DFA calls for major lateral recruit reform

Date: Sep 14, 2012

A survey by the Defence Families of Australia (DFA) has found that the biggest barrier for families of lateral recruits, to working in their chosen professional field is a lack of citizenship.
The term lateral recruit refers to defence force personnel from other countries who go to work for the Australian Defence Force. After 90 days' service they are then eligible for citizenship - but under former arrangements, the recruit's family members had to wait for a period of up to four years for the same privilege to be granted.

The families previously found it frustrating that there was just a vast gap between citizenship avenues for a recruit and their family.

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They will no doubt be happy with the announcement that the federal government has amended this in the Australian Citizenship Act so that family members who meet select criteria are eligible to have their citizenship application fast tracked.

Immigration and citizenship minister Chris Bowen said that the families of defence force personnel should be looked after.

"The government recognises that families who support ADF members serving Australia should be able to build a close and continuing relationship with Australia at the same time as their serving family members.

"We are providing families with earlier eligibility for citizenship to assist them with settling in Australia, including providing access to employment opportunities and educational assistance," he said.

Among the concerns of the DFA in its survey was that less than half had a designated sponsor to help be integrated into Australia as well as a lack of a standard information pack about adjusting to life in a new country. Another is that the process for interviewing families was different for the army, navy and air force.

The criteria for this new program are that the recruit must have been granted a particular immigration visa after July 1, 2007 and undertake 90 days of service.

Shadow minister for defence science, technology and personnel Stuart Robert originally introduced a private member's bill into the parliament seeking for fast tracked citizenship for lateral recruits.

The shadow immigration department has welcomed the accelerated citizenship, saying that they it championed this cause.

Family members can take advantage of this new system on January 1, 2013.