Is it harder now for Irish people to apply for Australian citizenship?

Ask the Experts: My son and his wife have built a life in Sydney and want to stay

With permanent residency, and  a nice life in place in Australia, how hard is it to get citizenship? Photograph: Getty Images

With permanent residency, and a nice life in place in Australia, how hard is it to get citizenship? Photograph: Getty Images

 

Q: Barbara

My son (34) moved to Australia four and a half years ago and has been working as an engineer in Sydney for the past two years. He and his wife, who is English, have really built a life there. They have a nice home and they are expecting their first baby in June – so he is planning to stay there for the foreseeable future. They both have permanent residency, and he told me last year that he was intending to apply for citizenship at some stage this year. But I saw something in the news lately that the rules for this have now changed. I’m wondering how this might affect him. Will these changes scupper their plans for the future?

A: Edwina Shanahan, managing director, VisaFirst.com

I should start off by saying that although there have been changes – your son and his partner still have options, so they should try not to let this stress them out – particularly at such an important stage of their lives, with a baby on the way.

In April, the Australian Immigration authorities announced a raft of changes to their immigration policies – which effectively means the rules have been tightened for the various visa classes.

In your son’s case, the changes to citizenship eligibility will be most relevant. You mentioned that they both have permanent residency – but you don’t say for how long. This will be an important factor when they apply for citizenship.

The changes that will probably impact on your son’s application are as follows:

– All applicants will be required to pass an English test, involving reading, writing, listening and speaking.

– Applicants will be required to have lived in Australia as a permanent resident for at least four years, instead of the current term of just one year. Years in the country on a sponsorship visa will no longer be counted

– The citizenship test itself will be “strengthened” with new and more meaningful questions that assess an applicant’s understanding of, and commitment to, shared values and responsibilities of Australian citizens

– Applicants will be required 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.

– The number of times an applicant can fail the citizenship test will now be limited to three. Currently no such limit exists.

– An automatic fail will be introduced for applicants who cheat during the citizenship test.

If they meet they meet the minimum term for permanent residency, then they should be in a good position to apply. And if they don’t, then it’s just a matter of waiting. If they plan to stay in Australia for the foreseeable future anyway, then they really just need to hold firm for the necessary months/years.

Not ideal, I know, as I’d imagine they would like to get everything done and dusted as soon as possible, but that is the situation now as it stands – the pathway to citizenship is now just longer than it was before.

Have a query for our panel of experts about emigrating, life abroad or moving home? Email them to abroad@irishtimes.com. This column is a reader service and is not intended to replace professional advice.

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