Australia tightens citizenship requirements

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Australia has tightened requirements for its citizenship test, including a four-year probation period, competence in English and proven acceptance of “Australian values”.

The move comes days after the federal government scrapped its temporary foreign skilled worker visa scheme as part of a broader push to put “Australians first”, and as the US and New Zealand also tightened requirements for foreign workers.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced today his conservative coalition government would strengthen the national citizenship test “by putting Australian values at the heart of citizenship processes and requirements.”

New applicants will need to have lived in Australia as a permanent resident for four years, up from one year at present.

During this extended period, applicants will need to show the steps they have taken to integrate into and contribute to the Australian community. This might include evidence of employment, membership of community organisations or enrolment of eligible children in a school.

Applicants will need to pass a stand-alone English test, encompassing reading, writing, listening and speaking skills.

The government also said it would tighten the citizenship test itself, by including “new and more meaningful questions that assess an applicant’s understanding of – and commitment to – our shared values and responsibilities.” This builds on changes proposed by the former Labor government led by Kevin Rudd about a decade ago.

Asked by local reporters what Australian values might entail, Mr Turnbull said:

Australians have an enormous reservoir of good sense, and we know that our values of mutual respect, equality of men and women, democracy, freedom, rule of law … a fair go – they are fundamental Australian values.

On Tuesday, the Australian government announced it was scrapping the 457 foreign skilled worker programme and replacing it with a new temporary visa in an effort to give Australian workers priority for Australian jobs and address acute national skills shortages. Hours later, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order aimed at cracking down on the abuse of of the H-1B visa programme for skilled workers.

New Zealand’s government followed suit on Wednesday, with the country’s immigration minister, Michael Woodhouse, emphasising a “Kiwis first approach”.

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