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Monday, 23 October 2017
Page: 11449

Citizenship

Dear Mrs Wicks

Thank you for your correspondence of 16 August 2017 enclosing Petition number EN0237 concerning the Australian Government's reforms to strengthen the requirements for Australian citizenship.

The package of reforms announced by the Prime Minister on 20 April 2017 is the Government's response to the National Consultation on Citizenship, which indicated strong support for strengthening the requirements for Australian citizenship.

The package of reforms includes:

•    increasing the general residence requirement;

•    introducing an English language test;

•    strengthening the Australian values statement;

•    strengthening the test for Australian citizenship;

•    introducing a requirement for applicants to demonstrate their integration into the Australian community; and

•    strengthening the Australian citizenship pledge.

All applications received on or after 20 April 2017 will be affected by the changes.

I note the concerns raised in the petition about the reforms, in particular the date the reforms will come into effect and increasing the general residence requirement.

The date of commencement was informed by experiences of previous Australian governments announcing reforms to programmes in the portfolio including the citizenship programme. When a new policy is announced this can result in significant increases in the number of applications, and consequential delays in the processing of these applications.

On the general residence requirement, applicants will need to be a permanent resident in Australia for a period of four years immediately prior to their application for citizenship, during which time applicants may be absent from Australia for no more than 12 months in total.

Changing the length of the qualifying period of permanent residency will allow more time for the Government to assess all applicants' experience of integrating into life in Australia. Internationally, four years is at the lower end of residency requirements. Some countries such as Denmark, require nine years continuous residence before a person can apply for citizenship.

The comparison below is in general terms only as it does not list exemptions or discretions available to vary requirements across jurisdiction. Limitations on the amount of time spent out of the country may also apply. Other countries have residence requirements for citizenship through naturalisation:

•    the United States of America requires eligible applicants to demonstrate at least five years permanent residence;

•    the United Kingdom requires eligible applicants to demonstrate at least five years residence; and

•    Germany requires eligible applicants to demonstrate at least eight years residence.

Further information on Australian citizenship, including details on the reforms, is available on the Department of Immigration and Border Protection's website at: http://www.border.gov.au/Trav/Citi.

Thank you for bringing this petition to my attention.

Yours sincerely

from the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Mr Dutton