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Australia to introduce citizenship test.



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Media Release The Hon Andrew Robb AO MP Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs

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11 December 2006 114/06

AUSTRALIA TO INTRODUCE CITIZENSHIP TEST

Helping migrants to integrate and maximise the opportunities available to them in Australia is the focus of the new Australian Citizenship test announced today.

Under the proposed formal citizenship test, future migrants will need to demonstrate a basic level of English language skills, as well as knowledge of the Australian way of life and our shared values.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, the Hon Andrew Robb AO MP, said today, “The Government is concerned to ensure that migrants to Australia integrate successfully and contribute to our national progress.

“That means being able to speak the national language. It also requires an understanding of the values, institutions and traditions that bind us together as one people.”

Mr Robb noted that there is strong community support for such a test based on receiving more than 1600 responses to the Citizenship discussion paper and holding formal consultations with interest groups around the country.

“Australian Citizenship is a privilege not a right. This citizenship test is an important extension of the Government’s broader philosophy of mutual obligation.

“A practical, commonsense test will serve to enhance the value of Australian Citizenship as something worth striving for.”

Under new requirements, prospective new citizens will need to undertake an internet based test which will require them to demonstrate their knowledge of the English language and of Australia.

The material about Australia and the test questions will be based on the current introductory course ‘Let’s Participate: A Course in Australian Citizenship’ and other relevant materials.

There will also be an oral component to the test. Whilst all prospective citizens will need to take a test there will be provision for alternative testing arrangements for people who cannot attain the literacy standards required.

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Prospective applicants for Citizenship will also be asked to sign a statement of commitment to Australia.

The Government continues to invest significantly in English language programmes, with more than $285 million to be spent this year. Indeed, funding for the Adult Migrant English Programme is more than double the amount spent on English language training each year through the 1990s.

There will also be new requirements in relation to permanent resident visas which will require prospective migrants to make a statement before being granted a visa that they respect the Australian way of life and will abide by Australian laws.

“It is important that the Australian community is comfortable that members of the community who are not Australian Citizens, but are here for an extended period of time, understand and respect our way of life.”

In relation to temporary visa holders with potential for long term stay, including student visas, the Government is intending to ask for a statement similar to that required for permanent residents but will be undertaking further consultation.

Certain visa classes such as visitor visas and special category visas for New Zealand citizens will be exempt.

Last year just over one hundred thousand permanent residents from 175 countries took up the option of Australian Citizenship.

Media:

Ben Mitchell (Prime Minister’s Office) 0419 850 212

Kathryn Hodges (Parliamentary Secretary’s Office) 0409 123 567

ATTACHMENT A

Details of new arrangements.

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ATTACHMENT A

Citizenship, Permanent and Temporary Resident Requirements

What will prospective applicants for Australian citizenship be required to do after the test is introduced?

The citizenship test will replace the need for an interview, which most applicants for Australia citizenship are currently required to attend.

All people who wish to apply for Australian citizenship will first need to have successfully completed a test, designed to demonstrate their knowledge of the English language and their knowledge of Australia, including the responsibilities and privileges of Australian citizenship.

The test will be computer based, and will consist of around 30 multiple choice questions drawn randomly from up to 200 confidential questions.

What will be the source material for the test?

The material about Australia including the responsibilities and privileges of Australian citizenship on which questions are to be based will be available in both printed and audio visual format. It will be similar to, and based on, the current introductory course titled “Let’s Participate: A course

in Australian Citizenship” (conducted by providers of the Adult Migrant English Programme [AMEP]).

Will there be any other components to the test?

Yes. As part of the test applicants will be expected to understand and respond in English to oral questions when registering for the test and verifying their identity.

Will everyone have to do the test?

No. People under 18 years of age or over 60 or with a permanent physical and mental incapacity will not.

What about people who cannot attain the literacy skills required to take the test?

Special arrangements will be made for people who have difficulty taking a test because of low literacy skills. They will be required to take the test in an alternate format.

After successful completion of the test will applicants have to undertake any other requirements.

Yes. All applicants for Australian citizenship will be required to sign as part of their application, a statement that they are aware of and understand the requirements for citizenship, understand that Australian society values include:

• Respect for the freedom and dignity of the individual; • Equality of men and women; • Freedom of religion;

• Commitment to the rule of law; • Parliamentary Democracy;

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• And a spirit of egalitarianism that embraces mutual respect, fair play and compassion for those in need.

They will also be required to accept the rights and responsibilities of Australian citizenship which include:

• Obeying Australian laws and fulfilling the duties of Australian citizenship; • Enrolling on the electoral register and voting at Federal and State and Territory elections and referenda; • Defending Australia should the need arise; • Serving on a jury if called upon to do so.

Following successful completion of the test people will still have to apply for citizenship and undergo police and security clearances as at present.

What will applicants for permanent residence now be required to do?

All applicants for permanent residence, including all applicants for provisional visas that lead to permanent residence will be required to sign a statement indicating that they have read, or had explained to them, material made available by DIMA on life in Australia and that they acknowledge and respect Australian values such as:

• Respect for the freedom and dignity of the individual, • Equality of men and women; • Freedom of religion;

• Commitment to the rule of law; • Parliamentary Democracy; • And a spirit of egalitarianism that embraces mutual respect fair play and compassion for those in need.

They will also agree to abide by Australian laws.

The statement will be included for signature in all permanent and provisional visa application forms.

What will temporary residents be required to do?

Temporary visa holders with potential for long term stay will need to indicate their understanding and respect of Australian values as part of signing their visa form and commit to abide by Australian Laws.

It is expected that the new arrangements will only apply to applicants intending to stay for more than 12 months in Australia. Certain visa classes such as visitor visas, bridging visas, safe haven and temporary humanitarian concerns visas will automatically be excluded from the new requirements. The Government focus is on the potential for long term stay, without affecting our international competitiveness.

When will all of the new arrangements commence?

The new citizenship changes will require legislative amendment.

It is the Government’s intention that the new Citizenship Test and Permanent and Temporary visa changes will commence as soon as possible following the passage of the legislation.