Australian Citizenship Bill Released
Australia is a dream destination for a lot of the people. Australia is a beautiful country and a lot of the people want to Immigrate To Australia and start a new life there. Recently, the Australian officials released the Australian Citizenship Bill. This article contains all about how the new rules will work based on the draft legislation.
There were some changes made to the requirements for Australian Citizenship which were announced on 20th April, 2017. The draft legislation to enact these changes has now been released.
Whilst the legislation must still pass Parliament, we can see more clearly how the new rules are likely to be implemented.
Timing of Changes
Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures) Bill 2017 has been introduced to the Parliament but it has not yet been passed and may be subject to further amendments before it comes into effect.
The bill indicates following changes that are effective for any applications for citizenship lodged on or after 20th April, 2017:
- New General Residence Requirement
- Competent English Requirement
- Pledge of Allegiance Requirement
This means that all the applications that are lodged from this date will need to meet the new requirements, even though they were lodged prior to the legislation being passed by Parliament.
The following are the changes that will come in effect once the legislation is passed.
New General Residence Requirement:
The following are the new general residence requirement for citizenship that has been set out by conferral:
- You must have lived in Australia for a period of 4 years as a permanent resident (this is referred to as the “Residency Period”)
- You must not have been unlawful at any stage during the 4 year.
- If you depart from Australia during the 4 years, the total period spent outside Australia must be less than 365 days, and you must maintain your Permanent Residency during this time.
This is in accordance with the expectations based on the announcement of 20th April and effectively means that you must now hold your permanent visa for a longer period i.e. 4 years, rather than 12 months which was previously the case.
New Zealand Citizens and the Residency Requirement:
New Zealand Citizens meeting certain criteria will not need to meet the new general residence requirement, but instead can come under the previous requirement under which a period of 3 years spent in Australia on a temporary visa can count towards the residence requirement.
The explanatory statement indicates that NZ citizens applying under the new NZ 189 stream will be able to apply under the old general residence rules.
The bill indicates that you will need to demonstrate fluency in English – this would require at least 6 in each bands of IELTS or equivalent. Evidence of the proficiency in English language skills would need to be provided at lodgment for all applicants aged 16 years or over. If any applicant fails to provide this, it would result in the application being considered as invalid. The Explanatory Statement indicates that test results up to 3 years old can be used.
The Bill mentions that exemptions may be set out in a legislative instrument. The Explanatory Statement mentions the following possibilities:
- Passport holders of the UK, Ireland, Canada, USA or New Zealand
- Specified English language studies at a recognized Australian education provider
- Applicants with a permanent or enduring physical or mental disability
- Applicants aged 60 or over
- Applicants with hearing, speech or sight impairment
Pledge of Allegiance:
Under the Bill, the previous Pledge of Commitment will be renamed as the Pledge of Allegiance. To become a citizen, the Pledge of Allegiance is required for citizenship by conferral for all applicants aged 16 or over.
This will also apply to the following ways of acquiring citizenship which currently do not require a Pledge of Commitment:
- Citizenship by Descent – children born overseas to Australian citizen parents
- Adopted children (Hague Convention or bilateral agreement)
- People resuming Australian Citizenship
- Children born to a former Australian citizen
- People obtaining citizenship due to being stateless or born in Papua during certain periods of time
Automatic Acquisition of Citizenship by Children Born in Australia on 10th Birthday:
Currently, the children who are born in Australia and who are usually a resident in Australia acquire Australian citizenship by operation of law on their 10th birthday.
However, the Bill imposes significant limitations on this condition, and the children will be ineligible for citizenship in the following circumstances:
- Children who are unlawful at any stage.
- Children who depart Australia and do not have a visa to return to Australia
- If the child’s parent becomes unlawful prior to the birth of the child
- If the child’s parent has diplomatic status in Australia.
The Bill gives the Minister rights to do the following actions where there are character concerns:
- Refuse Citizenship applications
- Delay processing of citizenship applications by deferring the date for the Pledge Allegiance – this delay could be up to 2 years.
- Cancelling approval after the Pledge of Allegiance
- Cancelling approval of citizenship prior to the Pledge of Allegiance being taken
Children under the age of 18 years will now need to meet the character requirement. Children 16 years or over will need to undergo police checks. Where there are known issues, Immigration may look into character for applicants aged under 16 years as well.
An application for citizenship cannot be approved where a person is:
- Serving a term in prison
- On parole
- Confined in a mental health facility by court order
- Subject to pending proceedings for an offence
- Subject to home detention or residential program for mental health or drug rehabilitation.
The minister has the power to personally make a decision on character grounds which is non-reviewable, and to substitute a decision in favor of applicants at the AAT on character grounds.
2-Year Bar where Citizenship Refused:
Where a citizenship application is refused on any other grounds other than meeting the residence requirement, a 2-year bar can apply. Suppose your application is refused on character grounds, this will result in not being able to apply again for a period of 2 years.
Revocation of Australian Citizenship for Fraud or Misrepresentation:
In case of misrepresentation of information, the result will be revocation of Australian citizenship. This can relate to:
- The application for Australian citizenship
- Entry to Australia – presumably this might include information on incoming passenger cards
- Previous visa applications
It may be possible that the fraud or the misrepresentation have been done by a third party, and includes concealing relevant information. Any fraud or misrepresentation which has occurred up to 10 years prior to the revocation can be considered.
Whilst the Citizenship legislation still needs to pass Parliament to come into effect, the release of the Bill makes the Government’s intentions much clearer.
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