In June 2017 the Senate announced an inquiry into the Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures) Bill 2017.
Among the changes this Bill will be introducing are:
- Extending the waiting period for permanent residents from one year to “at least four years” before eligibility for citizenship
- Increasing the English language requirement to qualify for Australian citizenship
- Widening Ministerial discretion to deny citizenship in individual immigration cases.
There are so many important Australians who came to this country with limited English, but have made a fantastic contribution to the social and economic fabric of this country.
DCA approached members to assist highlight the benefits that cultural diversity has had on Australian business. We specifically asked if they or their parents had come to Australia with limited or no English and if so, could they tell us some their experience - what were they doing now, where they worked and what they studied.
DCA Submission summary
DCA’s submission focuses on three areas of changes that will be introduced by the Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures) Bill 2017:
- Increasing the general residence requirement to at least four years before permanent residents are eligible to apply for citizenship;
- Requiring most applicants to provide evidence of competent English language proficiency before they can make a valid application for citizenship;
- Requiring applicants to sign an Australian Values Statement in order to make a valid application for citizenship.
We consider the current context of cultural and linguistic diversity in Australia before making three recommendations in relation to the above aspects of this Bill.
On the aspects of the Bill we consider in the submission, DCA makes the following comments:
- Increasing the general residence requirement for permanent residents from one to four years could place an additional burden on people who have entered Australia on temporary work or humanitarian visas, and also be a deterrent to skilled permanent residents who may leave Australia, rather than wait for citizenship. Moreover, the retrospective nature of these proposed changes is deeply unfair and jeopardises Australia’s reputation as a destination of choice for global talent.
- While DCA supports all Australians having a good grasp of English proficiency, we do not believe that an English language test is the best way toachieve this. Rather, DCA believes that investment in English language programs for migrants and refugees, as well as workplace programs to support inclusion, would be more conducive to achieving the desired goal of better enabling all citizens to fully participate in Australia’s social and economic activities.
- DCA plans to consult with our membership on what they feel are ‘Australian Values’, and would be very happy to make this contribution to the broader public discourse.