Last updated on November 29th, 2019
18th October 2019 was a special day for me. The journey which started with Australian PR was about to reach another milestone – Australian citizenship. On 18th October, the Department of Home Affairs sent me a mail stating that my citizenship test is scheduled.
Ever since I started the Australian PR process, I wondered how lucky were those who got Australian citizenship. I distinctly remember a citizenship ceremony video I saw of a Gujarati man who, despite not having a strong command of English, managed to live a successful life in Australia. It was very inspiring and got me thinking – will I ever be able to achieve what this guy did? Well, now that I became eligible for Australian citizenship, I think I am close to finding an answer to that.
Citizenship Reforms Drama
In April 2017, the Australian government announced significant changes to the Australian citizenship laws. The changes that Turnbull government proposed were:
- People need to stay as a Permanent Resident for four years before they become eligible for citizenship. Previously, you needed to stay a total of four years with 1 year as a Permanent Resident to become eligible. This was a heavy blow for all those who came to Australia on a temporary visa or work visa such as 457 and got PR as their entire stay on temporary visa became ineligible.
- People need to prove their English language proficiency by getting at least a band 6 score in IELTS. Now, this scared the living daylights out of everyone. Nobody wants to go through IELTS hell. After discussion in Senate, this was changed to band 5.
Earlier that year, there were also discussions to toughen the citizenship test itself. The proposal was to test people about Australian values and not just the history of the country. The aim was to “weed out” people who were not worthy of Australian citizenship such as terrorists and criminals.
Meanwhile, Pauline Hanson who loves controversies created another one. She proposed to make immigrants wait for 8 years before they become eligible for Australian citizenship. Thankfully, this proposal didn’t find many takers.
As government introduced these changes retrospectively (meaning they were put in practice even before they became law), it created a major upheaval and urgency among migrants. Even those, who were earlier lazy in applying for citizenship, rushed to add their name in the queue. In the end, it added more applications and in turn, heavy delays in processing those applications. Nearly 80% of the applications were taking more than 300 days to process. A lot of them were taking even more than a year!
I was keeping an eye on news and hoped that the new bill won’t be passed. To be honest, I was not scared but it might have been a little annoying to sit for IELTS again to prove my English when I had already proved it before coming to Australia.
Ultimately, due to strong criticism by major opposition parties such as Australian Labour party, the Greens and heavy campaigning by migrants groups, the bill was struck down on October 2017. As the saying goes, all’s well that ends well.
When Do You Become Eligible For Australian Citizenship?
I landed in Australia on June 28th, 2015 along with my family. According to the citizenship criteria:
- You should be living in Australia for the last 4 years and out of those 4 years, you should be on PR for last 1 year and,
- You should not be out of Australia for more than 1 year in the last 4 years and no more than 90 days within the last 1 year
As I fulfilled both of these conditions, I became eligible on June 28th, 2019. There are no residency requirements for children below 16 years of age, which meant my daughter became eligible too. I was, however, not sure about my wife because she went back after validation trip and came back after 6 months. I was not sure if I should take into account
- her first entry date when she came for visa validation or,
- her next entry date when she moved to Australia permanently
to calculate her eligibility. So, I decided to check to use the Australian government’s Residence calculator.
How To Use Residence Calculator To Calculate Your Eligibility?
There are a few terms to understand before using Residence calculator.
Permanent Residence Date – If you were in Australia when the visa was issued, this will be a visa issue date. On the other hand, if you were outside Australia when the visa was issued, this is the first entry date in Australia.
For example, I was in India when my visa was issued, so for me, 28th June 2015 would be the permanent residence date since that’s when I came to Australia for the first time. On the other hand, if I would have been in Australia and the visa was issued on say, 13th of September 2014, then that would have become my permanent residence date.
Lawful Residence Date – This is the date when you first landed in Australia, irrespective of visa type and whether it was validation trip or not. Plain and simple!
So if you land in Australia on 4th January 2015 on 457 visa and got PR on 27th April 2016, your lawful residence date would still be 4th January 2015. In my wife’s case, she came to Australia on 28th June 2015 for visa validation and came back later again in December 2015. So, her lawful residence date was 28th June 2015.
Intended Lodgement Date – It is the date when you will submit your citizenship application.
Apart from this, you need to know the start and end dates when you were out of Australia in the past 4 years.
To calculate the period when you were out of Australia, look at the arrival/departure stamps in your passport. The dates mentioned on the stamp for your arrival and departure in that country can be safely used to calculate total stay.For example, if you went to India and arrival stamp has a date of 25th December 2016 and departure stamp has a date of 16th January 2017, then you can use those two dates in residence calculator as your duration of stay in India.
Once you feed this information into the calculator, it will tell you whether you are eligible for Australian citizenship or not. If not, it will also tell you when you will become eligible. As it turned out, my wife too became eligible for Australian citizenship along with me. Goes without saying that it’s a handy tool if you have any doubts about your eligibility.
In the next part, I will tell you about the documents required for the citizenship process and the pain I went through to get them certified. Stay tuned!