Record number of international students sticking around on visas with full work rights

More international students than ever are remaining in Australia for up to four years on graduate work visas following their studies.

The explosion has prompted concern from Labor, but the Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University (ANU) has argued they are not displacing other workers.

In March 50,000 international graduates were in Australia on the 485 visa — an increase of more than 16,000 in just 12 months.

Labor’s immigration spokesman, Shayne Neumann, said international students are an important contributor to the economy, but rapid growth in a visa subclass could be cause for concern.

“It’s incumbent on the Turnbull Government to ensure the integrity of Australia’s migration program,” he said.

Last year 350,000 international students were enrolled in universities — an increase of 100,000 in the preceding three years.

The lag between a student’s enrolment and graduation, and the grant of subclass 485 visas, means the number of international graduates working in Australia is set to rise even further in coming years.

International students are allowed to work for 20 hours per week during semester under their visa, but no time or occupation restrictions apply to the “post-study” graduate visa stream.

This provides a visa of two years following study — or up to four years for some higher qualifications — to those who complete degrees of at least two years.

The visa may assist some towards a pathway to permanent residency, but the majority of international students return to their home countries.

‘Very high value people’
ANU Vice-Chancellor, Professor Brian Schmidt told that the visa provides “flexibility” and “financial incentives” to students.

“But it also means the graduates we have here, who are incredibly well trained, have the opportunity to contribute to the Australian economy,” he said.
A 2015 report from the Productivity Commission stated “there is little doubt that immigration has boosted the supply of youth labour” and “continued monitoring of the impact of immigration on youth and graduate labour markets is warranted”.

Since this report was released, the number of temporary graduate visa holders in Australia has more than doubled.

Tweaks to the visa in 2013 gave longer and less restrictive post-study work rights to university graduates than those in vocational training.

According to the 2016 i-graduate International Student Satisfaction Survey, the opportunity to work in Australia following study was more important to students than the opportunity for part-time work during study.

This survey, partly funded by the Department of Education and Training, found the following factors were most important to students coming to Australia:

reputation of the qualification,
reputation of the institution, and the
reputation of the education.
Teacher reputation, opportunities for further study and social life were factors ranked immediately above the opportunity to work in Australia following studies.

 

Students left in a lurch by sudden visa policy change

International students from India have been left in the lurch due to the ACT government’s sudden change in their visa policy.

Earlier this year, Kanish Chug moved to Canberra and enrolled himself in a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) course at the University of Canberra, in the hope of getting five additional points required to beat the high competition in his occupation for skilled migration to Australia.

“I have 75 points. The competition is very high. Only a fixed number of accountants are invited each year and the cut off is very high. When I heard Canberra was giving state nomination for those who lived here, I moved to Canberra hoping it will help me gain five more points,” Mr Chug told.

In July 2017, the ACT government opened up state nomination for occupations which were not on the “open” list of in-demand jobs, if they already lived in the ACT.

If a person could prove they had been living in the ACT on a student visa or graduate visa for at least 12 months and had completed a Certificate III or higher education at a local institution, they could qualify for state nomination.

This prompted many like to move to Canberra.

Anjali* moved her family from Perth to Canberra upon learning this.

“I sold off everything and moved here in September 2017. I have enrolled myself in a Professional Accounting course here, paid thousands in fees, just to become eligible for state nomination.

“And now they tell us, this policy is no longer available. I can’t tell you how depressed I am,” she said.

Anjali and Kanish told that the news has been devastating, saying it’s leaving their futures bleak.

“I paid $50,000 for my Master’s degree in Melbourne. I enrolled myself in another degree to get five extra points and have paid thousands in fees.

“It is devastating to learn that all my effort to move to Canberra, my hard earned money was for nothing,” Kanish says.

Anjali says she would have qualified in September for state nomination had they not changed this policy suddenly.

“I don’t know what to do now. I feel cheated,” she says.

Anjali and Kanish are not alone.

Hundreds have signed an online petition demanding the ACT Government honour its original promise and allow international students enrolled in an ACT institution on or before the 29 June 2018, to apply for ACT nomination under the policy in place on that day.

This petition has received over 600 signatures over two days.
“ACT government to review visa program”
The ACT Government has now said it’s looking at a ‘more flexible way’ to help people who had moved there.

“Given that demand for the program is expected to continue to increase, there will be a need to find a more flexible way to manage the program within the limitations imposed by the Department of Home Affairs,” The Canberra Times quoted a spokeswoman of Chief Minister Andrew Barr.

Pathway to claim 5 extra points towards Australia’s skilled migration

Visa applicants in skilled migration program are keen to gain extra points after the federal government announced significant changes in the point system from 1 July 2018.

Australia’s skilled migration program is a points-based system designed to attract highly qualified and experienced professionals to best meet Australia’s skills needs.

There are a number of skilled migration visas that require applicants to score a minimum number of points to qualify for permanent skilled migration.

After the government’s recent announcement of increasing points threshold from 60 to 65, many prospective applicants are looking for alternative ways to boost their chances in the General Skilled Migration (GSM) visa point system.

Some of the new applicants now rely on boosting their points by clearing language test from National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI).

NAATI offers Credentialed Community Language (CCL) Test that gives 5 points to the prospective applicants for their point-based GSM visa.

CCL Exam determines an applicant’s ability to interpret the conversation between two speakers speaking different languages.

Harpal Singh is a NAATI accredited translator and interpreter for Punjabi-English and he also serves as a member of the Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators (AUSIT) and the New Zealand Society of Translators and Interpreters (NZSTI).

Mr Singh told SBS Punjabi that in the last month only there has been an increase in the number of people who wish to take NAATI’s CCL test to gain five points for skilled migration point test.

“This follows government’s recent amendment to the point test threshold, and now everyone is keen to meet the desired criteria by taking up this examination,” he said.

“There’re two options, either you score 7 each in the English proficiency test IELTS or you clear NAATI’s CCL test. Often people find the second option easier as it is conducted at a conversational level compared to the academic nature of IELTS.”

Mr Singh explained that it should be clear that an individual who passes a CCL test is not certified to work as an interpreter or translator.

“This system is designed to benefit people who have multilingual skills. It is only supposed to help them gain five bonus points for their points-based visa applications made to the Department of Home Affairs. This does not provide them with a work opportunity in this field,” he says.

“The overall pass rate of the CCL test is above 50% and that’s why we see a large number of applicants opting for this test.

“It looks quite promising compared to the pass percentage of the test conducted to get certification as an interpreter or translator, which sits well below 15%.

Mr Singh explained that an overwhelming number of candidates take the CCL test lightly and come unprepared for the exam. “Just don’t be overconfident… It is only the practise that will make you through, so put some time and sincere effort if you wish to succeed,” he suggests.

Melbourne-based migration agent told that the recent change in the point test could be attributed to the high calibre of prospective applicants who express their interest in the GSM program.

“I often deal with Punjabi, Hindi and Urdu speaking clients from Indian-subcontinent and I see a huge interest in them to take the NAATI test to gain 5 extra points,” he said.

“The test success rate seems ok but the problem lies in registering for the examination. My clients are struggling to book sessions as there’re no seats available until December.

“It seems like a poorly organised system. I went to check NAATI’s Melbourne office who suggested they don’t have enough resources or manpower to cope-up with this huge increase in the number of applicants.

“The applicants who are desperate to gain this bonus may think of taking this test in the less crowded cities rather than doing it in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. But I seriously doubt if there are any seats left in those cities.

Australian citizenship approvals have been dramatically reduced

The processing of citizenship applications has been painfully slow this year with the Department of Home Affairs approving 54,419 applications during the first eight months of 2017-18, compared to 139,285 last year, according to information released to the Federal Parliament on Monday.

During this financial year, a total of 141,236 citizenship applications were received as of February 28, the Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs revealed.

The Department of Home Affairs last month told the Federal Parliament that over 200,000 people were awaiting the outcome of their citizenship applicants as of April 30 this year with the average waiting period for processing applications ballooning up to 16 months.

The relatively low number of citizenship grants is attributed to the period of April- October 2017 when the Department held on to new applications after announcing the citizenship reforms that sought to increase the general residence requirement and introduce a standalone English language test. The Government is planning to bring back a reworked version of the Bill after its proposed law was defeated in the Senate.

Home Affairs officer Luke Mansfield told a Senate Estimates hearing last month that an increased number of applications coupled with tightened national security requirements had led to an increase in the processing time of citizenship applications.

Citizenship applicants facing uncertainty

Atul Vidhata who runs an online forum – Fair Go for Australian Citizenship, says many migrants have been waiting much longer than sixteen months.

“When these people contact the department, they are told it’s not a service standard to process the applications within this timeframe,” he tells.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty due to a lack of clear communication. In our experience, some applications that were made in 2018 are being processed faster whereas applications made in 2017 are still held up.”

MP Julian Hill had questioned the Citizenship Minister Alan Tudge about the criteria applied for applications requiring ‘thorough analysis’ or ‘further assessment’.

“All applications for Australian citizenship are assessed on a case-by-case basis against the legislative criteria,” Mr Tudge responded.

India overtakes the UK as top source of Australian citizenship

Responding to questions by Victorian Labor MP Julian Hill, Mr Tudge revealed the country-wise break up of citizenship statistics.

India has been the top source of citizenship in Australia for the last five years overtaking the United Kingdom.

Since 2012-13, over 118,000 people born in India have pledged their allegiance to Australia by becoming Australian citizens. Indian migrants also top the list of country-wise visa recipients in Australia’s annual immigration program.

As of February 28 this year, 10,168 Indian-born migrants were granted Australian citizenship with 25,408 Indian-born people applying during the same time. The 2016-17 figure stood at 22,006 citizenship grants to Indian migrants with 29,955 Indians applying for it.

The coalition is putting the early squeeze on foreign workers

The 457 visa for temporary workers won’t be officially abolished until March 1, but the number granted has already fallen by more than a third – heralding a squeeze on foreign workers by the coalition.

Australian National University researcher Henry Sherrell has found the number of primary 457 visas granted in the 2017 September quarter was down by 35.7 per cent on the same period of 2016.

And the dive was not because some jobs – most famously, “goat farmer” – have been ruled ineligible. In a paper published by the Parliamentary Library, the ANU Development Policy Centre research officer reports only a fifth of the decline in 457s came from the scrapped occupations.

Eight of the top 10 occupations for primary 457 visas had significant double-digit declines. Developer programmers were down by 42 per cent to 350 in the quarter, ICT business analysts plunged 49 per cent to 238, resident medical officers dropped 18 per cent to 436 and the top 457 job, cook, was off 29 per cent to 452.

Given the near-record employment growth last year, the sharp reduction in 457s appears to have nothing to do with demand for labour, but a response by employers and would-be employees to hiring and gaining permanent residency being made more difficult and expensive.

The size of the fall and the breadth of occupations to experience it during a period of very fast employment growth should raise some interesting questions about the nature of the Australian workforce and how 457s have been used.

From March 1, the 651 occupations eligible for 457 visas will be formally replaced by 435 occupations eligible for Temporary Skilled Shortage (TSS) visa, which comes in two flavours: a two-year visa that can be extended only once and offers no pathway to permanent residency; and a four-year visa that can lead to permanent residency. There are only 183 occupations eligible for the four-year visa.

The possibility of permanent residency seems to make an immediate difference to applications. Sherrell notes that while cook 457s plunged, visas granted to chefs rose slightly. Chefs are in the pot for four-year visas, cooks are left in the two-year pan.

“The increase in chefs could reflect genuine growth in employer demand for chefs,” Sherrell writes. “However, it may also reflect employers who previously nominated cooks now nominating chefs as this is a more advantageous occupation for migrants and employers given visa conditions. If the job being performed in the business has not changed, this might be called ‘occupational inflation’, as employers upgrade their occupations to take advantage of more beneficial immigration policy settings.”

Visa requirements tighten further from March. For the shorter TSS, applicants will need at least two year’s work experience – wiping out many of the foreign students and backpackers that have been transitioning. Employers will be subject to greater scrutiny, higher visa costs and a new training levy. There are stricter English language requirements and a lower maximum age for the four-year visas.

Sherrill notes a lack of other useful data on 457s, such as salary figures and the number of applications that are rejected, and warns that isolating the effects of specific policy change is difficult amidst multiple factors, but he suggests the eligibility changes could further reduce demand for TSS visas.

Before anyone gets too excited thinking fewer overseas workers will mean higher wages, Sherrell’s isn’t the only interesting paper to consider. Slate.com reports an American study that has relevance here on why workers aren’t getting decent wage rises despite jobs growth and falling unemployment.

The study suggests it’s not so much a matter of an excess of workers holding down wages, but a shortage of employers.  The idea is that in various geographical areas and fields, hiring is concentrated among a relatively small number of businesses resulting in a monopsony problem – a lack of competition among employers.

“Monopsony is essentially monopoly’s quieter, less appreciated twin sibling,” Slate explains. “A monopolist can fix prices because it’s the only seller in the market. A monopsonist, on the other hand, can pay whatever it likes for labour or suppliers, because it’s the only company buying or hiring.”

Given the limited number of players in key Australian industries, it’s not impossible to think monopsony develops whereby it’s not in those players’ interests to compete too hard for workers, or to at least not compete on price.

Meanwhile, back at the 457s, Sherrell says there’s a lack of analysis of the changes but cites an August report by the Australian Population Research Institute’s Bob Birrell – a campaigner against present migration levels.

Birrell called the 457 changes “the first serious sign that either major political party is prepared to tackle the immigration issue”.

“Make no mistake about the significance of the rest,” he wrote. “When fully in place from March 2018, the flagship ENS (employer nomination scheme for permanent residency) program will fall to less than a third of its recent size of 48,250. The number of TSS visas will also fall sharply relative to the current number of 457 visas being granted.”

Birrell expects further reforms by the government to make their immigration policy change more obvious to the public.

The apparent contradiction here is that while fewer 457/TSS visas would mean a relatively small reduction in the number of people in the country, there’s been no sign of a change in the permanent visa quota of 190,000, plus humanitarian admissions. Family reunions – mainly spouses – get 60,000 places and skilled migrants and their families the rest.

Whether the 130,000 should come as “newbies” based on their qualifications or those given a trial run through temporary work is a matter of further debate.  The Productivity Commission has argued that temporary workers here should not be given an advantage in the selection process, but the Lowy Institute’s Peter Mares makes a casefor the two-step temporary-to-permanent pathway having significant benefits for productivity because it facilitates better matching of skills to positions.

“Before the introduction of 457 visas, skilled migrants would often be granted a permanent visa before arrival in Australia,” Mares wrote. “Visas would be issued under the points system, which was the government’s attempt to match the annual skilled migration intake to its expectation of the number and types of professionals the economy would need in the year ahead. Migrants would often land in Australia and then search for a job to match their qualifications.

“Frequently, however, they might end up taking a position in which their skills were not well utilised. (We are all familiar with the scenario of engineers driving cabs, for example.) This might have been because government assumptions about the labour market were incorrect, or because those assumptions had been overtaken by a change in business conditions.”

p.s. despite the crackdown on goat farmers and kennel handlers,  the list or eligible skilled occupations for foreigners remains somewhat curious. It includes “journalists and other writers”. Anecdotal evidence would point to no shortage.  At least “federal politicians” doesn’t feature.

From 1 February 2018, Immigration SA High Points category will increase to 85 points.

The High Points category has been successful in attracting high quality applicants to South Australia.

From 1 February 2018, Immigration SA’s High Points category will increase to 85 points.

Applicants who can achieve 85 points or higher (including state nomination points) can gain access to the Supplementary Skilled List (SSL) and occupations on the State Nominated Occupation List which are listed as ‘Special Conditions Apply’. Applicants must meet all other South Australian state nomination requirements to qualify.

Quotas apply to nominations in the High Points category. Once this quota is reached, applications under this category may be closed for certain occupations

http://www.migration.sa.gov.au/skilled-migrants/nomination-process/skilled-nomination-requirements/high-points

Employer Sponsorship (457 Visa) Update

Employer Sponsorship – Update 15 January 2018

Since the Government’s announcement on 19 April 2017 there have been a number of changes to the employer sponsored program, with more to take effect as early as January 2018 and in early March 2018.

The relevant legislation hasn’t been released but, Immigration recently issued their January Skilled Visa E-news to help understand some of these arrangements.

New Occupations Lists from January 2018
Immigration have indicated the changes to employer sponsored occupations lists for temporary and permanent skilled visas will be introduced around 17 January 2018.
We have been advised these changes will not impact undecided applications, providing they were lodged before the change takes effect. Given the severe impact similar changes had to temporary residents last year, this is a welcomed approach.

Further information is expected to be released in the coming days.

457 Visas Replaced by TSS Visas from March 2018
The 457 Visa will be replaced by the Temporary Skill Shortage (TSS) Visa in early March 2018.
TSS Validity Period
Currently, a 457 visa granted on or after 19 April 2017 is valid for:
Up to 2 years if the nominated occupation is on the Short-Term Skilled Occupation List (STSOL), unless exempt by an international trade obligation), or
Up to 4 years if the nominated occupation is on the Medium to Long-Term Strategic Skilled List (MLTSSL)
This arrangement will continue when the TSS is introduced.

Police Clearances
In July, Immigration introduced the requirement for 457 applicants to provide police clearance certificates for each country they spent more than 12 months in. This will continue with the TSS Visa.
Labour Market Testing
In March 2018, Labour Marketing Testing (LMT) will be required on all TSS applications where international trade obligations don’t apply. Currently, LMT applies when nominating trade, nursing, or engineering occupations.
If LMT is introduced for all cases, this could delay the lodgement of a TSS application and impact the Sponsor’s ability to urgently fill their vacant position.

Further details on the TSS including streamlined initiatives for processing applications will be announced by Immigration in February.

Employer Sponsored Permanent Residence
In March 2018, further changes are planned for employer sponsored permanent residence as outlined in our article 14 November 2017.
In Immigration’s January Skilled Visa E-news they advised the transitional arrangements, or grandfathering provisions, for certain 457 visa holders and 457 applicants as at 18 April 2017, were subject to final approval.

More details are to be announced in February.

Conclusion
Many are unsure whether they should use a Migration Agent to lodge their visa application.
Since 19 April 2017, obtaining an employer sponsored visa has become more complex and slower than was previously the case. More changes are in the pipeline and much of the information circulating about Immigration’s announcements may be confusing.

Employers should also be aware of upcoming changes in January 2018 and March 2018 and where possible, applications should be lodged before these critical dates to ensure that the impact of the changes is minimised.

MY VISA ONLINE can assist with ensuring that an employer sponsored visa is lodged prior to any critical dates. We can also ensure that it is lodged as a “decision ready” application, and so can be processed as quickly as possible.

If you are an employer and would like advice on sponsoring staff, please call our consultant on 03 9670 1010.

If you are looking at your own visa options and want to know more about the changes to employer sponsorship, please book a consultation at MY VISA ONLINE. As always we are HAPPY TO HELP.

Changes to Apply from March 2018 to ENS and RSMS

The main changes Changes to Apply from March 2018 to ENS and RSMS which will apply from March 2018 are as follows:

Occupations List

Applicants must in general have an occupation on the shorter MLTSSL (Medium Long Term Strategic Skills List) to apply for an Employer Nomination Scheme (ENS) visa from March 2018. Extra occupations will be available for the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (RSMS), but it is not yet clear which occupations these will be. If your occupation is not on the MLTSSL, you may no longer be eligible for permanent residence through the ENS or RSMS program from March 2018
Age

Applicants for ENS and RSMS must be under 45 at the date of application from March 2018. Currently, 457 holders applying for the Temporary Residence Transition Stream can be under 50 when applying
Minimum Salary

From March 2018, applicants must have a base salary of at least Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT – currently $53,900) to qualify. There is currently no minimum salary applicable to ENS and RSMS visas.
Work on 457 Visa – TRTS Requirement

Currently 457 holders who have worked for their employer in their position for the last 2 years may be eligible for ENS or RSMS through the Temporary Residence Transition Stream (TRTS). The TRTS is a streamlined pathway which may not require the same skills assessment, age, English language ability and health requirements as the Direct Entry Stream. From March 2018, 3 years of work experience on a 457 will be required instead of the current 2 year requirement
Training Levy

A training levy will be applicable to all ENS and RSMS applications. The amount will depend on the turnover of the sponsoring business and will be $3,000 for small businesses and $5,000 for businesses with turnover of $10 million or more.
Grandfathering Provisions for 457 Holders or Applicants as of 18 April 2017

The Department of Immigration has announced that 457 holders and applicants as of 18 April 2017 will not need to meet all of the new requirements.
These “grandfathered” 457 holders have access to transitional provisions which would preserve their eligibility for ENS and RSMS through the Temporary Residence Transition Stream.

To be eligible for the transitional provisions, you must either have:

Held a 457 visa as of 18 April 2017; or
Have a pending 457 visa application as of 18 April 2017, and this application was subsequently granted
Grandfathered applicants will not need to meet all the new requirements when applying for Temporary Residence Transition Stream ENS and RSMS visas from March 2018, and in particular:
Occupation: grandfathered applicants will be able to apply even if their occupation is not on the MLTSSL
Age: they will be able to apply providing they are under 50 years
Work Experience on 457 Visa: they can qualify once they have worked in their occupation for their employer on a 457 visa for 2 years

Grandfathered applicants will still need to meet the requirements for minimum salary (TSMIT) and payment of the training levy from March 2018.
RSMS Postcodes

A new legislative instrument has been released yesterday which specifies the postcodes for RSMS, as well as the Regional Certifying Bodies. The Perth Metropolitan Area is now excluded from the RSMS program, though it is still possible to apply if your position is located in a postcode specified in the instrument.
The instrument comes into effect on 17 November 2017.

Australian Citizenship Bill Update September 2017

A Senate Committee has produced a report on the Australian Citizenship Bill which was introduced in June 2017. The Committee found issues with the proposed legislation and recommended that changes be made before it is passed.

A motion has been passed by the Senate that if the Bill has not passed by 18 October 2017, it will be struck off the list of legislation being considered and will need to be re-introduced to Parliament for it to pass.

This article gives a summary of the Senate Committee Report and details of the motion to discharge the Bill.

Motion to Discharge Citizenship Bill from Senate Notice Paper

On 13 September, the Australian Senate has passed a motion to have the Citizenship Bill discharged from the Notice Paper of legislation under consideration.
As a result, if the Bill is not passed by 18 October 2017, it will no longer be under consideration for passage by the Senate and would need to be re-introduced into Parliament.

As there are only 4 sitting days of the Senate before this date, it is looking likely that the Bill will be discharged.

Community Feedback on the Bill

The Senate Inquiry received 13,500 submissions on the Citizenship Bill. The overwhelming majority raised serious concerns, and only 0.01% of the submissions were in favour (one of which was from the Australian Government).
English Language Requirement

The Bill requires most applicants for citizenship to show “Competent English”, but did not specify the level required and this can be set by legislative instrument. This is defined elsewhere in the Migration Regulations as 6 in each band of IELTS or equivalent score in one of the other English tests, but the Bill did not link to this definition. Currently, no formal English test is required and this is assessed by the applicant completing the Citizenship test, which is estimated to require English at approximately the IELTS 4 level.
The majority report recommended that the requirements the proposed “Competent English” requirement be “clarified”. It recommended against “adopting a standard that may current citizens could not reach” – this would imply that a standard lower than Competent should be applied.

Dissenting reports expressed concern that the proposed level of English was inappropriate, and in particular:

It would lead to large segments of the Australian community unable to attain citizenship
Refugees and migrant spouses would be disproportionally affected
The proposed level of English is very high – the Australian Council of TESOL Associations estimates that approximately 7 million Australians were below IELTS 6 level in 2012-13.
Retrospective Application of Legislation

When the proposed changes to citizenship requirements were announced on 20 April 2017, the intention was that these would apply to any applications lodged on or after this date. This is of concern to many permanent residents because there was no advanced notice of the change.
The Committee received many letters from permanent residents who were already eligible for Australian citizenship prior to the announcement of the changes.

47,328 people had lodged applications for citizenship between 20 April and 16 July 2017. The Department of Immigration estimates that 25,788 of these people would not meet the new residence requirement. These applications are not being processed pending gaining certainty around passage of the Bill, and so it is very important for these people to know whether the changes will be retrospective.

The main report recommended that the Government consider introducing transitional provisions so that people who held permanent residence prior to 20 April 2017 would not be affected by the changes.

Dissenting reports recommended that the legislation not be retrospective in effect in any way.

Residence Requirement

The Bill proposes that the current 1 year minimum period of holding permanent residence be increased to 4 years for most applicants. Currently, time spent lawfully in Australia on temporary and bridging visas can count towards the 4-year residence requirement.
The main report did not recommend changing the proposed residence requirement, but did acknowledge the significant impact on permanent residents who had made future plans based on eligibility for Australian citizenship. As a result, the committee recommended that transitional provisions apply to people who held Australian permanent residence as of 20 April 2017.

Dissenting reports were scathing on the proposed residence requirement and in particular:

Residence in Australia on a temporary visa does indicate a commitment to Australia
Not being able to obtain citizenship can reduce people’s contribution to Australia
Quoted many instances of people who had been in Australia for long periods of time and contributed to the economy
Labor cited a lack of evidence that longer residence would actually result in better integration and social outcomes
Integration Test

Dissenting reports held that the proposed changes will negatively impact the cohesion of Australian society and would actually increase the risk of security issues. For instance:
Labour suggested that programs supporting integration into the Australian community be boosted – for instance the Adult Migrant English Program, the National Community Hubs Program, the Translating and Interpreting Service and various State and Territory services
The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) believes that the bill will “create a permanent underclass of Australian residents who will be denied the rights and opportunities of … being Australian citizens”
Children Born in Australia

Children born in Australia currently become Australian citizens by operation of law on their 10th birthday – even if they spend time in Australia without a visa. The proposed legislation would eliminate this pathway.
The main report echoed concerns expressed by the Australian Human Rights Commission, Public Law and Policy Research Unit, Law Council and the Kaldor and Gilbert + Tobin Centres on the impact of the proposed changes, especially for children of asylum seekers and children of parents who had overstayed their visas. However, it made no recommendation to change this aspect of the Bill.

The Greens expressed serious concerns about the impact of the changes on children, particular if they became stateless or were punished for transgressions of their parents. The Greens cited submissions from UNICEF and the Australian Lawyers Alliance. The Nick Xenophon Team report also expressed concerns.

Increase in Ministerial Discretion

Ministerial Discretion to cancel, revoke or delay taking of pledge

The Bill introduced new powers for the Minister to:
Cancel approval for citizenship
Revoke citizenship
Delay an applicant taking the pledge of allegiance for up to 2 years
The main report expressed some concern about the expansion of ministerial discretion but stated that the power to revoke was justified on national security grounds.
Merits Review and Ministerial Discretion

Some Ministerial decisions would be excluded from merits review at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT). The Minister would also have the power under the proposed legislation to set aside decisions at the AAT, if refusing or revoking citizenship is in the public interest.
On this ground, the main report indicated that the Minister’s power was justified on the basis that they were accountable to the Australian people, whereas the AAT is “accountable to no one”.

The Greens were highly concerned about the Minister’s power to revoke citizenship and override AAT decisions.

Broad Instrument Making Power

Concerns were expressed about the broad instrument making power of the Minister in submissions to the Senate Committee. Instead of having requirements set out in the Citizenship Act, many key requirements would be set out by Legislative Instruments which are not “disallowable” and hence excluded from Parliamentary oversight. An example of this would be the statement of Australian values, but the Bill gives the Minister seemingly unfettered power to make instruments. The explanatory statement indicates that the intention of these is to be able to specify matters such as the method of payment of fees, but there is no explicit restriction to this effect.
The main report echoed concerns which had been expressed by the Scrutiny of Bills Committee but did not make a recommendation to change the Bill in this aspect.

The Nick Xenophon Team report expressed concern about the Minister’s broad instrument making power, particularly in relation to the Australian Values and integration assessment components.

Repeat Sittings of the Citizenship Test

The Bill allowed the Minister to set a maximum number of times an applicant can sit the Citizenship test – the Department of Immigration indicated it would set a limit of 3 times.
The main report suggested that repeat sittings be allowed, but taking the test after 3 times would require the applicant to pay for the cost of the test.

The Nick Xenophon Team report suggested that there be no limit to the number of times a person can sit the test.

The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee has released its Report on the Inquiry into the Australian Citizenship Bill 2017

The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee has released its Report on the Inquiry into the Australian Citizenship Bill 2017.
The Committee has made four recommendations:
Recommendation 1
3.122 That the Government clarify the standard for English-language
competency required for citizenship, noting that the required standard should not be so high as to disqualify from citizenship many Australians who, in the past, and with a more basic competency in the English language, have proven to be valuable members of the Australian community.
Recommendation 2
3.123 That the Government reconsider the imposition of a two-year ban on applications for citizenship following three failed attempts of the citizenship test, and consider other
arrangements that allow additional tests on a cost-recovery basis that would deter less-genuine applicants.
Recommendation 3
3.124 That the Government consider introducing some form of transitional provisions for those people who held permanent residency visas on or before 20 April 2017 so that the current residency requirements apply to this cohort of citizenship applicants.
Recommendation 4
3.125 That the Senate pass the bill.