114,109 people sat the Australian citizenship test as part of their application for citizenship, from a wide range of countries. The nationalities with the highest number of applications, in order, were India, UK, China, Philippines and South Africa.
Of those who sat the test in 2014-15, 98.6% passed, a comparable figure to percentages in the previous few years. However, a number of people sat the test more than once before passing: on average the Department of Immigration runs 1.2 tests per applicant. Skilled migrants had a better pass rate compared with humanitarian migrants (99.7% compared to 91.2%).
Since Australian citizenship was introduced in 1949, more than 5 million people formerly of other nationalities have become Australian citizens. To apply for Australian citizenship, applicants need to hold a permanent residence visa and satisfy the minimum residence requirement, which is having lived in Australia for the previous 12 months as a permanent resident under the current legislation.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has stated that his department will redraft the proposed reforms and present them once more to Parliament in an effort to see them passed. He also indicated that the re-introduced bill will feature some less strict criteria than the original version, such as requiring Band 5 (‘modest’) on the international English testing standard, rather than Band 6 (‘competent’).