Prime minister proposes tougher citizenship rules
Changes such as 4-year wait, values test must be OK’d by Parliament
DARWIN, Australia — When Nhan Do heard that Australia planned to make it more difficult to become a citizen of the country he had called home for 25 years, he was overcome with confusion.
“I have to ask, why do they keep making it harder?” said Do, 41, who fled Vietnam as a teenager. “It’s hard enough.”
On Thursday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull proposed tough new requirements for would-be citizens, including stricter standards for English-language proficiency, an “Australian values” test and a four-year wait.
Do, a citizen who has made his life in Darwin, now worries that his wife, Lahn, a permanent resident who can barely read or write, will never obtain citizenship and fully belong.
“We want this to be our country,” Do said. “We’ve been here a long time.”
The proposed changes, which must be approved by Parliament, are the latest challenge to Australia’s proud multicultural image after a tightening of skilled worker visas this week. Taken together, the moves put Australia at the forefront of a global movement to limit migration and to turn citizenship from something meant to help people integrate into what Turnbull called a “big prize” — a reward for having assimilated.
Those who favor raising the barriers, including members of the Trump administration, argue that citizenship is a privilege that should be given only to those who can prove they have made a significant effort to adapt to their new country.
Australia has been a quiet example of successful mass immigration. About 27 percent of its population is foreign-born, roughly double the ratio in the United States and England.
Already, Australia’s citizenship test can only be taken in English, and it includes questions about freedom of speech and other democratic norms.