Easier citizenship test for wannabe Aussies after Senate rejects amendments

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Turnbull, Dutton
Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (L) and Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton speak on Australia's citizenship test during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, April 20, 2017. Reuters/Lukas Coch

Applications of migrants who want to become Australians will be processed under the current rules. That means easier tests for wannabe Aussies can be expected.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has told the ABC News that applications received after April 20 would be processed under current laws. In April, the federal government announced its planned changes that would have made it harder to become an Australian citizen.

The changes included introducing university-level English language tests. Also, permanent residents need to wait four years to apply instead of one.

But the government's citizenship changes have faced a huge blow in the Senate. Thousands of migrants who want to become Aussies are now no longer in limbo.

“There are many thousands of people whose lives have basically been put on hold by Peter Dutton and from today those people can move forward with their lives, make choices about their future and have confidence that their applications will be assessed under the current legislation,” Greens Senator Nick McKim told SBS News. The Senate crossbench reportedly rejected Dutton’s proposal hours before a parliamentary deadline to keep his bill.

NXT senator Stirling Griff had called on the government to begin processing new citizenship applications. "The government did not need legislation to impose the freeze on citizenship applications and it most certainly does not need legislation to lift it," he previously said.

A spokesperson for the immigration minister has confirmed that migrants who have already submitted applications for citizenship and those who plan to will be assessed under existing requirements instead of the tougher measures announced by the government, SBS News reports. If the government gets them through parliament, the new start date for the changes would be from July 1, 2018. It is understood that applications received until then will be processed under the current law.

The federal government reportedly wanted applications received since April 20 to be processed under its proposed changes. A spokesperson for Dutton said the government was committed to strengthening citizenship, and discussions would keep on with the independent senators.

It appeared the government was willing to reduce its proposed English-language skill threshold to “modest” from “competent.” On the nine-level International English Language Testing System scale, the change will be from level six to five.

On Wednesday, Dutton looked confident that their proposal is moderate and sensible. Currently, language skills are not tested in the Australian citizenship process, but some English is needed.