Social Issues

Australia’s plan to test partner visa applicants’ English stirs controversy

Sydney, Australia, Oct 8 (efe-epa).- The Australian government is planning to test the English proficiency of partners of permanent residents applying for a partner visa, a move that is being labeled as discriminatory by some sectors.

The authorities, for their part, argue that the proposal, which has yet to be approved by parliament, promotes social cohesion and migrants’ access to the job market.

If the new measure is approved in the parliament, where the government has a majority, its implementation would begin at the end of 2021, Immigration Minister Alan Tudge said in a statement on Thursday.

“From late 2021, new partner visa applicants and permanent resident sponsors will be required to have functional level English or to demonstrate that they have made reasonable efforts to learn English,” the minister said.

“People will be able to demonstrate this through, for example, the completion of 500 hours of free English language classes through the AMEP (Adult Migration English Program).”

Immigrants may reside in the country with a provisional visa of up to two years before being tested.

“English is our national language and is critical to getting a job, fully participating in our democracy and for social cohesion,” Tudge stressed.

According to the minister, only 13 percent of those with no English skills have jobs compared to 62 percent of those who speak English well.

“These new measures will provide further opportunity for migrants and new citizens to maximize their opportunities in Australia,” he added.

The announcement of the plan has stirred a controversy among the political opposition and other sectors.

Australian National University demographer Liz Allen told SBS News that the new requirements were reminiscent of the White Australia policy of the last century that promoted immigration from European countries.

“Are you (Alan Tudge) forcing Australians to choose who they fall in love with or marry based on their language skills?” Labor senator Kristina Keneally wrote on Twitter.

In Australia, almost one million out of the 25 million inhabitants do not speak English or have difficulty communicating in the national language, according to official data. EFE-EPA

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