Do the existing rules still pertain to citizenship? Changes struck down

Gerald Santucci

31 Oct 2017


  • Migration

Significant changes to migration law were announced in April 2017. Gerald Santucci, Migration Law Director at Snedden Hall & Gallop Lawyers, explains the proposed changes to citizenship and what has happened so far.

In my previous article, 8 things you need to know about the new 457 visa system, I anticipated a further opportunity to cover the changes proposed to citizenship in Australia. These changes were announced on 20 April 2017, but unlike the changes to the 457 regime (which required changes to the regulations only), these changes required the passage of legislation.

The proposed changes were contained in the Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures) Bill 2017, and that’s the short name!

The significant changes included:

  • Increasing the general residence requirement, which means an applicant for Australian citizenship would need to demonstrate a minimum of four years permanent residence immediately prior to their application for citizenship;
  • Introducing an English language test, which means applicants would need to demonstrate competent English language listening, speaking, reading and writing skills before being able to sit the citizenship test;
  • Application forms for visas and citizenship were to include reference to allegiance to Australia and require applicants to make an undertaking to integrate into and contribute to the Australian community;
  • The addition of new test questions about Australian values, and the privileges and responsibilities of Australian citizenship;
  • Introducing a requirement for applicants to demonstrate their integration into the Australian community; and
  • The Australian Citizenship Act 2007 to refer to allegiance to Australia; and extending the requirement for individuals aged 16 years and over to make the Pledge of commitment.

These changes would have come into effect retrospectively from 20 April 2017 but they were subject to the passage of legislation. These amendments have been before a senate committee for some time and have now been struck from parliamentary business, effectively defeating the proposed amendments.

In my view, the proposed changes concerning residency and English were excessive and unreasonable citizenship changes. The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) has advised that:

  • DIBP is going forward with plans to reintroduce an amended version of the Bill, with a proposed introduction date of 1 July 2018.  The English language test will be amended to a ‘modest’ level of English.
  • Applications made before 1 July 2018 will be assessed against the eligibility criteria current at the time of application.
  • Changes to citizenship criteria will take effect from 1 July 2018, if the legislation is successfully passed.

What are the current citizenship requirements?

This means that currently, an applicant must meet these requirements:

  • Be of good character;
  • Have a basic knowledge of the English language;
  • Intend to reside or maintain a close and continuing association with Australia;
  • Have an adequate knowledge of the responsibilities and privileges of Australian citizenship; and
  • Be a permanent resident at the time of application and time of decision. The general residence requirement includes that an applicant:
    • Has lived in Australia on a valid Australian visa for four years immediately before applying;
    • Must have been a permanent resident for the 12 months immediately before making an application; and
    • Not have been absent from Australia for more than one year in total, during the four year period, including no more than 90 days in the 12 months before applying.


How can Snedden Hall & Gallop’s migration team help you?

Our lawyers are registered migration agents and are members of the Migration Institute of Australia. Gerald Santucci is one of Australia’s longest registered migration agents (MARN 9256528), advising and assisting in migration matters since 1989. We keep abreast of all migration law issues in Australia and can advise you on how these changes will affect your immigration status. Please contact us to discuss these developments and we can help you with your citizenship application by phone on (02) 6285 8000 or by email and you can see details of our migration team.