The government of Australia announced its intention to overturn the country’s citizenship law in April 2017 when it proposed to have a standalone test on the English language as well as a lengthened waiting period for holders of the permanent residence permit before they would be able to apply for citizenship. The proposal met such strong opposition from rival political parties that the government had to amend some parts of the proposal, yet the law has still not been passed.
What are these proposed changes?
In the initial proposal, the government recommended that migrants should prove how proficient they were in the English language by scoring nothing less than 6 bands in the IELTS exam before they could qualify for the Australian citizenship. After deliberating on the matter in the Senate, the government had to bring the threshold IELTS score to 5 bands which are graded as ‘moderate.’
There were also some proposed changes in the requirements for general residence. With the current requirements, before anyone can apply for citizenship, they have to live in Australia for a minimum of four years and must live one year out of the four as a permanent resident. The government, in its proposal, wanted to increase the period an applicant is required to have stayed in Australia as a permanent resident before becoming eligible to apply for citizenship from 1 year to 4 years. It doesn’t matter how many years the applicant may have stayed in Australia before becoming a permanent resident.
The Labour, Greens as well as some senators put up a fierce opposition against some of the recommendations in the proposal. Most particular is the standalone English language test.
Alan Tudge, Australia’s former Minister for Citizenship in June 2018, told to media that the government was still making its consultation about the crucial elements of the citizenship proposal. He, however, added that IELTS could be replaced with a test on the primary school level, conversational English.
But then, the matter of English test has not been concluded on. Tudge’s successor, David Coleman, who is currently in office, in October, told the same to media that the matter was yet to be decided. He acknowledged that some level of English proficiency should be set for migrants.
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