Australia Thursday announced tougher citizenship laws for new applicants, including higher English language skills and longer residency requirement, days after the government scrapped a popular visa programme used mostly by Indians.
Under the new reforms unveiled by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the applicants must be permanent residents for at least four years — three years longer than at present — and must be committed to embrace “Australian values”.
The changes would abolish the current system that allows unlimited attempts to pass the citizenship test, imposing a two-year denial if an applicant failed three attempts and an automatic fail for those who tried to cheat the test.
Prospective citizens will have to pass a standalone English test that will focus heavily on respect for women and children, with possible questions about child marriage, female genital mutilation and domestic violence.
The test will have questions assessing an applicant’s understanding and commitment to shared Australian values and responsibilities, Turnbull said.
Apart from this, an automatic fail for applicants who cheat during the citizenship test has been introduced.
Unveiling the changes, Turnbull stressed that Australian citizenship was a “privilege” that should be “cherished”.
He said citizenship would only be granted to those who support Australian values, respect the country’s laws and “want to work hard by integrating and contributing to an even better Australia”.
“Citizenship is at the heart of our national identity. It is the foundation of our democracy. We must ensure that our citizenship programme is conducted in our national interest,” he added.
The Australian Prime Minister also stressed that English language proficiency was essential for economic participation and integration into the Australian community and social cohesion. “Any conduct that is inconsistent with Australian values will be considered as part of this process,”