AUSTRALIA – Citizenship Processing Resumes
Following the Australian Senate’s block to the overhaul of the citizenship eligibility criteria, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) has resumed processing applications that were lodged on or after 20 April 2017.
However, processing times are expected to be longer while DIBP works through a backlog of applications.
As we reported at the time, on 20 April 2017 the Australian Government announced that it would be introducing tougher criteria for Australian citizenship and that the new requirements would be applied to all applications lodged from 20 April 2017 onwards. Under the proposed changes, permanent residents of Australia would be required to wait a minimum of four years before being eligible to apply and would also be required to prove a significantly higher level of English ability.
While DIBP waited for the changes to become law, processing of applications lodged on or after 20 April 2017 was put on hold.
On 18 October 2017, the Government, in an attempt to have the legislation passed, proposed amendments to the legislation, removing the retrospectivity of the legislation and the tougher English testing. The opposition parties rejected these amendments and the proposed legislation therefore did not proceed to a vote in the Senate.
The Government will present the legislation again and the proposed changes have improved the chances of the legislation getting through Parliament but also mean that if it does, only applications lodged on or after 1 July 2018 will be assessed against the new criteria.
DIBP have confirmed that Australian citizenship applications lodged from 20 April 2017 to 30 June 2018 will be assessed against the existing eligibility criteria and that processing has now resumed.
As no processing of applications lodged during the last 6 months has occurred DIBP will be working through a large backlog. Added to this are receiving a large volume of new applications following the announcement last week that any new criteria would not apply until 1 July 2018 at the earliest. DIBP has confirmed that there are currently more than 118,000 citizenship applications waiting to be processed. Processing times for citizenship applications are currently provided by DIBP as between 10 and 14 months on average.
There is now a window of opportunity to apply for citizenship before the Australian Government introduces tougher requirements. It is not possible to predict exactly what the changes will be, but there is a very good chance that the requirement that applicants have four years of permanent residence will be one of the changes.