TOP 10 MIGRATION ISSUES OF 2007
Issue #4: Testing Immigrants — Literally
December 3, 2007
Prove you can fit in here. That is the challenge many countries placed in
stark terms this year by implementing citizenship tests or increasing language
In the case of Australia, the government decided to do both.
Earlier this year, the mere mention of instituting a citizenship test that
required cultural knowledge and basic English skills caused outrage among some
Australians. They feared that such a test would scare off potential migrants
(especially the much-desired highly skilled), contradict federal legislation
and provincial multicultural policies, and disadvantage migrants from non-English-speaking
backgrounds. Some called the citizenship test "fundamentally un-Australian."
Despite such arguments, the conservative government pushed ahead, and Parliament
passed the measure. Nearly 300 people took the first citizenship test on
October 1, and 83 percent achieved the 60 percent pass rate.
Acknowledging that better English language skills mean better jobs and pay
for migrants, Australia also raised the English proficiency bar for its General
Skilled Migration Program. As of September 1, those seeking entry as skilled
migrants need to score at least a 6.0 when previously only a 5.0 was needed
on the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Those who score
a 7.0 or higher receive 25 points, instead of the 15 points awarded to those who score at least a 6.0, toward their overall score for entry.
The United Kingdom’s Highly Skilled Migrant Program already required a 6.0
IELTS score. Under its new point-based system — which covers all types of employment
and students and will begin rolling out in 2008 in a multistage process — most migrants coming for skilled or
highly skilled work will have to show they have an "acceptable standard" of
The French have joined the trend, too. Tests for language skills and French
values became new requirements for prospective immigrants thanks to a law passed
this fall. Immigrants recognized as lacking competency in written and spoken French are required to take 400 hours of subsidized French language courses in France.
While the United States does not require English language skills for entry,
it has moved toward demanding a better understanding of US history and civic values
of would-be citizens. This year, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
tried out its civics questions on immigrants in numerous cities before narrowing
the list down to 100 in September. USCIS will start giving the new test on
October 1, 2008.
Although Singapore has not yet considered a citizenship test, the prosperous
Southeast Asian country held its first National Citizenship Ceremony this August.
One commentator suggested that a citizenship test might make the highly skilled
choose another destination but also stated, "Neither should we be so desperate
for a higher body count that we do not assert the need for some adherence to
2002-2013 Migration Policy Institute.
All rights reserved.
Migration Information Source, ISSN 1946-4037
MPI · 1400 16th St. NW, Suite 300 · Washington, DC 20036
ph: (001) 202-266-1940 · fax: (001) 202-266-1900