- Traditional and growing destination country, with the foreign-born accounting for 23% of the population in 2000 and 27% in 2012
- According to OECD, 2/3 of all arrivals in 2012 were temporary migrants, with at least 1/2 arriving as temporary workers and 1/4 as international students; Half of permanent arrivals were family migrants, 1/4 were labour migrants and just 6% were humanitarian arrivals
- Irregular boat arrivals start to increase in 2009, especially in 2012/3
- Generally most positive attitudes towards immigrants in AU than rest of developed world, alongside other English-speaking countries and Nordics
- Conservatives with minority-government from 2006-2011 and majority from 2011-today
- 2007-2013 Labor governments replaced by Centre-right Liberal/National Coalition with 2013 federal election
- Rank: 8 out of 38
- MIPEX Score: 66
- LABOUR MARKET MOBILITY 58
- FAMILY REUNION 67
- EDUCATION 76
- HEALTH 67
- POLITICAL PARTICIPATION 64
- PERMANENT RESIDENCE 54
- ACCESS TO NATIONALITY 69
- ANTI-DISCRIMINATION 74
Changes in context
Changes in policy
Since 2010, the AU federal government has maintained its long-standing commitments to equality and non-discrimination, settlement services and multiculturalism, and its clear well-supported path to citizenship. However, little has been done to remedy its long-standing weaknesses and gaps, for example on consultative bodies, anti-discrimination and the rights of permanent residents and temporary workers. Restrictions on healthcare entitlements and access for detained asylum-seekers and undocumented migrants also raise integration and public health concerns. Complicated and changing provisions to access permanent residence and family reunion may delay or discourage eligible residents from investing in their long-term integration in AU. These changes lost AU -1 point on MIPEX from 2013 to 2014. Looking ahead, 2014's austere federal budget cut several of the governments grants that make settlement work in AU, such as support for multicultural community organisations, human rights education and workplace English training.
Conclusions and recommendations
AU has traditionally welcomed the immigration of close family members and skilled workers and helped these newcomers and their children get the targeted support they need to participate in AU's education system or labour market. Newcomers are encouraged and supported to quickly learn English and become dual nationals, so that immigrants are becoming and seen as equal citizens. Multiculturalism policies and funds encourage the AU public and mainstream institutions to remain open to diversity and to support AU's multicultural communities, from the workplace to the school, hospital and public sphere. Scoring 66/100, AU's long-established integration policies have likely contributed to immigrants' positive outcomes and progress over time in many areas of life. But losing the point on the MIPEX scale in 2013 raises questions about the future direction of AU's traditionally inclusive integration policies, with a similar setback registered in CA. Budget cuts, restrictions to family reunion and permanent residence – and now a government consultation on the ordinary path to citizenship – may bring several unintended consequences, doing more harm than good to AU's integration outcomes.
POLICIES - SUMMARY
LABOUR MARKET MOBILITY
- 19 of 38
- 11 of 38
- 2 of 38
- 4 of 38
- 9 of 38
- 25 of 38
ACCESS TO NATIONALITY
- 5 of 38
- 13 of 38
POLICIES - DETAILS
Labour Market Mobility
AU's restrictions on equal access, general support and rights for temporary workers and newcomers can delay them from investing in pursuing the right career and skills, unlike CA and most Western European countries
Do immigrants have equal rights and opportunities to access jobs and improve their skills?
All immigrant workers who choose AU do not immediately have full access, general support, and rights as they would in other leading labour migration countries like CA, Nordics and, to some extent, NZ. Policies are not even slightly favourable for labour market mobility in AU, no better than the average MIPEX country. While most temporary and permanent residents can receive some favourable targeted support and work in most sectors under the same conditions as AU citizens, policies delay newcomers from investing in the right jobs and skills with the same general support as AU citizens. Newcomers face similar restrictions to access general support and social rights in NZ, IE, UK and US, but not in CA or most Western European countries. Because of these restrictions, AU's policies are ranked 19th, alongside CH and UK, and may contribute to newcomers ending up in poor quality jobs.
Dimension 1: Access to labour market
- Newcomers' access to the AU labour market is more restricted than in 14 out of the 37 other MIPEX countries
- Most temporary migrant workers cannot freely change jobs or sectors in AU, as is the case in most countries (see instead US, ES/PT/IT, Nordics)
- Immigrants arriving as permanent residents and family members can work in any job or sector, including self-employment
- They are not guaranteed equal access to federal and some state-level public sector jobs (see instead 15 other countries, including CA and its Federal Internship Program, NZ, UK and several Western European countries)
Dimension 2: Access to general support
- In AU, newcomers largely have equal access to the same general support as citizens in CA, US, UK, JP and most Western European countries
- While newcomers can access well-established procedures to recognise their foreign academic and professional qualifications and skills, many have limited rights and access to general support like Job Services Australia and study loans/grants
- In contrast, most countries open immediate equal access to public employment services to all newcomers with the right to work as well as access to study grants, at least to permanent residents and family members
Dimension 3: Targeted support
- Immigrants may find that their specific problems as newcomers trained abroad are addressed on the labour market, with average targeted support provided in AU as in Northern Europe and CA and NZ
- Public servants are to be trained on migrants’ needs and diversity (e.g. Charter of Public Service in a Culturally Diverse Society)
- The Settlement Grants Program and Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) provide needs-based EN courses
- Further training is offered through SLPET, 200 hours of vocation-specific language courses and 80 hours of work placements, although workplace language courses (WELL) closed in 2014 after 23 years due to federal budget cuts
- Specific bridging/work placement programmes in private and public sector (see also Nordics, DE, CA, NZ)
- Workers who want their overseas qualifications recognised can access some information, top-up courses and subsidies to cover procedural costs (ASDOT)
- Still, there is no central authority to guarantee equal and fair procedures (instead, see Trade Recognitions Australia, VETASSESS and AEI-NOOSR, OQUs)
- Other countries are piloting and evaluating new forms of targeted support, such as individual settlement coaches (BE, Nordics), large-scale mentoring programmes (AT, DE, PT) and one-stop-shops for settlement services (PT best in Europe) and qualification recognition (e.g. DK, NL, NZ, NO, SE, UK)
Dimension 4: Workers' rights
- Non-naturalised workers are entitled to the same working conditions and access to trade unions as AU citizens, but not to the same benefits and support from the state
- Temporary workers cannot use some social security benefits, including housing benefits, while many permanent residents must wait two years; Those exempt are refugees, humanitarian entrants, people in severe financial hardship beyond their control
- Their entitlements are more restricted than in 25 of the 38 countries (similar restrictions in NZ, UK, US, see instead Nordics, CA, FR, DE, NL, ES)
2014 government changes start to undermine AU's traditionally family-friendly immigration policies
How easily can immigrants reunite with family?
In 2014, the current AU government picked up on certain international trends to restrict the definition of the family for immigrants, dropping 3 points on MIPEX, similar to CA and NZ. Interestingly, AU, CA, NZ and UK chose to introduce similar restrictions in the same period. These types of restrictions expect immigrant families to live up to standards that many national families could not, such as higher incomes and no need for social benefits. AU's policies still remain slightly favourable for families to reunite and integrate in society, ranked 11th similar to NZ and US though behind CA. Most AU residents have favourable chances to secure their family life as the starting point for their integration in AU. With few exceptions, temporary and permanent migrants who meet an ‘average’ set of conditions can reunite with their full family who then enjoy equal and slightly secure rights. Traditionally, both family and labour immigration have been promoted by traditional destination countries like AU, CA, NZ and US. CA recognises many types of families and gives them equal rights as their sponsor.
Dimension 1: Eligibility
- Under immigration law, AU's new definitions of the family are now more restrictive than in 23 out of the 37 other countries, most notably NZ, JP/KR, the Nordics and Southern Europe
- Before dropping -14 points in 2014, AU's traditional eligibility provisions used to reflect many of the ways that both immigrants and AU citizens live together in families,
- Family reunion is legally possible for most residents, except for certain temporary residents for work, study and protection
- Residents can reunite with their minor children, spouse, or, since 2009, de facto partner, as in the majority of countries
- Since 2014, dependent adult parents/children have hardly any chances to reunite with their sponsors providing them support (see box)
- Similar restrictions passed in the same period in CA, NZ, UK
- Dependent adult children/parents have a greater entitlement to reunite, mostly without caps/quotas, in 25 of the 37 other countries, with full entitlements for parents in 10 and for adult children in 6
Dimension 2: Conditions
- One reason AU attracts migrant workers is that most residents can sponsor their families if they have basic means to support them
- Eligible families must meet a few basic criteria in AU, ranking 9th alongside CA, NZ, US
- Applicants must be able to cover the family's basic needs in terms of accommodation and financial support
- However they must pay rather high fees by international standards, as in the other traditional destination countries
Dimension 3: Security of status
- Residents are slightly secure about their chances to reunite with family in AU, similar to the average for Western Europe
- Family members can be denied or lose their permit based on a few discretionary grounds depending on their sponsor's status
- The major weakness is the backlog, which has applicants waiting for years without knowing when they will be reunited with their family (similar problem in CA, NZ, US)
Dimension 4: Rights associated
- Once reunited, families and sponsors have access to the labour market immediately and autonomous residence depending on their sponsor's status (special benefits available for emergency situations e.g. in case of sponsor's death/abandonment/violence)
- However their access to social rights and programmes is still restricted, depending on their sponsor's status
- In contrast, families have the same access to the labour market, education/training and social benefits as their sponsor in the majority of MIPEX countries
Families who meet all the legal conditions may still confront excessive processing times in AU, AT, CA, NZ and US. The AU system maintains quotas and complex family visa categories that can delay family reunion. Immigrants in nearly all MIPEX countries benefit from lower fees and legal procedural time limits of 9 months. In June 2014, government closed applications for the visa subclasses for dependent adult parents/parents (subclass 114/838, 115/835, 116/836, 103, 804) under the Migration Amendment (Repeal of Certain Visa Classes) Regulation 2014. This move was then disallowed by the Senate on 25 September 2014. In response, government reduced the cap on 'other family visas' (not including parents) by more than half, from 1285 to 500 in 2014/15. These caps are so much lower than demand that waiting times for several of these visas are counted in decades. The opportunities are much greater for parents who are not dependent but instead 'contributory', meaning that each parent is willing and able to pay $43,600 AUS.
AU schools see the needs and opportunities of immigrant pupils and the benefits of diversity, community languages, and common human rights values, much like other traditional destinations with large numbers of immigrant pupils
How many pupils have immigrant parents?
Foreign-born children (i.e. 1st generation) make up 10.3% of all 15-year-old pupils in AU (similar to CA and NZ). These traditional countries of immigration also have a large number of 2nd generation pupils (12.4% in AU).
Is the education system responsive to the needs of the children of immigrants?
Ranked 2nd alongside SE and slightly ahead of CA and NZ, immigrant and AU children enjoy a slightly favourable learning environment for integration and diversity on all four MIPEX dimensions. For example, only pupils in SE benefit from such favourable approach to intercultural education and new opportunities for learning as in AU. Education policies are generally more targeted in countries with large numbers of immigrant pupils. Like AU, CA and NZ have developed strong targeted support and diversity policies through their official multiculturalism policies. In contrast, similar policies have been adopted in the US through a focus on vulnerable racial/social/language groups as well as in the Nordics, due to their individualised needs-based approach for all pupils. This approach requires continued investment from federal and state education authorities and budgets.
Dimension 1: Access
- AU is developing some basic support for immigrant pupils to access all levels of the education system, similar to CA and NZ but behind the more extensive US approach
- All children have the implicit right to attend most levels of education
- Children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds (CALD) benefit from specific support to access early childhood education and care (IPSP)
- While some states offer specific support for immigrant pupils to access apprenticeships and higher education (e.g. SEAS by VTAC in Victoria), funding is limited to AU citizens and permanent residents
Dimension 2: Targeting needs
- Children benefit from strong targeted support in AU, similar to CA, NZ, US and Nordics
- Children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds (CALD) benefit from information, translation, and interpretation services upon arrival, as well as continuing support, quality English courses, and targeted teaching assistance and resources
- Teachers must have skills to support students diverse linguistic, cultural, religious and socio-economic backgrounds
- State governments provide supplementary funding for ESL (EN as 2nd language) based on established quality standards
Dimension 3: New opportunities
- AU and SE lead the developed world in recognising and using the new opportunities that immigrant pupils bring to the classroom
- Since the government wants people to learn more foreign languages, children can choose to learn about Asian languages and cultures during the school day and about dozens more through over 1000 after-school or weekend “community language schools” (see also BE, CA, SE, CH)
- Overseas teachers are supported to study/requalify (FEE-HELP loans) and offered possibilities to teach (bridging and casual teaching programmes, see also AU and CA)
- Several states are working to improve communication and outreach to immigrant parents
- Initiatives like 'Cultural Exchange NSW' link pupils and schools with different socio-economic, cultural, religious and geographic backgrounds through group and online activities (see a few promising practices in traditional destinations and Northern Europe)
Dimension 4: Intercultural education
- All pupils in AU benefit from the country’s multiculturalism policy at school (see similar strong support for diversity at school in CA/NZ/UK, NZ, Nordics and Benelux)
- All students learn to appreciate cultural diversity because Civics and Citizenship is supported across the curriculum, assessed, and compared across states
- Across AU, the Diversity and Social Cohesion Program (DSCP) uses grants and government initiatives and coordinating bodies to celebrate AU's cultural diversity (e.g. Harmony Day, 21 March since 1999) and support the education and culture of ethnic minorities
- This support may decrease in coming years, e.g. 2014/5 federal budget cuts removed the $400,000 AUS funding for Commonwealth Human Rights Education Program
Compared to other countries, Australia could improve on several MIPEX policy indicators. Newcomer pupils could receive better assessments of their prior learning and school placements through centres of expertise (e.g. France, Luxembourg). They and their parents could benefit from required short inductions about Australian schools. (Belgium, Canada, Finland, Sweden). Positive actions could encourage people from diverse backgrounds to study and enter teaching (Nordics, Germany, Netherlands, UK). States could invest more in innovative early English acquisition in pre-school (Nordics, North America, Belgium, Netherlands). Civics and Citizenship could also become its own subject (Spain, Sweden, UK).
Are pupils with limited literacy getting remedial courses?
Targeted literacy support is available for the majority of 1st generation pupils with low-literacy skills, according to data collected by the 2012 OECD PISA study. The share of foreign-born low-literacy 15-year-olds enrolled in extra out-of-school literacy courses was 54% in CA (similar to CA/NZ/UK and a few EU countries, e.g. DE, IE, NO). Enrollment in this type of extra support was comparatively lower for low-literacy 2nd generation pupils (40%) and low-literacy non-immigrant pupils (28%). The majority of low-literacy pupils, whatever their background, benefit from extra literacy courses in countries such as DK, FI, SE, IT, PT, US.
What other factors explain whether the children of immigrants excel at school?
- >50% of both immigrant pupils with low-educated mothers are concentrated in disadvantaged schools in AU, at greater rates than non-immigrant pupils with low-educated mothers
- 2/3 of 1st/2nd generation pupils speak EN at home in AU, higher than the rates in NZ, CA, IE, UK and OECD acverage
- >25% of foreign-born pupils arrive after age 12 in AU and other EN-speaking countries (except US)
How well are the children of immigrants achieving at school?
The numbers of low-achievers among immigrants with low-educated mothers were comparatively low (20-40%) and similar to the numbers for non-immigrants with low-educated mothers in AU, as in CA, UK and a few EU countries (FR, IE, NL, UK). By the second-generation, the number of low-achievers is even lower than for non-immigrants, similar to IE (parity achieved in CA/NZ/US).
Most responsive healthcare services and policies in major destination states like Victoria, but AU’s overall score lowered by limited entitlements and support for asylum seekers and undocumented migrants
Is the health system responsive to immigrants' needs?
With a long history and large population of immigrants, AU's migrant health policies are slightly favourable for meeting migrants' specific health needs, ranking 4th slightly below NZ, CH and US but alongside NO. AU is one of the few countries where healthcare services and policies are responsive to migrants' specific needs, but made inaccessible for detained asylum-seekers and undocumented migrants (see also US and UK). Undocumented migrants and detained asylum-seekers face more legal and practical obstacles to access healthcare in AU than in NZ or most Western European countries.
Click here to learn more about how MIPEX health was developed with IOM and EU’s COST/ADAPT network through ‘Equi-Health’ project and co-funded by European Commission’s DG SANTE.
Dimension 1: Entitlements
- Migrants' entitlements to healthcare are more uneven in AU than most established destination countries, with AU ranked 19th out of 38, far below NZ, JP, and most Western and Southern European countries
- Legal migrants' entitlements to healthcare depend on their visa category
- Health and integration concerns arise from AU's immigration policies: people arriving without visas are put in detention, where – even if they apply for asylum – they are normally only entitled to emergency care
- Outside the centres, undocumented migrants have very limited access to health services and difficulties with documentation (also obstacles in CA but greater access in NZ, UK, US and near-equal in FR)
- AU and only 9 other MIPEX countries deny access to undocumented migrants (BG, CZ, KR, LV, NZ, NO, PL, TU, see instead provisions in CA, IT, JP, CH, Nordics, Benelux countries)
Dimension 2: Access policies
- These restrictions also make it more difficult for migrants and providers to secure access to health services, in contrast to NZ, US, JP/KR and most Northwest European countries
- Migrants and providers may also be unclear about migrants' different entitlements
- Undocumented migrants are also poorly served by these policies, while providers can be unclear about the consequences of treating them (problem in most English-speaking countries, see clearer standards in Western Europe)
- Legal migrants and asylum-seekers in AU get advice about the healthcare system and major health issues, using many languages and methods in AU, as in NZ, US and several Western European countries
- Intercultural mediators are only used on an ad hoc basis (see strong provisions in US and Western European countries)
Dimension 3: Responsive services
- Migrants entitled and able to access healthcare will benefit from a system well-adapted to their specific health needs
- Health services are well-prepared and responsive through the high standards in AU, ranked 4th, alongside US, NZ, UK, followed by CA and a few leading Northwestern European countries
- Public healthcare providers adapt their services guided by national and state health service standards on language services, cultural competence and health literacy
- They offer various forms of interpretation, diversity training and community engagement, although the level of training and diversity of the staff varies across organisations
Dimension 4: Mechanisms for change
- AU's health policies are highly supportive of these changes and the most responsive of all MIPEX countries, ranked 1st alongside the UK and followed closely by NO, NZ and US
- Data and research on migrant health is extensive and used to develop migrant health policies as part of AU’s multicultural access and equity policy as well as refugee settlement services
- Most specific action plans are designed and implemented at state level, with ad hoc cooperation from multicultural bodies and experts
State health departments consult with a wide range of migrant health stakeholders in the design and implementation of their migrant health plans. For example, the state of Victoria includes many specialised expert bodies (e.g. Refugee Health Network, Advocacy for Disability in Ethnic Communities, Victorian Transcultural Psychiatric Unit, Centre for Culture, Ethnicity and Health) as well as immigrant peak bodies (e.g. Ethnic Communities’ Council of Victoria). At national level, the National Ethnic Disability Alliance represents organisations of and for disabled people from non-English speaking backgrounds.
Before becoming AU citizens, immigrants are slightly encouraged to become civically active in AU through its multiculturalism support, voting rights and Advisory Councils; but these rights and bodies' powers are limited, as now are funds under the 2014/5 budget
Do immigrants have comparable rights and opportunities to participate in political life?
Ranked 9th, the limited opportunities for newcomers to participate politically in AU are better than in CA, similar to several Western European countries and US states, but behind NZ, perhaps the most inclusive democracies in the developed world. While ordinary residents enjoy and use their basic political liberties, in AU, the right to vote is unfavourably restricted before they become AU citizens. Immigrant organisations are funded and consulted through favourable implementation policies and slightly weak advisory councils in AU, NZ and most European immigration countries.
Dimension 1: Electoral rights
- Federal, state and territory elections are not open to non-naturalised residents, except Commonwealth citizens (‘British subjects') who enrolled before 1983/4
- Non-citizens in certain states are eligible to vote in local elections provided they are the owners or rate-paying occupiers of property (see box)
- 17 MIPEX countries grant more equal voting rights.
- 20 out of the 37 other countries grant local voting rights; 14 grant more inclusive voting rights than AU: e.g. after 1-5 years at local, while 9 also grant provincial voting rights; NZ grants full voting rights to all permanent residents after 1 year in NZ
Dimension 2: Political liberties
- Ordinary residents, who have full political liberties as in most immigration countries, have produced hundreds of associations, newspapers and broadcasts in different languages in AU
Dimension 3: Consultative bodies
- Multicultural Advisory Councils are immigrant-led and government-funded at all levels
- The AU Multicultural Advisory Council had its terms renewed for 3 years
- These structures are slightly unfavourable for meaningful political participation, because participants are not empowered institutionally or elected as representatives of diverse communities
- Consultative structures are long-established in Northern Europe and spreading to new destinations (e.g. Southern Europe, KR) as well as traditional ones (e.g. NZ Auckland Ethnic Peoples Advisory Panel and US Councils of new Americans)
Dimension 4: Implementation policies
- Immigrants are encouraged to become civically active through civic information and multiculturalism funds in almost all states and major cities and at federal level (Diversity and Social Cohesion Program, DSCP)
- Ethnic communities’ councils are federated in a national umbrella (FECCA)
- This support is now being pulled, as 2014/5 federal budget cut DSCP by $33 million AUS, ending the programs on building and empowering local multicultural communities
The enrolment form for Victoria, for example, requires a person to be an Australian citizen or British subject enrolled before 25 January 1984 or, for Victorian elections, between 26 October 1983 and 15 January 1984 inclusive. In South Australia, local election enrolment is possible for adults resident for at least one month before the rolls close (resident non-citizens are entitled). In Victoria, local council election enrolment is possible for non-Australian citizens who live and pay rates in the municipality. Also in Victoria, a person who is entitled to be enrolled as an elector, is qualified to be a candidate for the office of a councillor. Internationally, the EN-speaking countries of immigration have their own tradition and divergences on noncitizen voting rights. In contrast, Commonwealth voting rights were removed in CA, retained in UK, revised in AU (residents in only SA, VC) and extended in NZ to all permanent residents after 1 year and in IE to all legal residents. The US granted full voting rights to noncitizens declaring the 'intent to naturalize' until the 1920s' pushbacks against Eastern and Southern European immigration.
AU's permanent residence policies are less favourable for settlement and integration than most countries; Backlog for in-country temporary residents and 2-year-waiting period for permanent residents' rights delay and discourage their investment in long-term integration
How easily can immigrants become long-term residents?
AU's current policies on permanent residence are only halfway favourable from a settlement and integration perspective, ranked 25th out of the 38 MIPEX countries. As in CA and NZ, AU grants permanent residence upon arrival or after just a few years, so that migrant workers, families and refugees can start their settlement process with a secure future in AU. A wide range of legal residents have the option, but not the right, to apply under various conditions, though with high fees, backlogs/delays and an increasing number of quotas. Moreover, newcomers with permanent residence in AU, NZ and US must build their life in the country without full access to the social safety net, much like many temporary residents must in Europe.
Dimension 1: Eligibility
- Its eligibility provisions have been some of the most favourable in the developed world, especially compared to the 5-year-wait in most European countries
- Permanent residents arrive in Australia with secure and near-equal rights if they qualify under the points-system, similar to CA and NZ
- Most temporary residents, such as workers and partners, have a longer but simpler path after two years
- Former international students can no longer count that time to qualify for permanent residence (subclass 885 and 886), with applications closed in 2013; instead they must amass enough points under general labour migration schemes (similar changes planned in CA)
Dimension 2: Conditions
- The relatively demanding conditions include market-based English tests (IELTS and OET), some of the highest visa costs (like CA and US) and possible time delays (like CA, NZ UK, US, but unlike most European countries)
Dimension 3: Security of status
- Immigrants are only halfway certain about obtaining and keeping permanent residence in AU, just as in CA/NZ/UK (see less discretionary approach in Northwest Europe)
- The backlog is the major weakness in the procedure in AU (see legal time limits in most European countries)
- Applicants obtain a permanent secure status, as in 26 other countries allowing for ≤3 years outside AU
- All types of permanent residents can lose this status for a few grounds, with few protections against expulsion, except for minors
Dimension 4: Rights Associated
- The major weakness for integration is that newcomer permanent residents enjoy weaker rights than in nearly all MIPEX countries, including CA and UK
- Permanent residents enjoy many of the same rights as Australians
- However they do not have equal access to most social security benefits, unlike in 29 out of the 37 other countries (similar restrictions in NZ and US)
- Most in need of support must wait 2 years for most benefits, including housing benefits (unlike NZ and US), and wait for 10 years for disability and age pensions
Access to Nationality
Permanent residents are well-supported to quickly become Australian citizens, similar to NZ and other leading countries of immigration
How easily can immigrants become citizens?
Nearly all permanent residents can quickly become citizens and fully participate in AU whose citizenship policies ranked 4th alongside NZ and just below PT, SE and DE. Reforming countries are also adopting many of AU's core beliefs on citizenship: some form of birthright citizenship (18 MIPEX countries total), a short residence requirement (13), and dual nationality (25). AU has traditionally valued and supported its clear and quick path to citizenship. This path may be undermined and politicised if the government's current consultation veers away from its target on potential terrorists and questions the commitment of all ordinary immigrants, as recently happened in CA.
Dimension 1: Eligibility
- The eligibility provisions are favourable for a country of immigration
- Permanent residents and spouses of nationals can naturalise after 4 years (previously 2) but similar to most other established destinations
- Since 1986, only a child born to a permanent resident is AU citizens at birth; All others become AU citizens automatically at age 10
Dimension 2: Conditions
- Immigrants are encouraged to become citizens through ceremonies (since 1949) and more favourable conditions and procedures than in most countries, where citizenship policy is an area of weakness for integration (see box)
- Applicants have to pay an average fee, pass a well-supported and flexible citizenship test (see box) and meet the good character requirements
Dimension 3: Security of status
- Discretion is limited within the procedure and, once naturalised, AU citizens are generally as secure in their citizenship as AU citizens by birth, with protections against statelessness
- 2013 amendments increased the Minister's discretion to revoke citizenship, which the government is currently planning to expand in security cases (similar to CA with C-24 2014 Act and most other Western European countries)
Dimension 4: Dual nationality
- AU fully embraced dual nationality in 2002, following reform trends in other immigration countries (now 25 MIPEX countries)
Since its introduction in 2007, AU's citizenship test has become more professional than most tests in other MIPEX countries because applicants receive slightly better support to succeed. The elderly, minors, and physically or mentally disabled are exempt. All others can pass a standard- or assisted test or a 20-hour course. All three are free, flexible, and professional. In 2009, government interpreted high failure rates as indicators that the test failed its purpose to promote citizenship. The process was streamlined. The English became simpler and basic. The questions became more meaningful for citizenship. Now applicants can not only study through free guides, but also free AMEP courses.
How many immigrants are becoming citizens?
In 2013/14, 163,017 people became AU citizens by conferral from at least 190 different countries, with the top three nationalities being India (17%), UK (16%) and Philippines (7%). Over the past decade, the number of citizenship conferrals has fluctuated between 80,000-140,000.
What other factors explain why non-EU immigrants become citizens?
- High share of permanent residents
- Humanitarian migrants and immigrants from developing countries most likely to naturalise
- Large numbers of immigrants from countries not allowing dual nationality (CN, IN and, until 2015, LK)
How often do immigrants become citizens?
According to the 2011 census, 64% of immigrants had become AU citizens. After 10+ years, that level rose to 81% (OECD data). This is one of the highest success rates for naturalisation among MIPEX countries, alongside CA (92%), SE, PT, NL and most Nordic countries. AU's quick and clear path to citizenship is the strongest factor explaining its success. Immigrants from developing countries are much more likely to become citizens in countries with inclusive citizenship policies.
AU residents are not fully protected against discrimination in all areas of life, without a comprehensive Human Rights Act, going against international reform trends
Is everyone effectively protected from racial/ethnic, religious, and nationality discrimination in all areas of life?
AU residents only enjoy slightly favourable protections from discrimination that fall behind EU law and innovative standards in leading countries like CA, NZ, UK, US and Nordics. AU's anti-discrimination laws and policies only rank 13th out of the 38 country. The definitions, concepts, and fields of application are uneven in state and federal laws, in the absence of a National Human Rights Act, which stakeholders and lawyers continue to call for in AU.
Dimension 1: Definitions
- AU's current federal law only partially covers AU residents from all forms of racial, ethnic, religious and nationality discrimination, which are key for a country of immigration
- Victims of religious discrimination are not protected in several states and at federal level, unlike in nearly all MIPEX countries
- Gaps also emerge at federal level for specific types of discrimination (e.g. discrimination by association)
- Victims of multiple/intersectional discrimination have no clear rules for bringing forward their case (see CA, US, UK)
Dimension 2: Fields of application
- Everyone is generally protected against ethnic, racial, religious and nationality discrimination, but gaps emerge in key areas of life in federal legislation (see instead comprehensive protections in 16 MIPEX countries, including CA, IE, US, UK)
- Residents in other states and territories are protected from racial, religious, ethnic and nationality discrimination in most areas of their lives
- Still, they are left exposed to discrimination in some areas of housing (unlike almost all MIPEX countries) and social protection and advantages (unlike the vast majority)
Dimension 3: Enforcement mechanisms
- Where discrimination is outlawed, victims enjoy some of the best mechanisms to enforce the law in AU, ranked 7th like NZ and FR but behind the world-leading US
- These mechanisms include short procedures, alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, legal aid, interpreters, class actions and wide sanctions
- The major weakness is that most claimants still carry the burden of proof to prove discrimination (as in CA and NZ but unlike most other MIPEX countries, including UK and US)
Dimension 4: Equality policies
- AU residents see non-discrimination and equality as a major priority, with slightly favourable equality bodies and policies ranked 6th internationally, similar to the UK though behind CA, NZ, FI and SE
- The AU Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has slightly favourable powers to help victims in discrimination cases, but December 2014 saw the announcement of a 30% funding cut by the government
- Furthermore, no national body or network in AU is empowered to provide them with independent legal advice, unlike in the vast majority of MIPEX countries, or represent them in proceedings, unlike in 14
- AU's state policies are also relatively strong at promoting equality more broadly in society
- Specialised government units could also provide information and dialogue on discrimination, as in most traditional destination countries and Western European countries
- Under the renewed 2013 Multicultural Access and Equity Policy, all AU government department are obliged to deliver equitable access to services (see box), while positive actions are also allowed in AU law (see also CA, FI, FR, NO, SE, UK, US)
- Equality policies improved +11 points in 2011, due to the new role of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights to examine all bills and acts for their compatability with human rights
The 2013 “Multicultural Access and Equity Policy: Respecting diversity. Improving responsiveness” obliges AU Government departments and agencies to provide equitable access to services regardless of the cultural or linguistic background of clients. Minimum obligations are defined in six core dimensions: Leadership, Engagement, Performance, Capability, Responsiveness and Openness. Each department agency is required to have its own two-yearly Agency Multicultural Plan and report annually to the Department of Social Services (DSS) and biennially to Parliament. Departments and agencies are assisted to meet their obligations through resources like a toolkit and multicultural language services guidelines.
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