Australian citizenship a fraught process - but it could be worse...

Australian citizenship a fraught process - but it could be worse...

SBS World News Radio: As thousands of migrants get their Australian citizenship and enjoy their first day as official Australians, we look at the road they have had to travel to get there.

The process is lengthy and expensive, but isn't the most difficult in the world.

25 year-old Ruggero Venosi moved to Canberra from Rome six years ago.

He says he felt welcome in Australia right from the beginning.

"I did leave Italy right after high school because I knew I needed a better future and I needed to find better opportunities and while Italy has some opportunities, they won't reach everyone. I feel complete. I feel like I found the right place to be and that's where I'd like to spend the rest of my life."

His mother, Silvana, has travelled all the way from Italy to watch her son become an Australian citizen at a ceremony in Canberra.

It's been a long time coming and wasn't a cheap process.

Ruggero says his initial student visa, permanent residency and final step to citizenship has cost around $7,000 in total.

"The visa process is really hard and very expensive and very tricky. Lots of Italians get stuck in that system, lots of foreigners to be honest. I was persistent enough not to do it through a migration agent which means that I cut my costs by half."

In Australia, migrants can apply for citizenship after four years.

There's also a test which judges their English capability and knowledge of Australia.

Senior Lecturer at the Australian National University, Linda Kirk, says there's a growing feeling - particularly in the western world - that citizenship should be seen as a privilege.

"More and more as you read about this, I've noticed this idea of this earned citizenship is coming up, as though there's a recognition that it is a privilege and you need to be able to demonstrate that you are worthy of citizenship. I think this is becoming more and more the rhetoric that we're seeing especially in the times in which we live."

The United Kingdom also has a citizenship test that migrants are eligible for once they've lived in the U-K for at least five years.

They also need the money to do it.

It costs more than 1,200 pounds per person - the equivalent of more than $2,000 Australian.

Canada too has a citizenship test and migrants need to be able to prove they can speak either English or French.

Linda Kirk says some tests are more controversial.

"It was very intersesting to see in the Netherlands they have probably one of the strictest tests and one of the most broad-ranging. So, for example in the Netherlands, and there's also a few questions like this in Germany, they're asking questions about peoples' understanding of the divorce laws, for example, even questions about peoples' appreciation of whether or not same-sex couples can live together."

Austrian citizenship is one of the hardest to gain.

Migrants are only eligible after 15 years, and can wait up to 30.

They also need to renounce any other foreign citizenship.

China makes it virtually impossible for foreigners to gain citizenship while the Dominican Republic offers citizenship in as little as six months for foreigners who spend big on local government projects or real estate.

For the Ziaee family, Australia's peaceful environment made it their first choice when they moved from Iran almost ten years ago.

They now live in Canberra.

Soroush Ziaee says he was looking for a better quality of life for his family, particularly when it came to education.

"Australia for me was on the top priority because it's safe here and the children are safe here. The environment is very beautiful. There is very good weather here."

His wife, Leila, agrees.

"It's a free country, no one judge you. You can live without any problem if you are smart and right attitude you can find good opportunity for life here."


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