Indians for 2nd consecutive year are largest group of new citizens in Australia
- Out of a total of 1.27 lakh people who were conferred Australian citizenship, 28,470 or 22.3% were from India
- While the number of Indians acquiring Australian citizenship has gone up 60% in 2018-19 compared to the previous year, the ratio of Indians obtaining citizenship has remained largely static in both years at 22%
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.
Migration from India is also on the rise. TOI had earlier reported that India was the largest source country for migrant inflows into Australia. In fiscal 2017-18, 33,310 Indians (excluding student count) had migrated to Australia constituting 20.5% of the inflows in that period.
In its edition of April 1, TOI had analysed the regional visa regime, which comes into force from November. It permits individuals holding regional visas to access permanent residency if they have lived and worked in Australia for three years. All of Australia is defined as 'regional' except the metropolitan areas of Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne–the aim being to decongest and ensure other areas of Australia benefitted from skilled migrants.
Australian media has recently reported on the slowdown in processing of citizenship applications. The wait time is down from 493 days last year, but still streaks above the 167-day wait time seven years ago. In aggregate, there are 2.21 lakh aspiring citizens waiting to get their applications processed of which 30,000 are Indians, closely followed by the British.
When the amendment bill was tabled in Parliament during 2017-18, processing of applications was temporarily stopped. “This has led to a blow-out in processing times and the authorities are slowly catching up with applications in the pipeline,” sums up Mistry.