Australian PM Turnbull cracks down on immigration, tightens citizenship rules

Namrata Tripathi
Malcolm Turnbull

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull tightened the country's citizenship rules on Thursday, making it more difficult for immigrants to take permanent residency in the country.

Malcolm moved to further crackdown on immigration, in an attempt to boost his government's decreasing popularity. The Australian PM on Tuesday had scrapped the country's popular guest worker visa programme 457, citing that it will be replaced with a new version which will only recruit "best and the brightest" of applicants. 

Under the reformed citizenship guidelines, the applicants will now have to wait for four years before applying for the country's citizenship instead of the current one year wait. Turnbull said that the applicants will also have to prove a higher degree of proficiency in English and pass a citizenship test to show they have "Australian values" and can integrate into the Australian society.

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"We must ensure that our citizenship program is conducted in our national interest," Turnbull said in a statement. "Membership of the Australian family is a privilege and should be granted to those who support our values, respect our laws and want to work hard by integrating and contributing to an even better Australia."

The citizenship applicants will now be allowed to fail the test three times and are required to show evidence of employment, membership of community organisations and school enrolment for their children.

While scrapping the 457 visa, Turnbull , on Tuesday, had said that the visa programme was being abused by employers to replace Australian workers with low-waged foreigners. The visa programme is currently used by almost 100,000 foreign workers.

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"We will no longer allow 457 visas to be passports to jobs that could and should go to Australians," Turnbull had said.

sydney international airport

PM banking on wave of anti-immigration sentiment

Turnbull, through the migration and citizenship reforms, is attempting to counter the rise of fringe populist parties which are doing well on a wave of anti-immigration sentiment, which has also spread across the United States and Europe. PM's ruling Liberal-National government had won a re-election last year with a narrow majority.

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In United States, President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed an executive order calling it "Buy American, Hire American," which directs officials to overhaul the popular H1-B visa programme designed for skilled immigrants to get a job in the US. Trump said that the current programme will have new reforms which will allow only highly-skilled applicants to get in.

Sounding similar to Trump's 'America first' motto, Turn bull said that the idea behind reforming the visa is to put 'Australians first' by giving them priority for jobs which are currently open for overseas workers in the country.

"Our reforms will have a simple focus: Australian jobs and Australian values," Turnbull wrote on Facebook.

Turnbull will have to deliver a budget next month which will focus on Australia's economic challenges amidst high unemployment and weak wages growth.

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