A record number of migrants were conferred Australian citizenship on January 26, Australia Day.
On early Sunday morning, more than a hundred people gathered at City of Kingston’s Australia Day 2020 celebration in Melbourne’s South-East.
Among this large group were families who were there to take the oath and become Australian citizens.
Harshal Desai arrived with his wife and an infant daughter to Australia from India in mid-2014.
The young family arrived on a skilled permanent visa and settled in Melbourne where he has worked in sales-oriented roles across Security Surveillance & IT for last five years.
On Sunday, after a long process that took over 17 months, the Desai family received their Australian citizenship.
But instead of complaining about the long wait, the family rejoiced and celebrated the start of a new journey as Australia’s new citizens.
“It was an amazing experience. It was very well organised and planned event. It was a pleasure to meet the Mayor and learn about all the things the community was doing,” Mr Desai told SBS Hindi.
He said it ‘felt good’ to be an Australian citizen.
“Feels good and looking forward to all the visa-free travel in the future and contributing further to the nation,” Mr Desai said.
Compared to the Indian passport which allows visa-free access to 58 countries, Mr Desai is now eligible for an Australian passport which is the ninth most powerful passport in the world allowing visa-free access to 183 countries.
The young Indian family was among thousands who were conferred Australian citizenship on Australia Day.
More than 27,000 people marked this Australia Day by becoming Australian citizens – the largest ever number to make the pledge on 26 January.
Migrants from United Kingdom topped this list with 5053 conferred citizenship on Australia Day.
India ranked second on the list with 4031 migrants and China came in third with 2175 migrants conferred with citizenship.
Australia Day is the most popular day for people to attend a citizenship ceremony, with 100,000 people becoming Australian citizens on the national day in the past six years.
Acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs Alan Tudge congratulated the tens of thousands who attended the 454 ceremonies around the nation.
“Australia Day is an opportunity to celebrate our success as a multicultural nation and reflect on what it means to be an Australia,” Mr Tudge said.
“Citizenship is a chance for new migrants to make a pledge to uphold our laws and values and contribute to our cohesive, open and inclusive society.
“A citizenship ceremony is an important event in every new citizens’ life and being able to attend one on Australia Day adds extra significance.”
‘Long wait for citizenship’
More than 106,000 people have been welcomed as new Australian citizens in the last six months.
Between 1 July and 31 December 2019, 106,704 people were conferred with Australian citizenship, up from 48,983 in the same period in 2018.
But it continues to be a long wait for migrants.
As of December 2019, 128,383 applicants were still awaiting the outcome of their citizenship application.
According to the Department of Home Affairs, the processing time for 75 per cent of the applications from the date of application to the ceremony, is 21 months.
‘All citizenship applications are processed against a range of strengthened integrity measures, introduced by the Government in 2015,’ Mr Tudge said.