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Are citizenship delays linked to your nationality?

Source: AAP

Following a series of articles published by SBS Punjabi about the long delay applicants have faced this financial year, while waiting for approval for their Australian citizenship, we were contacted by Melbourne-based John Lai about his personal experience.

Speaking to SBS Punjabi, Mr Lai said, "My wife and I applied for Australian citizenship March 2017, six weeks prior to announcing the proposed citizenship reforms. We decided to link our applications so that we could attend the citizenship ceremony together."

Whilst Mrs Lai is a Hong Kong national, Mr Lai and their two children were British citizens at the time they applied. 

"We both took the citizenship tests and passed it withing three days of each other in July 2017. Two weeks later I received a letter approving citizenship and to wait for the citizenship ceremony," said Mr Lai.

John Lai, his wife and two children, sharing their citizenship experience with SBS
John Lai, his wife and two children, sharing their citizenship experience with SBS

But even though the citizenship approval for Mr Lai had come through, he wasn't invited to attend a citizenship ceremony for at least eight months, until March this year.

"Come Feb 2018, I was still waiting for my ceremony invite and no news on my wife’s application. Having called the Department for an update in February and March, we were told by the agent the same story as per the SBS article - that the proposed reforms brought delays to many applications."

Mr Lai added, "We decided to delink our applications in March and I received a invitation to the ceremony in late May this year. My children and I attended the ceremony this month in June and are now Australian citizens."

"But we're still waiting on the outcome of my wife's application at the end of June 2018."

John Lai and his two children, who officially became Australian citizens earlier this month
John Lai and his two children, who officially became Australian citizens earlier this month

It is now approaching 16 months since Mrs Lai applied for citizenship along with her husband. Whilst the approval for her husband's application came within four months of his application, she is still waiting. 

"We have both lived in Australia for 5 years and 3 months. We satisfy the criteria  required to  apply for citizenship", Mr Lai added. 

"Whilst I'm very respectful of the Australian government's processes for assessing each application on its merit, I can’t but feel puzzled as to why my wife’s application is taking so long."

Although Mr Lai wouldn't hazard a guess on why the processing time for their applications have been so varied, he says, "It is interesting that even though we applied on the same day last year and passed the citizenship test with 3 days of each other, my application was approved within four months and we're awaiting an outcome for my wife even after 16 months. The only difference in our applications was our nationality."

As SBS Punjabi has reported previously, as of April 30 this year, there were over 200,000 citizenship applications being processed by the Department of Home Affairs, and perhaps a comparable number of permanent residency applications.

According to the Department, the average time from lodging an application to receiving citizenship has been stretched from 12 to 16 months.

Additionally, SBS Punjabi has also recently reported that Australian citizenship approvals have been dramatically lower this year, as compared to last year. 

During the first eight months of this year, 54,419 citizenship applications were approved compared to 139,285 in the year 2016-17. 

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