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Thursday, April 20, 2017

New Citizenship Policies Emphasize 'Australian Values'

By Mike Bambach 

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (L) and Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton (R) discuss tighter citizenship requirements during a news conference Thursday at Parliament House in Canberra. Photo Lukas Coch/EPA

UPI -- Australia will make it more difficult to gain citizenship, announcing stringent policies Thursday that emphasize "Australian values."

The new requirements include a ­higher-standard English language test, belief in religious freedom and gender equality and a four-year residency period -- three years longer than present.

"We're not defined by race or religion or culture, as many other nations are," Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told reporters. "We're defined by commitment to common values, political values, the rule of law, democracy, freedom, mutual respect, equality for men and women."

Applicants also must provide evidence of integration into the community, including employment history, school enrollment or membership of community organizations.

"These fundamental values are what make us Australian," Turnbull said. "Our citizenship process should reflect that. "It is important that they understand that they are making a commitment to our Australian values."

The requirements would apply to all new applications for citizenship, the government said.


New visa requirements too

The move comes two days after Australia unveiled stricter visa requirements for skilled workers from overseas.

Australia announced stricter work visa rules Tuesday, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull saying the change will prioritize Australian workers.

The "457" work visa program, offering four-year visas to foreign workers in certain fields, will be replaced by two- and four-year visas, and the list of identified job categories will be reduced from 651 professions to 216. Application fees for visas will rise, and applicants will undergo English proficiency tests and criminal background checks.

Nearly 100,000 people were living in Australia in 2016 on 457 visas, nearly half from China, the United Kingdom or India. Most were employed as cooks, programmers and medical workers.

"We are putting jobs first, we are putting Australians first," Turnbull said. "We are an immigration nation, but the fact remains that Australian workers must have priority for Australian jobs. We will no longer allow 457 visas to be passports to jobs that could and should go to Australians."

The prior visa system was devised to fill gaps in the skilled labor market, but was criticized for its leniency and accessibility.

In a radio interview, Turnbull was critical of how the system was used, saying that workers arrived in Australia "on 457s to flip burgers at McDonald's. ... It basically displaced a lot of Australians from entry-level jobs."

Interesting - an English language test! Is there anyone in Australia who could pass one? Just kidding!