Last year, the Australian government introduced but failed to pass the Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures) Bill 2017. Under the bill, prospective citizens would have faced tougher English requirements and character checks. They would have also been required to accrue four years of residency instead of one, demonstrate commitment to ‘Australian values’, as well as prove their capacity to integrate into Australian society. Many raised concerns over the subjectivity and difficulty of assessing some of those criteria. The bill would also have greatly expanded the powers of the Immigration Minister to make determinations on citizenship applications.
The bill is again being made a priority by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), with the government set to re-introduce it into Parliament in the spring. Based on strong reactions to the bill last time, we expect the proposed legislation to go through yet more rounds of prolonged and heated public debate. As always, we will continue to monitor the situation and update our readers on new developments as they happen.
Significant drop in citizenship conferrals
Newly released figures from the DHA show citizenship conferrals have hit a 15-year low. In 2017-18, only 80,562 people were conferred with Australian citizenship, representing almost a 42% drop compared to 2016-17. Such low numbers have not occurred since 2002-03, when just over 79,000 people received citizenship by conferral.
At the same time, processing of citizenship applications has been painfully slow. A backlog of over 240,000 cases has meant that migrants have been made to wait 17-19 months or more for determinations on their applications.
It is significant that the DHA has cited “greater national security threats” as a reason for long processing times. The government’s ramped up efforts in enforcing additional integrity measures to verify the identity and good character of applicants has had a material impact on application success rates and wait times.
Quick tips on applying for Australian citizenship
Due to high demand and increased complexity in citizenship cases, we have been assisting with a rapidly rising number of citizenship applications. In our experience,there are several things those applying for Australian citizenship can do to make the process more efficient and reduce the risk of rejection.
Be completely honest when responding to application requirements. In the current climate of increased integrity measures and tightened character checks, it is imperative that the information you provide in your application can be clearly and easily verified with evidence.
Frontload as much information as possible. It is always better to supply all required documents and information upfront, than to have the DHA have to request further documents.
Engage a reputable immigration lawyer or agent to help with the process. Seemingly small omissions or missteps during the application process can significantly lengthen the application process, or worse jeopardise your chances at citizenship.
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