Lisa, Louie and Ian Sinkins, and Chelsea Carrera, who have settled well into their new life in Australia, but are unhappy with the visa system changes. (Photograph: Ian Sinkins)
Oz Kiwi opinion
Pretty much everything the Brits are complaining about is also relevant to New Zealanders.
However, many more Kiwis than Brits will be affected by these changes. Also, the application of a requirement to be on a permanent visa for four years is even more ridiculous for Kiwis, given they can already live in Australia indefinitely and many have lived here for many, many years.
‘Obviously we speak English’: Brits complain about Australia’s new citizenship crackdown
‘You try to plan ahead, to plan your future for your family and it all changes,’ says engineer on 457 visa
23 April 2017
Ian Sinkins, a British electrical engineer in Australia on a temporary skilled class 457 visa, has a serious beef with Australia’s proposed new citizenship requirements.
The changes, announced by the Turnbull government on Thursday, would require aspiring citizens to sit an English-language test, prove a commitment to Australian values and live in the country for four years as a permanent resident, instead of one.
“We’re being tarred with the same brush … [the plan] doesn’t differentiate where people have come from,” Sinkins told Guardian Australia. “We’re from a Christian background, we speak English, and there’s the shared heritage between Australia and England. And yet we have to take an English-language test, to prove certain things that are kind of obvious. It’s unsettling.”
On ABC’s 7.30 on Thursday, Malcolm Turnbull explained that the longer residency requirement “means there is more time to integrate, to be part of the Australian community”.
Turnbull said it was “in [migrants’] interests” to learn English, adding “they can maybe take longer before they make their application to be an Australian citizen”.
.On Friday the immigration minister, Peter Dutton, said speaking English was desirable “because it makes it easier for people to find work … to speak to their neighbours, to turn up to the local footy club or be involved in their church or mosque or whatever”.
But Sinkins, his wife Lisa and two children, who arrived in Australia two and a half years ago, have experienced no such difficulty. He said they have easily settled into their new life, love Australia’s culture, its work ethic and people.
Lisa Sinkins’ uncle and aunt came to Australia more than 50 years ago as “10 pound Poms” and she has first and second generation Australian cousins. “There is no recognition of such background history in the existing or planned changes to the visa and citizenship regulations,” she said.
Lisa is a head practice nurse in a Melbourne clinic, while Ian works at a German renewable company specialising in energy storage and has set up a local company which is growing to the point it will soon employ local engineers.
But with the planned changes, the family face an uncertain future as it will now take a total of eight years – four on the temporary work visa and a further four as permanent residents – to become citizens.
“We question the wisdom of extending the time on permanent residency from one to four years… for citizens from countries such as the UK that clearly have shared values,” he said.
And Sinkins and his family aren’t alone. Of the 95,758 people in Australia on a 457 visa, 19.5% are from the UK, behind India on 24.6%, to mention just one visa class among many that provide a pathway to citizenship.
Sinkins said Australia could be missing out on skilled and motivated people and families, who may rethink their current aspiration to become Australians and make the nation stronger.
“We are now wondering if we are really welcome in Australia with so many obstacles and changing goalposts … we are even now considering whether we should return to the UK,” he said.
Turnbull said people who remained permanent residents before applying to be a citizen were “not prejudiced”. But Sinkins is not so sure. He sees potential complications with when and how his family can travel overseas and maintain permanent residency.
His daughter is in the first year of a nursing degree, paying full fees as an international student. Although permanent residents may be eligible for a commonwealth-supported place, the Help student loan program is not available to them.
Sinkins said it was unfair the goalposts for citizenship were being moved. “You try to plan ahead, to plan your future for your family and it all changes,” he said.
Guardian Australia contacted Turnbull and Dutton for comment.
[Read the Guardian article].