Earlier this morning I had to sit my citizenship test as the final hurdle before I can apply for Australian citizenship. I call it the Anti-Muslim Test as it was brought in after the Cronulla Riots, partly out of concerns that Muslims weren’t fully embracing Australian culture and were part of some sinister plan to encourage Sharia Law. Complete nonsense of course, but the test was the result, as was an extension of the waiting period between becoming a permanent resident and being eligible to apply for citizenship from two years to four.
The test is supposed to ensure that you’re aware of your rights and your responsibilities as a citizen and have a passing understanding of the history and government of Australia, and can speak English. Sample questions are “Who is Australia’s Head of State?”, “How many levels of government are there?” and “Are newspapers free to say what they want in Australia”, with the corresponding answers being “The Queen”, “3”, and “Yes - as long as they don’t defame someone or incite hatred/intolerance”.
The barrier is set pretty low; there’s 20 multiple-choice questions, out of which you have to get 12 right. There are also three questions on values which result in an instant fail if you get any of them wrong. You get 45 minutes to do the test, but, as a guide to how easy it is it took me 90 seconds and I got 100%! I also didn’t bother studying for it, skimming the citizenship booklet only once, though I am at an advantage in that I grew up in a Western-style democracy, speak English and have already lived in Australia for close to 10 years.
Despite passing the test comfortably, it turns out I now fall foul of the new waiting period requirements as you are no longer permitted to count time living in Australia before you were granted permanent residency. So now I enter what I call a ‘citizen-in-limbo’ period where I’ve met all the requirement, but have to wait until March 2011 before I can do my citizenship conferral ceremony. Bit of a shame really, as this September will see the 10th anniversary of my immigration and I was hoping to have become a citizen before this date.