New Residence Requirements for Citizenship
The new residence requirements will only apply to people who become permanent residents on or after 1 July 2007. People who became permanent residents before 1 July 2007 need only meet the old residence requirements (presence in Australia as a permanent resident for periods amounting to two (2) years in the last five (5) years including one (1) year in the last two (2) immediately prior to making the application) provided they applied within three (3) years from the day the legislation commences.
Meaning of he new residence requirements for Australian citizenship – The new residence requirements for Australian citizenship in the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 mean that applicants will need:
> four (4) years lawful residence in Australia immediately prior to making an application for Australian citizenship with at least 12 months as a permanent resident, and
> absences from Australia of no more than 12 months in total in the four (4) years prior to application, and no more than three (3) months in the 12 month permanent residency period prior to application.
Whether traveling overseas affects eligibility under the new requirements – Absences of up to 12 months during that four (4) year period are allowed, with no more than three (3) months in the year before making the application.
Effect of the new residence requirements on temporary residents – The changes to the residence requirements from 1 July 2007 recognise time spent in Australia as temporary residents prior to the acquisition of permanent residence. Up to three (3) years of temporary residence will count towards the four (4) year residence requirement for citizenship.
In other words, people who become permanent residents after 1 July 2007 and have been living in Australia on temporary visas immediately before becoming a permanent resident will be able to have up to three (3) years of the time spent as holders of temporary visas counted towards the four (4) year residence requirement. They will need to have a minimum of one (1) year as a permanent resident.
The reason for the Government to change the residence requirements – Australian citizenship is a privilege, not a right. The former Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, the Hon Andrew Robb AO MP, stated that the Government is focused on ensuring that citizenship applicants have spent a reasonable period of time living in Australia so that they are familiar with the Australian way of life, and appreciate the commitment that they are required to make to become citizens.
The new requirements also recognise the changes in the migration programme over the years which have resulted in an increasing number of people spending significant periods of time in Australia as temporary residents prior to becoming permanent residents.
What about people who are outside Australia who are engaging in activities beneficial to Australia?
Periods outside Australia totalling up to 12 months in the four years, including 3 months in the 12 months prior to application, will not affect eligibility.
Periods of absence longer than this limit the capacity of an individual to understand and appreciate the Australian way of life, and the commitment they are required to make to become an Australian citizen.