The Australian government’s plans to make stricter requirements to gain Australian citizenship is facing flak from business groups who say their members are a worried lot as migrant workers waiting for the country’s permanent residency may leave Australia, instead of waiting for its citizenship.
Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister, in April had approved reforms to the Citizenship Act and Migration Act, which a Senate inquiry is examining.
Included in the draft legislation are proposals such as stretching the wait for the permanent residency from one to four years before applicants are qualified to apply for citizenship. A new citizenship test has also been proposed along with swearing of loyalty to Australia and a requirement to exhibit Australian values.
Proficiency in English has been switched to competent instead of basic, which means that as Peter Dutton, Immigration Minister, had previously stated that it would have to be level six in the IELTS (International English Language Testing System).
Lisa Annese, Diversity Council Australia’s chief executive, was quoted by The Sydney Morning Herald as saying that her business members were worried that the extended requirement for the permanent residency would diminish Australia’s attractiveness as a business destination.
This along with the 457 visa changes had made corporates very concerned, as many of Australia’s largest companies had foreign skilled people working on major projects and this would make their future uncertain.
Ms Annese said that asking prospective citizens to wait three more years for citizenship could also see a flight of skilled permanent residents from Australia.
Niels Marquardt, Australia’s American Chamber of Commerce chief executive, said that the government’s approved changes had left businesses in up in the air. The chamber also disapproved of retrospective legislation and assailed the four-year requirement, stating that it would affect disproportionately people who did not arrive in Down Under as permanent residents.
With the imposition of strict permanent residency rules, most US nationals who were eligible to apply for a citizenship of Australian after at least five years would now have to wait for a minimum of eight years. In addition, it would inconvenience spouses and partners of Australian citizens, who would need to wait much longer to become eligible to apply for its citizenship.
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