A number of people from refugee backgrounds are facing significant delays in their application for Australian citizenship. The Refugee Council of Australia has been researching and advocating about this issue for the last two years.
In December 2016, we successfully challenged the Minister’s delay in deciding these applications in the case of BMF16 v Minister for Immigration and Border Protection  FCA 1530.
We are talking to the Department about what can be done and what has been done. We are working together to provide more information to those affected, and so that they can process more quickly.
We will continue to advocate and work on this issue. Unfortunately, we are a small organisation and are unable to help with individual requests. We cannot provide legal advice or support to complete your application. We will update you by email on any progress on our advocacy.
Why is this happening?
There are two main reasons why this is happening. First, the number of people applying, including people who have been refugees, is much larger than before, but the Government has not given more money to process applications.
Second, there have been changes to the way the Department confirms a person’s identity. The Department is now looking for identity information from before you came to Australia, in the country or countries you came from and lived in. This is taking much longer.
What you can do
Collect genuine information to support your application
The Immigration Department may ask you to provide more documents to prove your identity. While you are waiting for your application to be processed, you can collect as many documents as possible to support your application. You can send them to the Department before they ask for them.
What they are looking for is any written evidence that you are who you say you are.
Examples of the types of documents include, but are not limited to:
- identity card/s
- driver licence, such as for a car, truck or boat from overseas
- marriage certificate or divorce certificate
- school records (including of your children)
- health records
- employment records
- professional registrations
- financial institution statements
- taxation notices
- voting registration
- any other documents that show use of your claimed identity in the community before you came to Australia.
Freedom of Information Request
We recommend that you complete a Freedom of Information Request from the Department of Immigration relating to your citizenship application. This is a request that the Department of Immigration give you all the files they have about you. This may help you understand why your application has been delayed. This will not affect your citizenship application.
You can access the FOI Form here.
In Section 11 of the form, write “All files relating to my protection visa application [INSERT FILE NUMBER] and all files relating to my application for citizenship [INSERT FILE NUMBER] and all related records, documents, communications and other files in the ICSE.”
Make a complaint to the Immigration Department
We recommend you make a complaint to the Immigration Department about your situation. This may give you information about the delay, or raise awareness about the issue. You can make a complaint online here.
Make sure you note down your complaint reference number.
Make a complaint to the Commonwealth Ombudsman
If you do not hear back from the Immigration Department after making a complaint, we recommend you make a complaint to the Commonwealth Ombudsman. They may investigate the issue further. However, they first require you to make a complaint to the Immigration Department (above). You should also note the reference number of your complaint to the Immigration Department.
Details on how to make a complaint can be found here.
Talk to your local Member of Parliament
We also recommend you contact your local Member of Parliament about this issue. You can ask to have a meeting with them to discuss this problem.
By you contacting your local MP they will know that this is an important issue. It will also help us in our advocacy in raising awareness about this issue. You can find the contact details of your local MP here.
Should I get legal advice?
The decision of the Federal Court means that the Department should improve the processing time for citizenship applications. However, it may still take some time for your application to be processed.
You may be thinking about getting your own legal advice. However, there is very little free legal advice available so you may have to pay for it.
You should get legal advice from a lawyer:
- If you have been invited to attend an interview with the Department of Immigration
- If you have received a letter claiming that a document is false or fraudulent
- If you have previously provided false or fraudulent documents to the Australian Government or State Government
- If you have received a letter saying that the Department is considering cancelling your visa
The Refugee Council of Australia is not a legal provider and cannot provide legal advice. If you need legal advice please see our page on legal services.