Australian Citizenship Bill Discharged from the Senate

On 18 October, the Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures) Bill 2017 was discharged from the Senate as the government did not meet the deadline to bring the legislation on for debate.

This discharge means that the pending citizenship applications that were lodged on and after 20 April 2017, will not have to satisfy the four-year permanent residence requirement and demonstrate a competent level of English.

The processing of citizenship applications should now resume however processing times will exceed those estimated due to a large backlog of applications. In September, the Department estimated that 75% of application were being processed within 10 months, while 90% of applications were being processed within 14 months.

Though the Bill was discharged, the Department is proposing amendments to the legislation to be implemented for citizenship applications lodged on and after 1 July 2018, subject to the legislation being passed in the Senate. The amendments include reducing the English requirement from “competent” to a “modest” level. There is no indication yet on what changes will occur to the residence requirement.

Putt Legal encourages all permanent residents who meet the current residency requirements to lodge a citizenship application immediately.  

Update on the Australian Citizenship Bill 2017

On 13 September 2017, the Australian Senate passed a motion to discharge the consideration of the Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures) Bill 2017.

What this means is that, if the Bill is not passed by 18 October 2017, it will be discharged from the Senate Notice Paper and will need to be re-introduced into Parliament if the government wants to persist with its proposed changes.

The good news is that if the Bill is ‘struck off’ the current residency period requirements will remain as is, for the time being.  Those requirements are as follows –

A person has been living in Australia on a valid visa for 4 years immediately before applying, which must include the last 12 months as permanent resident and has not been absent from Australia for a particular period.”

As previously, Putt Legal encourages all permanent residents who meet the current residency requirements to lodge a citizenship application immediately.

Australian permanent residence & citizenship options for New Zealand citizens

New Zealand citizens who arrive in Australia are granted a Special Category Visa (SCV) (subclass 444) on arrival, allowing them to live in Australia indefinitely. However, this is only a temporary visa and does not guarantee holders the same rights as permanent residents or Australian citizens. For example, such NZ citizens may not have full social security or pension rights as Australian permanent residents, or ability to access tertiary education on the same terms as Australian permanent residents.

Additionally NZ citizens, even if they have resided in Australia for many years and have all their family members residing in Australia, can be permanently removed from Australia if they become of ‘character’ concern. For example, there are mandatory visa cancellation arrangements for those who are sentenced to a minimum term of imprisonment in Australia.

New Zealand citizens considering Australian permanent residence or citizenship, may be eligible by the following routes:

1.       Protected Special Category Visa holders

Protected SCV holders are those SCV holders who:

  • were in Australia on 26 February 2001; or
  • were in Australia as an SCV holder for a period of, or periods totalling, 12 months during the two years immediately before 26 February 2001; or
  • commenced or recommenced residing in Australia within three months from 26 February 2001; or
  • were residing in Australia on 26 February 2001 but were temporarily absent.

Protected SCV holders can apply for citizenship without needing a permanent visa, they must just meet the usual citizenship criteria including residential and character requirements.

2.       Skilled Independent subclass 189 (New Zealand) stream

New Zealand citizens who resided in Australia on a subclass 444 SCV, for at least 5 years prior to 19 February 2016, are eligible for a general skilled migration stream (subclass 189) visa .

To be eligible, applicants must have a taxable income at or above the income threshold (approximately $55,000 per annum) for four of the five years prior to lodging an application and must meet mandatory health, character and security requirements. A health waiver is available for those with medical conditions, and Putt Legal has expertise in this area.

New Zealand citizens who are granted this permanent visa will be eligible for Australian citizenship after 12 months.

3.       Resident Return Visas

New Zealand citizens who first arrived in Australia prior to September 1994, even for a brief period, may be eligible to apply for Australian permanent residence status by applying for a resident return visa (subclass 155). The visa application charge for this visa is currently $365, and eligibility for this visa may depend on the periods of residence in Australia since the first arrival date.

4.       Permanent residents

A New Zealand citizen who is in Australia on a permanent visa (rather than a subclass 444 SCV), who meets the residency requirement (soon to be four years on a permanent visa), and is of good character can still apply for citizenship by this route.

Give Putt Legal a call on 9221 7682  for assistance in applying for citizenship, or a permanent visa.

Changes to the citizenship process

On 20 April 2017, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton announced impending changes to Australian citizenship law.

The major proposed change is to require that individuals who lodge applications as from 20 April 2017 onwards must have lived in Australia as a permanent resident for a minimum of 4 years (instead of the current requirement of 12 months as a permanent resident and 3 years as a lawful visa holder).

Other changes include the introduction of an English test and the provision of evidence that the applicant has integrated into the Australian community. 

Importantly, however, reform to the citizenship process is only ‘proposed’ at this stage and no new law has passed the Commonwealth Parliament.

Putt Legal encourages all permanent residents who meet the current residency requirement to lodge a citizenship application immediately, in the hope these changes will not apply retrospectively, as proposed.

Please contact Putt Legal if we can be of assistance in lodging your citizenship application.