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Citizenship application backlog mounts to 120,000

Australians support partial ban on Muslim immigration Source: SBS

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection will process all citizenship applications received before 1 July 2018 under the current citizenship law.

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection is having to deal with a huge backlog of citizenship applications after a freeze on processing which followed the announcement of now doomed citizenship changes unveiled on April 20th this year.

The Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures) Bill 2017 was struck off the Senate’s notice paper after it failed to overcome a challenge mounted by the combined opposition of the Labor, Greens and the Nick Xenophon.

While migrants are celebrating this as a "great victory", many of them are also submitting their citizenship applications.

"Though I was eligible for citizenship a few months ago, there was no clarity about the law. Now that we know the existing citizenship law will apply which is good, I decided to submit my application right away," said Saksham Katyal who has applied for citizenship on Thursday. 

The bill, introduced in Parliament in June this year, sought to increase the waiting period for permanent residents to four years and wanted migrants to prove their English proficiency, besides other changes.

Though the government, in a last-minute bid, reduced the English requirement from ‘competent’ to ‘modest’, which meant a score of 5 bands on a scale of nine instead of 6 bands on International English Language Testing System exam (IELTS), the government failed to muster enough support for the proposed law in the upper house.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, while announcing the proposed changes on April 20th this year, also said all the applications filed after the announcement would be processed under the new law. While the proposed legislation was hanging fire, the number of citizenship applications awaiting processing has jumped from 81,000 on June 27 this year to nearly 120,000 on October 15.

A spokesperson for the DIBP confirmed to SBS Punjabi that there were 119,908 conferral applications for Australian Citizenship on hand.  

After the citizenship bill's Senate debacle, Shadow Minister for Citizenship Tony Burke called for lifting the freeze on processing the citizenship applications immediately. 

“It would be an extraordinary decision of the department if they don’t begin processing those applications immediately,” he told SBS Punjabi on Wednesday. 

While the government plans to once again bring the citizenship law before the Parliament after making some changes and intends for it to take effect on 1 July 2018, it says the department would start processing all applications for citizenship filed before 1 July 2018 under the current law. 

Following the proposed citizenship law’s failure in the Senate, a spokesperson for Immigration Minister Peter Dutton confirmed to SBS that migrants who have already put in applications for citizenship, and those who still plan to, will be assessed under current requirements rather than the tougher measures announced by the government earlier this year. 

The government hasn't commented on the backlog of applications caused by the freeze on processing since April. 

According to the department, 90 per cent of all citizenship applications are processed within 14 months.

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