21 Sep 2017

Are the proposed English requirements for citizenship setting the bar too high?

Australian citizenship is a dream for many migrants – but for those struggling with English as a second language, the proposed English requirements could soon become a barrier to citizenship.

Currently, an English language test is not required to pass the citizenship test. Those who are able to pass the current citizenship test are considered to have the fluency requirements of a Level 4 under the International English Language Testing Scheme (IELTS). The higher English test requirements of the proposed citizenship laws will however require migrants to sit a separate English language test to assess their reading, writing and speaking skills in an examination format with limited time-frames. They will also need to achieve a more challenging Level 6.

To put this in perspective, the Australian Council of TESOL Associations has stated the Level 6 English was higher than the literacy levels of over 25% of Australia’s general population. Figures from 2012-13 showed that this equated to at least seven million Australians with literacy below this level.

The Senate committee has recommended that the English-language requirements for citizenship be re-considered saying, “The required standard should not be so high as to disqualify from citizenship many Australians who, in the past, and with more basic competency in the English language, have proven to be valuable members of the Australian community.”

A Level 6 in English competency is commonly likened to scores required to enter university. While good English is important for migrants to be able to integrate into Australia’s way of life, debate remains whether ‘university-level’ standards of English are setting the bar too high.

The citizenship laws are yet to be passed, however and just recently Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton indicated he may be open to compromise. Dutton said part of the Government’s objective was to ensure prospective Australian citizens have a functional level of English and improve their language proficiency over time.

A Senate enquiry also recommended that those who became permanent residents before the announced changes on 20 April 2017 should not be forced to wait an extra three years before becoming eligible for citizenship. Another recommendation was made to reconsider the Government’s proposed two-year ban for three failed attempts at the citizenship test. Read about the proposed citizenship changes here.

The Immigracious team will keep you updated on the outcome of the citizenship laws in parliament and any potential impacts this may have. Currently, political parties are placing pressure on the Government to make a decision by 18th October 2017. We’ll be sure to keep you updated of any new developments as they arise.


Immigracious Migration Agents

The Guardian

Sheila Woods

Posted by: Sheila Woods

A very experienced migration agent, Sheila has always been fascinated by this field. Her university degree thesis was on Australia’s post-war immigration history (and it earned her first-class honours).

Filed in: Visas


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