Will Australian citizenship requirements change in 2019?

The Australian Government has been trying to introduce changes to the Australian citizenship law that would require permanent residents to wait longer and provide evidence of their English proficiency before applying for citizenship.

In April 2017, the Australian Government announced an overhaul of the citizenship law that would see applicants required to pass an English language test and wait for a longer period before becoming eligible to apply for citizenship.

Opposition parties took against the proposed changes of the Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures) Bill and the Government was forced to dilute their proposals. The Bill was listed to be debated in the Spring sittings however it was not brought up for parliamentary discussion.

Further, in the autumn of 2017, the legislation was struck off the Senate notice paper when the Australian Greens moved against it.

Proposed changes

If the Bill does become active again it would greatly affect the Australian citizenship eligibility of individual migrants.

The English language component started out decreeing that migrants had to prove their competency in the English language by scoring at least 6 on the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam. The Senate debate saw that number reduced to 5, representing moderate English ability as per the IELTS.

The current Minister for Immigration and Citizenship David Coleman told SBS Punjabi in October that the matter was still under consideration.

“Some level of English is good for migrants as well as for the country,” said Minister David Coleman to SBS Punjabi. “I’m currently considering what level that should be at.”

In regard to the residence component, the current law sees migrants who have lived in Australia for four years with at least one-year permanent residency able to apply for citizenship. The proposed changes would see the permanent residency period increased to four years regardless of previous time spent in the country.

Still, there is hope for migrants who would struggle against these new regulations as with Labor, the Greens’ and Central Alliance yet to be convinced on the key elements of the Bill, the Government would need almost all the crossbench senators to pass the changes through the upper house.

Greens’ Immigration spokesperson Nick McKim said the Government failed to bring the Bill for discussion because it didn’t have the numbers in the Senate.

Pauline Hanson’s citizenship Bill delayed

Ms Hanson introduced a proposed law in Senate last year that was referred to a Senate committee that was due to give its report on 4 December 2018. However, that committee is now due to return with its findings in March this year.