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Citizenship amendments pass through Parliament.

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Senator Chris Evans Minister for Immigration and Citizenship

Citizenship amendments pass through Parliament

The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, has welcomed the passage of the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Citizenship Test Review and Other Measures) Bill 2009 through the Parliament today.

The changes detailed in the Bill will implement the recommendations made by the Citizenship Test Review Committee last year.

A key finding of the Citizenship Test Review Committee was that some disadvantaged and vulnerable migrants could not sit and pass a citizenship test due to some form of incapacity. The committee found that these people did not have a pathway to citizenship under the current arrangements.

The changes will provide an exemption from the test for people who have a permanent or enduring physical or mental incapacity which means they are not capable of meeting all the legal requirements for conferral of Australian citizenship.

These changes were necessary to ensure that there is a legitimate pathway to citizenship for these most vulnerable and disadvantaged migrants. To further support clients who have difficulty passing the citizenship test, a small group of people will be eligible to undertake a citizenship course due to be introduced later in the year.

Other changes will result in a requirement that children must be permanent residents before they can be eligible for citizenship. This requirement will prevent people under 18 and who are in Australia unlawfully, often with their families, or who are about to be removed from Australia with their families because they have exhausted all their migration options, from applying for citizenship and prolonging their stay.

Amendments to the Act will add two special residence requirements for certain people who are not able to meet the general residence requirements for Australian citizenship due to their international travel commitments.

People who are out of the country for 90 days or more in the year before applying for citizenship are currently ineligible to become citizens. In 2007, the previous Government also changed the residence requirement for citizenship from two years to four years and removed certain discretionary residence provisions leaving a small group of people significantly disadvantaged.

It means people such as elite athletes who spend months out of Australia due to their sporting commitments will be eligible for citizenship within two years of becoming a permanent resident rather than waiting a full four years, provided they have been a permanent resident for two years before their application with at least six months physically in Australia and have their application supported by a recognised national peak body such as the Australian Olympic Committee or Tennis Australia.

The second special residence requirement will enable people engaged in particular kinds of work such as international airline pilots or cruise ship crews, which require them to travel frequently outside Australia, to be eligible for citizenship.

Under this requirement the person will still need to have lived in Australia for four years but the special residence requirement will enable them to be absent from Australia for more than 12 months during the four-year period.

The special residence requirements will provide clearly defined criteria for eligibility and leave no room for ambiguity while still providing a pathway to citizenship where there may not otherwise be one.

The special residence requirements aim to strike the right balance in facilitating Australian citizenship for those who are unable to meet the general residence requirement due to the nature of their occupation, yet who genuinely ‘call Australia home’ and wish to formalise that relationship by becoming Australian citizens.

See: Index of Media Releases

URL: /media/media-releases/2009/ce09088.htm Last update: 17 September 2009 at 16:30 AEST