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The Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures) Bill 2017 will come before Senate next week.
33-year-old Tushar Choudhary is eagerly waiting for the outcome of the citizenship bill, scheduled to come up before parliament which resumes on Monday.
Choudhary, who became eligible for citizenship, under current legislation in June says the new changes to Australian citizenship which include tough English language test and the requirement where applicants have to spend four years as permanent residents before they can apply for citizenship, are unfair.
“The changes are unfair. For those who come from US, Ireland and England, they aren’t required to sit for English test but the rest of us, have to,” he said.
Choudhary is not alone. Several members of the Indian community are waiting with bated breath to learn the outcome of the bill scheduled to come up on Tuesday next week.
“The bill is unfair to so many of us who have spent years in Australia as international students and on other temporary visas before becoming permanent residents. Now the requirement to live for four years as PR before applying citizenship is ridiculous,” says Choudhary, who arrived as an international student in 2006.
“We are stuck. I hope the bill is defeated,” Choudhary told SBS Hindi.
Parliament resumes in Canberra on Monday for a four-day sitting after a month-long break.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton is keen to secure Senate passage of his bill, listed for debate on Tuesday, to tighten English language requirements for citizenship applicants and make migrants wait longer to apply.
However, Labor, the Greens and Nick Xenophon Team say the changes are unfair and have voiced their opposition to the bill.
On Monday, Tony Burke, Shadow Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Australia told SBS Radio, "The current changes proposed to Australian citizenship are the most direct attack on modern multicultural Australia since the abolition of the White Australia policy".
Without predicting the outcome of the bill, Burke, demanded that if the bill does not go through, the immigration department process applicants under the existing protocols.
“If the Senate does reject the government’s bill, the immigration department must start processing the applications immediately under current law,” he said.
On Tuesday, the leader of the Australian Greens, Richard Di Natale reacting to Burke’s statement said, “If Labor are going to reject government’s citizenship changes, then absolutely we will work with them.”
He also said, "the Greens have, from the moment the government put forward this legislation, said we don’t accept it. We don’t accept it that government is going to make it harder for people to gain their citizenship based on such a high level of English language proficiency."
He added, "it must be said that on number of (occasions), the Labor party has supported government legislation, whether it be, anti-terror legislation, be it treatment of people seeking asylum in this country, we are disappointed that there has been a bipartisan consensus that is really aimed at excluding people from this country, when we should be welcoming them.
"But if Labor is going to reject these citizenship changes, then absolutely we will work with them, to get them defeated.”
The Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) too has opposed the changes.
Even government senators who scrutinised the bill in an inquiry said the tougher English language standard should be reconsidered, as well as the proposed two-year ban on applications following three failed attempts of the citizenship test.
And that there should be some form of transitional arrangement for people who held permanent residency visas on or before April 20 so the current residency requirements apply to this cohort of citizenship applicants.
Atul Vidhata, a permanent resident who has studied and lived in Australia for over 10 years and is affected by the citizenship changes says it is unlikely the citizenship bill will pass in the senate.
“And if the bill is rejected it will likely bring a lot of relief to many of those affected,” he says.
Have you applied for Australian citizenship or affected by the changes to citizenship law? Write to us at Mosiqi.firstname.lastname@example.org