Tougher test for Warwick's new citizens

Jimmy Tatamugar has been trying to become an Australian citizen for two years.
Jimmy Tatamugar has been trying to become an Australian citizen for two years. Jonno Colfs

ROSE City residents working hard toward dreams of Australian citizenship will be forced to undertake more rigorous testing than ever before to prove their commitment to "Aussie values”.

A shake-up of the citizenship process will mean a longer wait for applicants and has come as a shock to some.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said a new citizenship test would put "Australian values at the heart of citizenship process”.

Potential new citizens will now be required to be permanent Australian residents for four years, a steep jump from the previous one-year period.

Jimmy Tatamugar moved to Toowoomba in 2008 as a refugee from war-torn Chad, Africa, and now calls the Rose City home.

With French as his first language, Mr Tatamugar studied English at TAFE and later studied nursing at the University of Southern Queensland.

"I have a degree in banking management from a university in Chad,” he said.

"But the degree was studied in French so it means nothing here.

"Here I am pushing trolleys.”

Mr Tatamugar first applied for Australian citizenship in 2015 and was denied.

"I applied again last year and was denied again,” he said.

"Three weeks ago I was told I had been rejected yet again, because I didn't have enough money in my bank account.”

Mr Tatamugar said learning English was not easy for many.

"Making it tougher is not fair on those people, but everyone who comes to Australia must respect the culture, laws and the way

of life,” he said.

"It's a beautiful, friendly, peaceful multicultural society, and that's the way it should be.”

Mr Tatamugar said new citizens should respect Australian values.

Member for Maranoa David Littleproud said becoming an Australian was a privilege.

"The reforms will ensure applicants are proficient in English, have been a permanent resident for at least four years and be committed to embracing Australian values,” Mr Littleproud said.

"English proficiency is essential for economic participation, it promotes integration into the Australian community and social cohesion.”

Mr Littleproud said the new requirements would apply to all new applications for Australian citizenship.

"If you applied last week, you will be processed under the old laws,” he said.

"If you apply today, you will have to adhere to the new requirements.”

Warwick chef Amit Grover, a permanent resident since December, said he was not aware of the changes. "I was told 12 months,” Mr Grover said.

NOT FAIR: Amit Grover, chef at Warwick's new Maple Indian Gourmet restaurant was shocked to hear of changes to citizenship process.
NOT FAIR: Amit Grover, chef at Warwick's new Maple Indian Gourmet restaurant was shocked to hear of changes to citizenship process. Jonno Colfs

"I was planning to apply straight away after that time, so this is a shock.”

Mr Grover said he had lived in Australia for five years.

"I already know all the laws, I understand the culture and the Australian way and I love it,” he said.

"That's why I want to become a citizen.

"I think that increase to four years is too much - if they were going to increase it, why not maybe six months more? I don't know that another three years will make that much difference.

"I think it's a bit unfair.”

As for a tougher citizenship test, Mr Grover was not concerned.

"I'm fairly confident it won't be a problem,” he said.

"Friends have done it and passed first time.

"If it is harder, it will still be general Aussie knowledge and common sense.”

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