Australia unveils major changes to citizenship process

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Australia will make it more difficult to gain citizenship in a major overhaul of its migration laws.

The changes include a more rigorous English language test and the ability to demonstrate "Australian values", PM Malcolm Turnbull said on Thursday.

Citizens must also have completed four years as a permanent resident, up from the current bar of one year.

The move comes two days after Australia unveiled stricter visa requirements for skilled workers from overseas.

Mr Turnbull said the changes would ensure that migrants were better integrated into the community.

"It is important that they understand that they are making a commitment to our Australian values," he said.

What are the changes?

In explaining what constituted "Australian values", Mr Turnbull said migrants must demonstrate support for religious freedom and gender equality.

"Respect for women and children ... that is a key Australian value," he said, adding domestic violence would not be tolerated.

Other changes to the citizenship process include:

  • A more stringent English language test involving reading, writing, listening and speaking;
  • Providing evidence of integration into the community, such as employment history, school enrolment or membership of community organisations;
  • Having already been a permanent resident for at least four years;
  • Allowing applicants to apply only three times, and automatically failing anyone who cheats on a test.

On Tuesday, the government said it would replace a controversial visa scheme to make it harder for foreign nationals to work in Australia.

Mr Turnbull said both announcements had been made in the national interest.

"The values which bind us together are those ones of respect, the rule of law, commitment to freedom, democracy, these are the key elements in our Australian identity and our citizenship should reflect this," he said.

The opposition Labor Party accused Mr Turnbull of making announcements for political gain.

"It seems a little odd to me that you would actually ask people whether or not they are going to obey the law when they already pledge to obey the law," said Labor senator Penny Wong.

BBC

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