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‘Endless wait’ for Australian citizenship despite significant increase in approvals

Australian citizenship approvals rose by 80 per cent with 145,000 applications approved in 2018-19, recovering from a 15-year low the previous year when they fell below 81,000 – a level not seen since 2003. 

The Department of Home Affairs processed over 160,000 citizenship applications in 2018-19, approving over 145,000. Immigration and Citizenship Minister David Coleman says the improvement was due to increased efficiency in processing. 

However, for some applicants, the picture is not so rosy. Harman Deep Bajwa says he has been waiting for nearly two years to know the outcome of his citizenship application.

“It’s really frustrating and stressful not knowing what’s holding back my application when I have passed my test a year ago and I haven’t been asked for any more documents.

“Whatever it is, just let me know your decision,” he says.

Mr Bajwa moved to Australia in 2009 and became a permanent resident in 2016. His wife and daughter who applied for the citizenship around the same time that he did, have already become Australian citizens.

“It may not matter to some people but it does to me because I’m very passionate and feel it’d be a true honour to call myself a citizen of this beautiful country,” he told SBS Punjabi.

Mr Coleman says besides an 80 per cent increase in citizenship approvals, the time taken to finalise an application after citizenship interview has also been halved.  

In spite of the measures, there was a backlog of over 198,000 applications at the end of July 2019.  

The Department of Home Affairs says it is processing significantly more citizenship applications compared to last year.  

“Between 1 July 2019 and 31 August 2019, 65,415 citizenship by conferral applications were finalised, a 180 per cent improvement when compared to the same period last financial year,” a spokesperson for Department of Home Affairs said.

According to the Department’s published global processing time, most of the citizenship applications are processed within 18 to 20 months and upon approval, another six months before citizenship ceremony – the final step to become an Australian citizen.

The spokesperson said despite a significant increase in the number of approved applications, the waiting time from application approval to citizenship ceremony has not increased.

“The average time from approval to acquisition of citizenship in August 2018 was 106 days, compared to 104 days in August 2019. In August 2019, the timeframe for 75 per cent of applications from date of approval to ceremony was five months, and the timeframe for 90 per cent of applications was six months.“

Source: SBS

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