In the aftermath of DIBP’s announcement on 20 April 2017 that significant new requirements will be added the existing requirements for Australian citizenship, several of the requirements are not yet finalised, leading to questions over how applications lodged from 20 April 2017 will be processed as DIBP claims the new requirements, despite not yet being finalised, will apply to all applications lodged from 20 April.
The requirements include an English test, an increase from 1 to 4 years required as a permanent resident prior to being eligible for citizenship, requirements involving having a tax number and paying taxes, an expanded citizenship test, additional character requirements, and a requirement to show they have taken steps to “integrate and contribute” to the Australian community which could include evidence of employment, participation in community organisations, and school enrolment for all eligible children.
However the details of these additional requirements have not yet been finalised by the government and enacted into law, leaving important questions remaining such as what level of English will be required, will applicants who previously passed an English test as part of a skilled or employer sponsored visa have to take the exam again, and will the existing migration exemptions from English testing for applicants from the USA, Canada, NZ, the United Kingdom and Ireland be carried over into the citizenship area.
Additional questions exist regarding whether the allowance of being outside Australia for up to 365 days in the 4 years prior to applying for citizenship and 3 months in the 12 months prior to applying will be preserved or altered.
As the new requirements have not yet been finalised or enacted into law, it is expected that the government will put some sort of hold on applications lodged after 20 April until the new requirements are worked out, leaving applicants to wonder what additional materials and requirements they will be required to meet and when. Industry observers expect the new “no-advance-notice” policy of DIBP regarding some major changes may be an effort to prevent huge rushes of applications when major changes are announced in advance, as occurred during the first 6 months of 2012 when major changes in the ENS and RSMS visa programs were announced months in advance leading to huge numbers of applications lodged in the months leading up to the effective date of the changes.