The Multicultural Council of Tasmania (MCOT) urges the Federal Government to maintain fairness and justice in any proposal to extend the waiting period and to increase the English language requirement for Australian citizenship.
The controversial Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures) Bill that was struck down by the Senate in 2017 will be brought back to Parliament this year by Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton.
Proposed amendments (subject to the passage of legislation) for new requirements for Australian citizenship that could come into effect in July include:
- Increasing the residence requirement to a minimum of four years permanent residency prior to application for citizenship with no more than one year spent outside Australia during that period
- Completing a separate, university standard, English language test before applying for citizenship by conferral
- Requiring applicants to undertake to integrate into and contribute to the Australian community
- Adding new test questions about Australian values and the privileges and responsibilities of Australian citizenship
- Requiring applicants to demonstrate their integration into the Australian community
The proposed legislation to extend waiting periods for citizenship and to demand university standard English language skills in order for migrants to become Australian citizens is unjust and unfair. Applying for and receiving Australian citizenship should be celebrated, not treated as a burden.
Most migrants have already waited a number of years to obtain their permanent residency after arriving in Australia on another visa. Extending the wait times for citizenship offers no benefit to Australia other than to delay the citizenship of hard working, dedicated Australian residents who want nothing more than to contribute as full participants in our community. Extending wait times also puts people’s sense of belonging and integration into community at risk.
Excessively demanding university levels of English language competence are a cruel barrier to the most vulnerable migrants and refugees who have so much to contribute to Australian society as citizens. Prior to English language literacy, many of these people have made high-level contributions to their own education and to their family and community wellbeing.
The Multicultural Council of Tasmania urge the Australian Government that any changes to Australia’s Citizenship laws be based on evidence from people with lived experience and not on political considerations.
Australia’s removal of, and attempts to restrict, pathways to citizenship are a threat to the social cohesion and harmony of Australian society, generate fear and uncertainty for migrants and their families, and counter their efforts to construct long term, stable futures.