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An Australian permanent resident has lost his appeal against the Immigration Department which declined his citizenship application over his repeated traffic offences.
Ritnesh Kumar’s driving history reveals multiple traffic offences between December 2007 and March 2015 which included disobeying traffic lights, over speeding, driving unregistered motor vehicle and driving while suspended.
Mr Kumar, a Fijian citizen, was fined $500 and disqualified from driving for three months by a Dubbo Court in May 2010 over driving an unregistered vehicle.
In his citizenship application filed in December 2015, he failed to disclose the court conviction.
A delegate of the Immigration Minister refused his citizenship application on the grounds that he failed to meet the character requirements. The decision has been upheld by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
In his explanation for the failure to disclose the court conviction, he said it had “almost slipped” from his memory and told the tribunal that he should be forgiven as he had learned from his past mistakes.
The Tribunal said there serious doubts about the veracity of Mr Kumar’s explanation.
“Even if Mr Kumar had truly forgotten the offending conduct that led him to attend Court, consequential difficulties arise in respect of his assertion that he has learned from his ‘mistake’– it is difficult to understand how someone can learn from something they have forgotten,” Tribunal Member S. Webb said.
Though the AAT said none of the offences committed was a serious offence, his lack of insight and the repetition of offending conduct showed a low-level pattern of “reckless disregard” for the safety of road users.
Mr Kumar produced character references and his positive employment record as an accountant and the fact that he had completed a Diploma of Chartered Accounting and would make a positive contribution to the Australian society.
But the tribunal held that the factors weighing against his good character outweighed the positive attributes of his character and that he did not satisfy the ‘good character’ test as set out in the Act. However, the tribunal said it did not mean that he was a person of bad character.
What do the experts say?
Michael Arch, a migration lawyer says driving offences are taken into account while ascertaining whether a person is of good character.
He says it’s not very clear when traffic offences may become a problem for a citizenship applicant and different factors may play a part.
“The nature of the traffic offence(s); the number of offences; whether anyone was injured or placed at risk of harm; whether the applicant has honestly disclosed the offences; the period of time that has passed since the offences were committed and whether the applicant has accepted responsibility, expressed remorse, and truthfully disclosed the criminal history on their citizenship application; how the offences have been treated by the courts, the amount of fines, whether the offences have resulted in imprisonment, whether the fines have been paid,” Mr Arch tells SBS Punjabi.
He suggests anyone who is concerned their traffic record may affect their citizenship application should seek legal advice.
“Any person who is concerned that their traffic record may affect their application should consider seeking legal advice. Every case turns on its own facts. Infringements by themselves, so long as paid, are less likely to form an impediment to a citizenship application than convictions in court.”