Strengthening the integrity of Australian Citizenship

The Turnbull Government will strengthen Australian citizenship by putting Australian values at the heart of citizenship processes and requirements.

Our reforms will ensure applicants are competent in English, have been a permanent resident for at least four years and commit to embracing Australian values.

Australia is an immigration nation. We are the most successful multicultural society in the world. More than 130,000 people from around 210 countries are invited to become Australian citizens each year. We welcome the contribution, opportunities and energy they bring to our community.

Membership of the Australian family is a privilege and should be granted to those who support our values, respect our 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 program is conducted in our national interest. The reforms will include:

  • Requiring all applicants to pass a stand-alone English test, involving reading, writing, listening and speaking;
  • Requiring applicants to have lived in Australia as a permanent resident for at least four years (instead of one year at present);
  • Strengthening the citizenship test itself with new and more meaningful questions that assess an applicant’s understanding of - and commitment to - our shared values and responsibilities;
  • Requiring applicants to show the steps they have taken to integrate into and contribute to the Australian community. Examples would include evidence of employment, membership of community organisations and school enrolment for all eligible children.
  • Limiting the number of times an applicant can fail the citizenship test to three (at present there is no limit to the number of times an applicant can fail the test);
  • Introducing an automatic fail for applicants who cheat during the citizenship test.

In our democracy, the most important title is “Australian citizen”. Citizenship brings with it great privileges and responsibilities and so deserves respect and commitment from those who seek it, as well as those who are granted it.

Those who choose to become Australian citizens are making a solemn commitment to our democracy, to our way of life. And that commitment, made by 5 million since 1949, has helped secure and enrich our nation.

English language proficiency is essential for economic participation. It promotes integration into the Australian community and social cohesion. Relevant exemptions will apply, such as for permanent or enduring incapacity and for those under 16 years of age.

Any conduct that is inconsistent with Australian values will be considered as part of this process. For example, criminal activity, including violence against women and children, involvement in gangs or organised crime, is thoroughly inconsistent with Australian values.

These changes have been informed by the feedback received from the National Consultation on Citizenship, conducted by Senator the Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Wells and the Hon Philip Ruddock MP in 2015 and the 2016 Productivity Commission Report Migrant Intake into Australia.

The new requirements will apply to all new applications for Australian citizenship.