In the latest immigration update, the Australian Government has announced that almost all new visa applicants, be it permanent, provisional, or temporary will have to sign or accept a revamped Australian Values Statement.
In a bid to encourage migrants to have a better understanding of Australia, the government has updated its Values Statement with a reinforced focus on values such as freedom, respect, equality, and the rule of law.
As part of the change, the declaration that applicants for Australian citizenship sign as part of the application process have also been revised to reflect the wordings of the statement.
The change is part of the Morrison Government’s Budget allocation worth $62.8 million towards supporting social cohesion and is the first substantial change to the statement since it was first introduced in 2007.
Announcing the update on Friday, Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge said there will now be one statement for both temporary and permanent visa applicants that confirms they understand the Australian values, its people and way of life.
Those who want to settle in Australia permanently will also commit to make reasonable efforts to learn English, so they can fully participate in the community and have the best possible chance to get a job. There is no new test or threshold associated with this change – Alan Tudge
As part of the announcement, Minister Tudge reiterated that the new Australian Citizenship Test with a stronger focus on Australian values will also come into effect on November 15.
Who is required to sign an Australian Values Statement?
Most visa applicants, all provisional, permanent and a small number of temporary visa applicants aged 18 years or over are required to sign or accept an Australian Values Statement at the time of lodging their application, acknowledging Australian values and undertaking to conduct themselves in accordance with these values and laws before being granted a visa.
There is, however, a small group of visa applicants who are exempted from accepting or signing the statement, including, but not limited to visitor visas and New Zealand citizens entering the country on a special category visa.
So, what are these values?
- respect for the freedom and dignity of the individual
- freedom of religion (including the freedom not to follow a particular religion), freedom of speech, and freedom of association
- commitment to the rule of law, which means that all people are subject to the law and should obey it
- parliamentary democracy whereby our laws are determined by parliaments elected by the people, those laws being paramount and overriding any other inconsistent religious or secular “laws”
- equality of opportunity for all people, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, race, or national or ethnic origin
- a ‘fair go’ for all that embraces: mutual respect; tolerance; compassion for those in need; equality of opportunity for all
- the English language as the national language, and as an important unifying element of Australian society
Where a visa application requires an applicant to sign an Australian Values Statement, it is set out in the application form either as a question or as part of the declaration. The form will also advise age requirement for signing the statement which varies depending on the type of application being lodged.
But for people currently offshore and applying for a Humanitarian visa, are required to sign the statement during an interview.
Applicants lodging a paper application are required to sign the statement, while online applicants are asked to agree to the undertaking.
In circumstances where the online application includes dependant applicants who have reached a certain age, the main visa applicant will also need to agree that any secondary applicants have been advised of, and agree to, the Australian Values Statement.
Relevant applicants may have their visa application “delayed or refused” if they do not sign the values statement except in compelling circumstances, as per information available on the Department of Home Affairs’ website.
Commenting on the change, former senior Immigration Department official Abul Rizvi said the changes to the Australian Values Statement may be a step in the right direction, but to ensure migrants abide by these values remains the real challenge.
“How can the government ensure migrants to conduct themselves in line with the values statement they signed at the time of lodging their application. While yes, the efforts towards learning the English language can perhaps be measured, but what about the rest of the values. How do you quantify mateship?” he said.