Refugee Council of Australia
Citizenship ceremony

Delays in citizenship applications for permanent refugee visa holders

Lack of information and reason for delays

Almost every participant spoke of the lack of information from DIBP. Many people expressed significant frustration that they were yet to receive any documentation acknowledging their application or providing a reason for the delay. Many people consulted had not received a single letter or response from the department, despite completing the application form for citizenship and paying the relevant fee. While a number of applicants have now completed Freedom of Information requests, most have not received anything back. When applicants called DIBP, they were often told that there was no information that the operator was able to give them and they will simply have to wait to receive an invitation to complete the test or attend a ceremony. As one person noted: “I have called them once a month from June 2014 but they have only answer me: ‘It’s in process’.”

For many applicants, they have paid all the necessary fees, up to $260, with no final outcome. Some people even stated they never received any documentation of their payment: “They have taken the money from my account, but they didn’t even send me a confirmation letter that they had received my application.”

The lack of a response and reason for the delay is significantly unreasonable, and also contributes to people’s anxiety, stress and trauma.

Delays and cancelations of citizenship ceremonies

Many participants spoke of receiving invitations to attend a citizenship ceremony, only for their invitation to be cancelled at the last minute. One participant spoke of receiving a call the night before the ceremony informing him that the ceremony was cancelled, and he has not received a further invitation since. Another applicant received an SMS message the day before informing him that his ceremony was cancelled. Those consulted pointed out that the local council in their area holds citizenship ceremonies monthly, yet they have not been invited to attend any of these monthly events. Indeed one participant noted that while he received notice that the ceremony had been cancelled, the ceremony still took place the following day.

RCOA has significant concerns that those who have passed the test and been approved for citizenship by the Minister are being intentionally denied a chance to attend a ceremony and thus be conferred citizenship. This is of particular concern as people have passed identity checks, passed the citizenship test and have been found to be fit by the Minister to be conferred citizenship. All that remains for these applicants is to make a pledge in front of an authorised person. While the pledge does not have to take place at a ceremony, the common way for applicants to complete this requirement is at a ceremony. Indeed, a pledge may also be made in front of other authorised persons, including Members of the Commonwealth Parliament. Nevertheless, a denial of an invitation to attend a ceremony for applicants who have meet all other requirements is significantly unfair and discriminatory.

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