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Australia Plans To Tighten Rules For Citizenship

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull earlier this month. He is proposing tougher requirements for citizenship.

It may soon become harder for immigrants to become Australian citizens. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull proposed sweeping changes Thursday.

Turnbull said applicants would need to be permanent residents for four years — three years longer than the current wait — show higher English competency and display even more evidence of integration through work or school and "respect for women and children."

"There is no more important title in our democracy than Australian citizen, and Australian citizenship, the Australian citizen, that institution must reflect Australian values," Turnbull said.

In followup remarks, the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton said the prospective citizen will have to show Australian values. How those values will be tested has yet to be determined, Dutton said, but the public will have the opportunity to weigh in.

In his speech, Turnbull tried to stress the importance of maintaining Australia's diversity, "when an Australian can look like a person from any race, any background in the world, but what we share are those values. And our citizenship process should reflect that," he said.

But The New York Times reports, "the moves put Australia at the forefront of a global movement to limit migration and to turn citizenship from something meant to help people integrate into what Mr. Turnbull called a 'big prize' — a reward for having assimilated."

Senator Penny Wong of the opposing Labor party told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that the changes appear to be designed for political purposes. She said, "If English grammar is the test, there might be a few members of parliament that may struggle."

Before going into effect, the new rules must be approved by Parliament.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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