MUMBAI: For the second consecutive year, Indians have been the largest group to obtain an Australian citizenship.
According to recent statistics from the Australian Department of Home Affairs, in fiscal 2018-19 (which is the twelve-month period ended June 30), a total of 1.27 lakh people, representing at least 200 countries of origin, were conferred Australian citizenship. Of these, 28,470 or 22.3% were from India. Australia has seen a spike in total number of people obtaining citizenship–this has increased by 58% as compared to the previous year 2017-18.
The year ending June 30, 2018 (fiscal year 2017-18) had seen India emerge as the largest group to obtain Australian citizenship, toppling UK. In this period, Indians obtaining citizenship by conferral numbered 17,756, out of an aggregate of 80,649 (a ratio of 22%). Immigration specialists say the aggregate numbers had hit a new low in 2017-18.
While number of Indians acquiring Australian citizenship has gone up 60% in 2018-19 compared to the previous year, which is almost in tandem with the rise in total number of citizens, ratio of Indians obtaining citizenship has remained largely static in both years at 22%.
The two most common streams of obtaining citizenship is by descent or by conferral. Statistics covered pertain to the latter. Citizenship conferral happens when an individual is granted Australian citizenship by meeting specified eligibility requirements and passing a citizenship test, which tests English and knowledge of Australia (senior citizens over 60 and children below 17 are exempt from the test).
Cyrus Mistry, Perth-based director of EasyMigrate Consultancy Services, told TOI that proposed changes for citizenship, especially a provision that would require applicants to have spent four years in Australia as permanent residents (instead of the present one-year requirement), had sparked interest among those eligible before the new rules came into existence.
He explained that in April 2017, the government introduced a bill to amend the citizenship rules. The key proposed changes, in addition to increasing the tenure as a permanent resident for eligibility to apply for citizenship included a more intensive English language test, a strong oath of allegiance and the need to prove integration into Australian society.
While this bill did not pass the Parliament and the old rules still apply, it led to a spurt in applications for citizenship. “Luckily, this bill has not passed the Parliament and the old rules continue,” adds Mistry.
Michael Wall, managing director at Gateway Immigration Solution, based in Sydney, agreed that the proposed amendment may have acted as an impetus. He also said that the pool of Indian nationals obtaining permanent residence has increased, resulting in more applications for citizenship. Permanent residency, which enables a foreigner to stay in Australia for an indefinite time is similar to a US green card. After living in Australia for a specified period, an individual can apply for permanent residency. The next step is applying for citizenship.
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