How the game has changed for thousands of migrants seeking Australian Citizenship

 sbs.com.au  9/17/2017 11:56:59 AM 

On April 20, migrants wanting to call Australia home were greeted with some unexpected news from the Federal Government.

The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull confirmed a plan that had been in the work for months. Designed to stop criminals and terrorist sympathisers from being granted citizenship, the plan also aimed to improve integration and employment outcomes for new arrivals.

"We are announcing changes to strengthen citizenship," Mr Turnbull said at the time.

"Australian citizenship should be honoured, cherished. It is a privilege."

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The proposed changes included increasing the time permanent residents must wait before applying for citizenship from one to four years; tougher English requirements except for people from the UK, US, Ireland, Canada and New Zealand; and questions on Australian values to check migrants' attitudes to child marriage and domestic violence.

The only exceptions to the changes are applicants under 16 and over 60 years old, as well as people with certain disabilities.

A senate inquiry has since recommended that the new English language requirements be lowered, and that migrants who were already permanent residents before the annoucements should not be forced to wait an extra three years before they can apply.

Labor have been sceptical of the citizenship changes, with Immigration spokesman Tony Burke a vocal crtitic. 

"This will be your home, you'll be here the rest of life but you'll never be told you fully belong," he said.

Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, has stood firm in defending the government policy.

"The law needs to be changed, it will be changed and that's what we're proposing," he said.

"When you decide to come to our country, you decide to abide by Australian laws."

The government will continue to negotiate with the senate crossbench, but for now the legislation faces almost certain defeat.

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