Australia has announced a new citizenship test. Here's how it will work

A dedicated section on Australian values will be included in all tests for hopeful citizens from mid-November, the government has announced on Australian Citizenship Day.

Indian-born Edward Quinn at his citizenship ceremony

Indian-born Edward Quinn at his citizenship ceremony with Labor MP Wayne Swan Source: Supplied

Australia’s citizenship test is getting its first update in more than a decade, with a focus on Australian values.

Announcing the changes on Thursday - which marks Australian Citizenship Day - Acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, Alan Tudge said: “Our Australian values are important. They have helped shape our country and they are the reason why so many people want to become Australian citizens”. 

The new questions, which will be included on Australian citizenship tests from 15 November, “require potential citizens to understand and commit to our values, like freedom of speech, mutual respect, equality of opportunity, the importance of democracy and the rule of law,” Mr Tudge said in a statement. 

“We are asking those who apply for citizenship to understand our values more deeply before they make the ultimate commitment to our nation.”

What kind of questions will be on the new test?

The updated citizenship test will comprise of 20 multiple choice questions, including five new questions on Australian values. The applicant will be required to correctly answer all five of the questions on values, with a mark of at least 75 per cent overall, to pass the test.

There will be no changes to the English language or residency requirements for citizenship.

Examples of questions in the new values section include:  

  • Why is it important that all Australian citizens vote to elect the state and federal parliament?

  • Should people in Australia make an effort to learn English?

  • In Australia, can you encourage violence against a person or group of people if you have been insulted?

  • Should people tolerate one another where they find that they disagree?

  • In Australia, are people free to choose who they marry or not marry?

  • In Australia, is it acceptable for a husband to be violent towards his wife if she has disobeyed or disrespected him?

  • Do you agree that men and women should be provided equality of opportunity when pursuing their goals and interests?

  • Should people’s freedom of speech and freedom of expression be respected in Australia?

These aren’t the exact questions in the test and answers will be multiple choice. 

An updated version of the Australian Citizenship: Our Common Bond resource will also be made available online to assist those preparing for the test.

Why does citizenship matter?

Edward Quinn was born in India, grew up in Abu Dhabi, and went on to study mechanical engineering. When he decided to do his master’s degree, he chose Australia.

“I initially came to study,” the 31-year-old who lives in Brisbane told SBS News. “There was no real plan beyond that.

Mr Quinn
Mr Quinn is thrilled to be an Australian citizen. Source: Supplied

But once he discovered his degree made him a skilled worker in the eyes of Australia, earning him enough points to apply for permanent residency - and then citizenship - he decided to plan for the future.

It took only four months for Mr Quinn’s permanent residency to be approved, but citizenship would take some time. While he waited, he earned another master’s degree, this time in intellectual property law. Four years after he first arrived in the country - and after taking the citizenship test - his application was approved. 

“I felt a sense of relief when I got that email,” he said. “Knowing that process was ending was a relief because I didn’t engage a migration agent or lawyer or anything. I had taken on the stresses myself.”

He was sworn-in as an Australian citizen on 26 January 2018, a day he’ll never forget. 

“I felt incredibly happy and confident. After the ceremony, I felt I could stand up for myself against people who had told me ‘go back to your country’. Now I could tell them, ‘actually, I do belong here, I am Australian’.”

“Although it's a country, I think of Australia as a person that has helped me, and I feel so grateful,” Mr Quinn said. “I actually signed up to join the Defence Reserves [to give something back]. Unfortunately, I didn’t meet their medical criteria.”

What’s the difference between permanent residency and citizenship?

Generally, permanent residents can live, work, and study permanently in Australia, but they are not entitled to an Australian passport.  

Permanent residents do not have an automatic right of entry to Australia and must have a valid permanent visa to return to Australia as a permanent resident. Citizens can leave and re-enter Australia as many times as they want.

Citizens can also vote in federal, state or territory elections, can vote in a constitutional referendum or plebiscite, can seek election to parliament and can register the birth of their children in another country as Australian citizens.

Citizens can also ask for help from an Australian embassy or consulate if they are in trouble overseas. 

How many people become Australian citizens each year?

More than five million people have become Australian citizens since it was introduced in 1949. Over the past five years, more than 686,000 people have been granted Australian citizenship, including a record 204,000 people in 2019-20.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 84,000 people across Australia have received Australian citizenship through online ceremonies.

The top five countries of origin granted citizenship are currently India, the United Kingdom, China, the Philippines and Pakistan.

According to figures released by Mr Tudge’s office on Wednesday, there has been a 27 per cent increase in the number of visas issued during 2019-20. But the demand far outweighs the supply. 

According to a 2018 study looking at population gains if people were free to migrate anywhere they wished, Australia’s potential net migration index would increase by 179 per cent. Australia would be home to more than 44 million people as opposed to the current 24.99 million, the study by global analytics company Gallup Migration Research Centre found. 

There is also a backlog of applications. As of 31 August, the Department of Home Affairs had 159,846 general eligibility citizenship applications on hand, with 75 per cent currently taking 15 months for a decision, and 90 per cent taking 28 months. 

What impact has COVID-19 had on the citizenship process?

The Department of Home Affairs says the processing of citizenship applications has continued throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

In-person citizenship appointments and tests were placed on hold for a few months but have now recommenced at all sites except Melbourne.

Due to COVID-19 risks and restrictions, all in‑person citizenship ceremonies were placed on hold earlier in the year, before online ceremonies were introduced from 31 March. Some face-to-face ceremonies returned in June.

The department told SBS News online ceremonies will continue into 2020 and 2021 where COVIDSafe arrangements cannot be met for in-person ceremonies.

More than 2,500 people will receive their citizenship at more than 100 ceremonies across Australia on Thursday.

More information about settling in Australia can be found in the .

7 min read
Published 17 September 2020 at 6:13am
By Essam Al-Ghalib
Source: SBS