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An Indian citizen who has lived and worked in Australia for more than 22 years has been denied citizenship after he failed to satisfy the requirement of being ‘of good character’ for not disclosing his past conviction to the government.
Mr Singh* first came to Australia in June 1996 on a Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme visa. He was granted Permanent Resident visa in May 2011 and currently holds a Resident Return visa.
He was convicted in February 2007 of two counts of indecent assault and two counts of common assault arising from complaints made by several female employees of the restaurant at which he was employed as a chef.
He was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of six months which was wholly suspended on a three-year good behaviour bond.
However, he failed to mention this in his application form when he applied for citizenship in Feb 2017.
A delegate of the then Minister for Immigration and Border Protection upon rejection of his application in September 2017 said, “The Applicant had failed to disclose this conviction on his application form as required and indeed had falsely answered the question relating to any convictions by answering “no” in the relevant section of the form.”
"Lost in translation"
He appealed to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) where he argued he failed to give the true answer because of his poor command of and an understanding of the English language and reliance upon information in a National Police Certificate issued by the Australian Federal Police which certified that there were ”no disclosable court outcomes” recorded against the Applicant.
“Hence, this failure was ‘an inadvertent mistake,’” he said.
Mr Singh claimed his application was prepared by his lawyer.
The Tribunal heard Mr Singh speaks only rudimentary English and Mr Singh asserted that the application form was completed and lodged electronically by the solicitors.
The information to the solicitors was provided in Hindi which was then translated by “a girl in the office who spoke broken Hindi”.
He told the Tribunal he did not ask any members of his family because he wanted “to surprise his family with a grant of citizenship” and maybe his answers were miscommunicated by the staff member.
The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) found Mr Singh’s response to being ‘clearly a most unsatisfactory basis for such an important document to be generated.’
Judge Chris Puplick accepted that Mr Singh had a genuine desire for citizenship and that he had been a good husband and father, an economically productive member of the workforce and a contributor to his community.
“It may well be that, given the passage of more time and an acceptance of the degree of personal responsibility to which I have made reference, such an application could be successful.
“However at this stage, I cannot find that Mr Singh is, in terms of the Act, a person of “good character” and so his appeal is denied,” the judgement said.
*Name not revealed to protect identity.