Canberra, April 20 (IANS) Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced major changes to citizenship laws, making it tougher for foreign nationals to become Australian citizens.
Aspiring citizens will have to undergo tougher tests on their English language skills and ability to demonstrate “Australian values”, Turnbull said.
He unveiled the tighter requirements on Thursday. As part of the new measure, the waiting period has been extended for applicants before they are handed out citizenship, reported 9news.com.au.
The applicants will also be required to have lived in Australia as a permanent resident for at least four years (up from one year) and will only be allowed to fail the citizenship test three times.
At present, there is no limit to the number of times a person can fail the test.
Turnbull said the changes would ensure that migrants were better integrated into the community.
“It is important that they understand that they are making a commitment to our Australian values,” he said.
The current citizenship test — a multiple-choice questionnaire — tests an applicant’s knowledge about Australian laws, flags and national symbols.
Turnbull said this test was not not enough to assess whether an applicant has understanding of and commitment to “Australian values” and responsibilities.
In explaining what constituted “Australian values”, Turnbull said migrants must demonstrate support for religious freedom and gender equality.
The test the prospective citizens are required to pass will focus on respect for women and children. It will also reportedly include possible questions about child marriage, female genital mutilation and domestic violence, according to the report.
“If we believe that respect for women and children and saying no to violence… is an Australian value, and it is, then why should that not be made a key part… of our process to be an Australian citizen?” Turnbull asked.
The announcement comes two days after Turnbull outlined an overhaul of the 457 temporary foreign worker visa system.
The 457 foreign worker visa programme will be axed and replaced with a new “Australia first” visa programme.