01 September 2009

Amendments to fast-track Australia visa to residency for athletes

Changes to Australia's residency requirements will be introduced into Parliament this month to enable elite athletes who move to Australia but travel frequently become citizens and represent Australia at international events including the Olympics.

Australian citizenship

Athletes and those who travel extensively for their work will benefit from ammendements allowing them to move from an Australian visa to Australian citizenship easier.

In the past it has been difficult under the current legislation for some sports people and other specialist professionals who emigrate to Australia to meet the requirements for Australian citizenship due to their international travel commitments.

"Elite athletes, tennis players and professionals such as international airline pilots and offshore oil rig workers often don't meet the residency requirements for Australian citizenship because they are required to travel extensively outside Australia as part of their employment," the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Senator Chris Evans said.

People who are out of the country for 90 days or more in the year before applying for citizenship are currently ineligible to become citizens. In 2007, the previous Australian Government also changed the residence requirement for citizenship from two years to four years and removed certain discretionary residence provisions leaving a small group of people significantly disadvantaged.

"Due to their professional travel commitments, people who are ordinarily resident in Australia are unable to be present in the country for the required period of time and this effectively excludes them from becoming Australian citizens," Senator Evans said.

"Elite athletes who have the potential to represent Australia at an international level but need to be citizens to do so have been disadvantaged along with some specialist professionals including international airline pilots and offshore oil rig workers.

"These changes will create a smoother path to citizenship for elite athletes and people in specialist professions and enable Australia to benefit from the talents and skills they bring to our country."

Under amendments to the Australian Citizenship Act 2007, people in special circumstances such as elite athletes will need to have been a permanent resident for two years before their application with at least six months physically in Australia, require citizenship to represent Australia in their sport and have their application supported by a recognised national peak body such as the Australian Olympic Committee or Tennis Australia.

Specialist professionals will need to have been lawfully resident in Australia for four years immediately before applying for Australian citizenship with at least 16 months physically in Australia, travel extensively in the course of their work, and have their citizenship application supported by their current employer.

"All applicants will need to be able to show that despite spending periods of time overseas, their home is in Australia. They will also be required to meet all other legal requirements for citizenship, including sitting and passing the citizenship test," Senator Evans said.

"The revamped requirements will create a fairer system for people who, due to circumstances beyond their control, are currently ineligible for citizenship. These changes will lead to more gold medals for Australia at sporting events, as well as providing a real win for the national workforce."

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people with their Australia visa applications. 

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