Foreigners hoping to settle in Australia on permanent residency visas could soon be sharpening their pencils and cleaning their erasers as the government gears up to introduce mandatory English tests for those wanting to live Down Under.
The Australian reports that Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Minister Alan Tudge is considering sweeping changes to the system that would require those wanting to stay in Australia on a permanent resident visa to pass an English test.
At present only those applying for citizenship must pass such a test.
A permanent resident visa is given to those who want to stay in Australia without becoming a citizen. They can live, work and study without restriction in Australia, but cannot vote and must ensure they have the correct visa if they want to travel outside the country and reenter.
It’s estimated that close to one million people living in Australia cannot speak English and, according to The Australian, Tudge will argue in a speech delivered on Thursday, that mandatory testing for all new residents will help eliminate the problem.
“This is particularly so given the concentration of non-English speakers in particular pockets, largely in Melbourne and Sydney,” his speech reportedly says.
“There are suburbs where up to one in three cannot speak the national language well or at all. Further, because of the concentration in particular areas, there is less demand on the individuals to have to interact with other Australians.”
The government faced criticism last year over claims its citizenship test was so hard not even born-and-raised Aussies could pass it. It has since proposed changes to citizenship laws and suggested a broader conversational language skills test be required instead.
Earlier this year, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said it was a “no brainer” for all migrants to be proficient in English.
If you’re in Australia we don’t ask you to abandon your culture or your heritage but if you’re in Australia you abide by our laws. There is one law that applies equally to every Australian, regardless of your background or place of birth, and people need to understand that… The majority of people do,” he told.
The minister added: “If people want to become Australian citizens… we need to have demonstrated that people integrated into our community, that they are working. There are lots of reasons that this is a good law, and we’ll continue to push through.”