‘Forgotten Canadians’ are paying a price for delays in processing their citizenship papers. A new study reveals the real cost

Makes reference to earlier IADB study on economic impact of citizenship delays (Citizenship and the Economic Assimilation of Canadian Immigrants ):

An engineer for one of the world’s largest car manufacturers in Ontario, Syeda Umar says a Canadian passport will be handy for her to travel for work assignments — and crucial for advancing her career.

So as soon as the Pakistani immigrant met all the citizenship requirements, she submitted her application in September 2019.

Now, almost 22 months later, she is still waiting to be scheduled a citizenship exam stalled amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Her job as a senior quality engineer requires her to deal with the company’s global supply chain and, at times, she’s expected to spend weeks and months overseas on assignment.

Due to the visa limitation as a Pakistani passport holder, Umar says twice so far her boss has had to ask her colleagues to step in to cover the business trips for her.

“This is starting to affect my job and my career,” says the 33-year-old Woodstock, Ont., resident, who arrived here in 2014 for a postgraduate degree at University of Waterloo and became a permanent resident in 2017.

“I feel extremely frustrated and sad.”

But even more is at stake with any prolonged delay in citizenship acquisition, according to a recent study by the Inter-American Development Bank that examined the relationship between citizenship and Canadian immigrants’ economic assimilation.

Source: ‘Forgotten Canadians’ are paying a price for delays in processing their citizenship papers. A new study reveals the real cost

Immigration New Zealand hires 100 as Beijing office shuts

Part of other office closures (Mumbai, Manila and Pretoria) given reduced volumes, with more “anchoring” of visa processing and “strengthening our risk and verification”.

INZ shed more than 300 jobs overseas as it shut branches in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, but recruitment had been on hold due to financial constraints.

It today announced its Beijing visa processing office would shut by the end of July, joining closures in Mumbai, Manila and Pretoria earlier this year.

Before Covid-19 struck, the Beijing office decided half of all New Zealand’s temporary visas.

One overseas visa processing office will remain – in Samoa – when the branch in China closes, although risk and verification staff will continue to work in other offshore locations.

“This is a continuation of INZ’s adaptation to the impact of Covid-19,” a spokesperson said.

“INZ is taking this opportunity to reduce costs, introduce advanced technology to improve efficiency, manage offshore risk more effectively and move visa processing activities onshore.”

Some of the newly recruited staff in New Zealand are understood to have been taken on to process residence applications.

The government asked for 50,000 to 60,000 new residents to be approved in the last 18 months under the residence programme (NZRP).

The NZRP is the framework for granting residence to skilled, family and humanitarian migrants. With one month left before the NZRP expires, it is 3500 away from the lowest end of that range.

In a statement, INZ said that from January 2020 to last month it had approved 46,562 people for residence.

“INZ continues to ensure that resourcing for the processing of skilled residence applications remains in line with the levels agreed to under the previous NZRP, as agreed with the previous Minister of Immigration,” INZ border and visa operations general manager Nicola Hogg said.

“Skilled residence applications are processed in INZ’s Manukau office. As at 21 May 2021, 85 immigration officers are responsible for processing skilled residence applications. Residence applications take time to process given how much there is at stake and the level of scrutiny required for each application.

“Recruitment throughout Immigration New Zealand’s onshore visa processing network is under way, with 100 vacancies recently being filled. This recruitment will allow INZ to increase its onshore visa processing capacity.”

The government is reviewing how it will draw up residence targets in future, alongside policy work on the skilled migrant category.

Among skilled migrant residence visas, the number of residents decided last month fell to 658, down from a high of 1925 in November. Rejection rates increased from 7 percent to 21 percent over the same period.

A quarter of applicants have been waiting two years for a decision.

For the past two months since March 2021, INZ has been working on applications made in August 2019.

Source: Immigration New Zealand hires 100 as Beijing office shuts

Immigration applicants forced to file access to information requests to get answers on status: report

Hopefully, the GCMS modernization announced in Budget 2021 will enable this through an expanded MyAccount portal with increased functionality to both improve applicant service as well as reduce ATIP requests and costs:

The federal department in charge of immigration applications has been flooded with access to information requests because it provides so little information to applicants proactively, according to a new report by the Information Commissioner.

Have you applied to immigrate in Canada and want to know the status of your application? Or maybe your request was denied and you want to understand why? Well, instead of being able to see that information via your unique login on Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada’s (IRCC) Web portal, you have to file an access to information request (ATIP).

Source: Immigration applicants forced to file access to information requests to get answers on status: report

For the IRCC response, see: IRCC launches efforts to streamline and modernize access to information and privacy system and the related Management Action Plan.

USCIS: Citizenship agency eyes improved service without plan to pay

Canada also needs to modernize its citizenship program (https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/april-2021/amid-languishing-numbers-canadas-citizenship-process-needs-to-be-modernized/), including full integration into the GCMS modernization project):

Less than a year after being on the verge of furloughing about 70% of employees to plug a funding shortfall, the U.S. agency that grants citizenship, green cards and temporary visas wants to improve service without a detailed plan to pay for it, including granting waivers for those who can’t afford to pay fees, according to a proposal obtained by The Associated Press.

The Homeland Security Department sent its 14-page plan to enhance procedures for becoming a naturalized citizen to the White House for approval on April 21, It involves U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is part of Homeland Security and has been operating entirely on fees, without funding from Congress.

The plan describes short- and long-term changes that reflect “a realistic assessment of our aspirations and limitations,” including more video instead of in-person interviews with applicants, authorizing employees to administer citizenship oaths instead of having to rely on federal judges, and promoting online filing to reduce processing times.

Homeland Security says it can all be done without the approval of Congress, where consensus on immigration has proven elusive for years.

Taken together, the changes mark a complete break from the Trump administration, when the agency focused on combatting fraud and adjusted to shrinking immigration benefits, such as ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to shield young people from deportation.

The plan also seeks to give potential U.S. citizens the benefit of the doubt. For instance, it specifies that an immigrant who mistakenly registers to vote in U.S. elections before becoming a citizen won’t be punished. Doing so now can lead to deportation or criminal charges, likely ending a person’s chance for citizenship.

The issue has been in the spotlight amid a recent surge in automatic voter registration and former President Donald Trump’s repeated unsubstantiated claims that millions of people voted illegally in 2016. Last year, Illinois’ automatic voter registration program mistakenly registered hundreds of people who said they weren’t U.S. citizens. At least one voted.

The document that aims to improve the citizenship process is designed to “encourage full participation in our civic life and democracy” and to deliver services effectively and efficiently.

It doesn’t provide cost estimates for any of the proposed changes, though some measures appear designed to save money as well as achieve efficiencies. It also acknowledges success depends on long-term financial stability, which includes asking Congress for money.

Under the plan, the agency would continue subsidizing the costs of becoming a citizen to make sure the process is available to as many people as possible. Guidelines on fee waivers would be consistent and transparent, it said.

The administration “recognizes that the cost of fees can be a barrier to certain individuals filing for naturalization and is committed to providing affordable naturalizations,” the document reads. “This will mean that other fee-paying applicants and petitioners will continue to subsidize this policy decision to ensure full cost recovery.”

The White House and Homeland Security Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Fiscal challenges came to a head last summer when the agency threatened more than 13,000 furloughs to tackle a projected $1.26 billion shortfall. But a few tense months later, it said it didn’t need the money after all and would end the year with a surplus. The agency’s then-acting director, Joseph Edlow, said application fees rebounded more than expected as offices reopened from coronavirus shutdowns and contracts were reviewed for cost savings.

The anticipated shortfall first surfaced in November 2019, when the agency proposed major fee increases — well before COVID-19 threatened finances.

The budget whiplash raised doubts about how the agency’s finances deteriorated so rapidly then suddenly recovered. Ur Jaddou, who was nominated by President Joe Biden in April to lead the agency, was among those with questions.

Jaddou, who served as the agency’s chief counsel under President Barack Obama, said in October that the agency needed a financial audit. She questioned some changes under the Trump administration, including justification for a major expansion of an anti-fraud unit and a requirement, since abandoned by Biden, to reject applications that left any spaces blank.

“It really is a bunch of bureaucratic red tape,” she said when discussing the agency’s financial woes.

Fees were set to increase by an average of 20% last October but a federal judge blocked them days before they were to take effect. The fee to become a naturalized citizen was set to jump to $1,170 from $640. Fee waivers were to be largely eliminated for people who could not afford to apply.

Other Trump-era fee changes that were stopped included a first-ever charge to apply for asylum of $50. Asylum-seekers would also have to pay $550 if they sought work authorization and $30 for collecting biometrics.

The wait to process a citizenship application grew to more than a year by the end of Trump’s presidency from less than eight months four years earlier.

Hundreds of thousands of Canadian citizenship hopefuls waiting for applications to be processed

While immigration has started to recover from COVID lows, citizenship has largely not: less than 9,000 January-March 2021 compared to 61,000 for the same quarter in 2020:

In March 2020, Minakshi thought her journey to Canadian citizenship was coming to a close, as Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada set a date for her test.

Then the world changed before her eyes on March 11, exactly a week before her scheduled citizenship exam, as the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

The IRCC cancelled all tests, including hers, except for what it called a few “urgent” exams, held virtually.

“It does look like there’s some promising signs of spring ahead,” Sharma said, referring to the online testing process flowing more smoothly now.

But it is little comfort for Minakshi: “If I get the fourth fingerprint request next year, I’m going to withdraw my file,” she said.

Source: Hundreds of thousands of Canadian citizenship hopefuls waiting for applications to be processed

Advocates calling on Canada to resolve citizenship application backlog

No surprise. The requests are largely reasonable (greater transparency on status of applications, resumption of tests but not waiving them). Given the government’s campaign commitment to abolish the fees, understandable that they request a reimbursement of the fees (to date, no sign of IRCC acting on that commitment):

Citizenship-applicants and their supporters are calling on the federal government to address the backlog that is preventing thousands from becoming Canadian citizens.

A group called Advocates for Resumption of Canadian Citizenship Tests held demonstrations in Toronto and Montreal on November 7. The group was formed in response to the backlog in citizenship applicants waiting to get approved for a test, or for a citizenship ceremony. Their next demonstration will be in Ottawa on November 28.

Canada’s immigration department, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada(IRCC), cancelled all citizenship tests, interviews, and ceremonies on March 14 in response to the pandemic. IRCC began offering online citizenship ceremonies in April, at a rate of about 2,500 to 3,000 per week, significantly down from the 4,700 they were processing per week in 2019.

Citizenship applicants must demonstrate basic knowledge of Canada, as per the Citizenship Act. Applicants now must meet this requirement by doing the citizenship test, which is currently not available online. Though some in-person retesting has resumed, this means for many that they are unable to get Canadian citizenship. As of September, there were about 85,000 people waiting to take the citizenship test.

As a result, they are unable to vote, work in certain government jobs, or get a Canadian passport.

“It worries us, when we receive several messages in our group from people describing how this is affecting their mental health, relationships, their ability to travel home, their government job prospects, the need to unnecessarily extend their PR status etc.,” wrote a spokesperson from the citizenship tests advocates in a media release.

Nael Asad is one of the co-founder of the advocacy group, and one of thousands waiting for an invitation to take the citizenship test. He has had his permanent residency since 2008, and applied for citizenship in April 2019. Before the pandemic, IRCC’s average processing time for citizenship applications was about one year, so Asad was expecting an invitation for around the time when the pandemic hit in March.

“It’s very disrespectful to leave 85,000 people or more out there in limbo without any kind of update,” Asad told CIC News. “Tell us, ‘OK we’re not going to open up until this pandemic are over,’ but for eight or nine months now they’re saying the same thing ‘We’re monitoring the situation, check our website for updates.’ So people are going every single day on the website to check for updates.”

He also described how being a citizen comes with a sense of security, especially for people who fled war zones to come to Canada.

“When you are a citizen, you are a citizen,” he said. “Nothing is gonna happen to you this is your home country, but technically it is not our home country until we become citizens.”

The advocacy group’s online petition now has over 9,000 signatures. They are making three calls to action for IRCC: transparency on what the immigration department has been doing with the applications since March; the resumption, or wavier, of citizenship tests; and the reimbursement of the citizenship application fee, which runs about $630 for adults.

CIC News reached out to IRCC on updated numbers of citizenship files processed, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Source: Advocates calling on Canada to resolve citizenship application backlog

Immigration committee study highlighting coronavirus impact on Canadian immigrants

Will be interesting to follow, particularly with respect to backlogs and processing (hopefully citizenship as well):

Separated family members, approved permanent residents unable to travel to Canada, and others are speaking up in the House of Commons as witnesses in a study on Canadian immigration.

Canada’s Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration is conducting a study that will examine the impact of COVID-19 on the Canadian immigration system over the course of no more than eight sessions. Once the study is complete, the committee will report its findings to the House. The government then has 120 days to table a comprehensive response, however, they are not obligated to make any change in policy.

This particular study will look into the following issues relevant to the coronavirus impact on Canadian immigration:

  • Application backlogs and processing times for the different streams of family reunification and the barriers preventing the timely reunification of loved ones, such as denials of Temporary Resident Visas (TRVs) because of section 179(b) of the Immigration and Refugees Protection Regulations, and the ongoing closures of Visa Application Centres;
  • Examine the government’s decision to reintroduce a lottery system for the reunification of parents and grandparents; to compare it to previous iterations of application processes for this stream of family reunification, including a review of processing time and the criteria required for the successful sponsorship;
  • TRV processing delays faced by international students in securing TRVs, particularly in francophone Africa, authorization to travel to Canada by individuals with an expired confirmation of permanent residency, use of expired security, medical, and background checks for permanent immigration.

While House is in session, the committee is meeting at 3:30 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays. The next meetings are scheduled for November 16, and 18. Immigration minister, Marco Mendicino, has been invited to appear before the committee on November 25 and December 2.

How travel restrictions are affecting immigrants’ mental health

Among other early findings, the mental health of immigrants and their Canadian family members was examined in two scenarios relating to family separation.

Faces of Advocacy is a grassroots organization established to reunite families in Canada during COVID-19 travel restrictions. They say they are directly responsible for the exemption on extended family members, which was announced on October 2.

The group indexed the mental health of 1,200 members at the end of August. They used validated mental health rating scales for depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress in civilians. The results are not diagnostic, but offer a glimpse into the mental health effects that have resulted from travel restrictions.

Despite 49 per cent of respondents reporting they have never been diagnosed with mental illness, just over 69 per cent would screen positive for symptoms of clinical depression. In addition, 16 per cent of respondents had a history of self harm or suicidal thoughts prior to the travel restrictions, but after family separation this nearly doubled to 30 per cent.

Spousal Sponsorship Advocates was established during the pandemic. It is as another grassroots movement, created to advocate for the accelerated reunification of families with ongoing spousal sponsorship applications in Canada.

Their survey took a mental health snapshot of 548 respondents, who had been separated from family for months or even years at a time. Of these, a reported:

  • 18 per cent have suicidal thoughts;
  • 22 per cent had to stop working;
  • 70 per cent have anxiety and 44 per cent generalized anxiety;
  • 35 per cent started having panic attacks;
  • 78 per cent have periods of severe depression;
  • 76 per cent have severe energy loss;
  • 57 per cent now have physical pain;
  • 52 per cent gained or lost weight abnormally;
  • 85 per cent have sleep problems.

The mental state of expired confirmation of permanent residence, or COPR, holders was also mentioned. These are people who were approved for permanent residence, but were not able to travel to Canada before their documents expired. As a result, many are unable to come to Canada without an authorization letter from Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada, and they have already upended their lives in their home country. The evidence includes a series of tweets that are intended to show the “pains, agony, [and] mental torture” experienced by COPR holders.

Source: Immigration committee study highlighting coronavirus impact on Canadian immigrants

Immigration services to reopen gradually after pandemic shut down many programs

Useful overview:

Immigration officials are beginning gradually to resume in-person services after the pandemic forced many programs to shut down, frustrating immigrants whose lives were put on hold.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) shut down immigration tests and citizenship ceremonies in March to protect the health and safety of staff and clients. The department started offering some virtual services over the last few months. Starting this week, it is opening in-person services by appointment only.

“This testing phase will allow us to assess our protocols and procedures and ensure the safety of our staff and our clients. The lessons learned will help us plan for reopening services more widely in the future,” says the IRCC’s website.

Limited services being offered at specific locations include citizenship, services related to permanent residence, asylum claims and biometrics.

Clients must wait for government officials to schedule appointments before visiting an IRCC site and should not call IRCC to try to arrange a date themselves, the department says.

William Ojeda and his family have waited an agonizing three years to renew their permanent residency, a time frame he said is unreasonable. They are now unable to re-enter Canada from Mexico.

“Being unable to be in Canada, and the uncertainty and anxiety of almost three years checking the IRCC website pretty much daily after the initial reasonable delay, and worrying for the well-being of my kids has been really, really hard,” he wrote in an email from Guadalajara.

Odeja, his wife and their eldest daughter were born in Mexico, while his two younger daughters were born in Canada and are citizens.

‘Three years lost’

“We have never broken a law … we live, by choice, by Canadian written and social laws and yet we feel treated as second class immigrants,” he said.

“If the decision is favourable, of course, it would be a happy ending and all the uncertainty, anxiety and fear will blur over time. If negative, it would be all for nothing, with three years lost on our life plan, which is in Canada.”Ojeda said the delay in processing his file predated the pandemic. COVID-19 has created a bigger backlog in many cases, however.

Conservative immigration critic Raquel Dancho said she’s heard from countless families affected by what she calls the “administrative ineptness” of IRCC.

“The lack of a plan throughout the pandemic has failed refugees and immigrants who wish to come to Canada,” she said.

“The Liberals have failed to ensure a fair and compassionate immigration process for the world’s most vulnerable. Frankly, it’s unacceptable and those that depend on the immigration system deserve better.”

NDP MP Jenny Kwan said MP offices have been “inundated” with immigration applicants’ desperate pleas for help. She said several of her MP colleagues have reported that immigration cases consume up to 90 per cent of their constituency casework.

“It’s apparent that there has been little to no movement on IRCC offices resuming their work up to now. The limited capacity of the restart will still mean that too many people are still just going to be stuck in the system with ongoing delays,” she said.”People are still being asked to continue to put their lives on hold. Is it a wonder that families desperate to reunite with their loved ones feel that their cries for help are just falling on deaf ears? The problems with the backlog are so deep that this limited restart will do little to reassure those stuck in the system.”

Efforts to speed up processing

Mathieu Genest, spokesperson for Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino, said the department has been adapting its systems to speed up the processing of applications while protecting the health and safety of staff, clients and Canadians. IRCC has prioritized applications from Canadians and permanent residents returning to Canada, as well as people performing essential services.

Staff now have more resources and streamlined processes for working remotely, he said.

“The expansion of the resumption of in-person services will depend on the results of and lessons learned during this pilot, as well as regional health guidelines, available capacity and virtual alternatives, among other considerations,” he said.

IRCC has introduced safety measures at its locations — including a self-assessment questionnaire that must be completed before an appointment and again before entering the premises.

All employees and clients are required to wear masks, maintain physical distance and follow signs directing the flow of foot traffic. People who appear ill will have to reschedule their appointments.

Source: Immigration services to reopen gradually after pandemic shut down many programs

Australian #citizenship approvals up by 56 per cent but waiting period shoots up

More on Australian citizenship numbers and processing delays:


  • 170,819 people have been conferred Australian citizenship in 2019-20
  • 15,000 people have received citizenship online during the pandemic
  • 117,958 applicants still in the queue for citizenship

“The Government has moved to online citizenship ceremonies during the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 750 online ceremonies are being conducted each day, and to 20 May 2020, more than 15,000 people have received citizenship this way during the pandemic,” a spokesperson from the Department of Home Affairs told SBS Hindi.

“In 2019-20 to 15 May 2020, 170,819 people have been conferred Australian citizenship. This is up 56 per cent on the same period last year,” the spokesperson said.

However, those who have applied for citizenship and are awaiting the outcome of their Australian citizenship application will have to wait longer.

The latest processing times released by the Department of Home Affairs indicates the waiting period for Australian citizenship has shot up.

Compared to waiting period of 16 months, from date of application to ceremony, in June 2019, the average waiting period for 75 per cent of applicants has shot up to 23 months from date of application to ceremony in April 2020.

Australian Citizenship PRocessing times April 2020

The latest processing times released by the Department of Home Affairs indicates the waiting period for Australian citizenship has shot up.
Department of Home Affairs

“Due to the health risks, all face-to-face citizenship appointments, such as interviews and citizenship tests, have been placed on hold. This has meant an increase in overall processing times,” the spokesperson said.

“The Department will recommence in-person interviews and citizenship tests when it is safe to do so.

“New applications for Australian citizenship are still able to be accepted during this period.

“Processing continues for applications that do not require a face-to-face appointment. Processing also continues for lodged applications up to the point where an appointment is required so that the applicant will be able to undertake an appointment when it is safe to do so.”

Last month, as COVID-19 pandemic forced citizenship ceremonies to move online, Acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, Alan Tudge said additional resources will be deployed once it is possible to resume tests and interviews.

‘Additional resources will be deployed to conduct testing and interviews as soon as social distancing measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 ease,’ he said.

As of April 30, 2020, 117,958* applicants were still awaiting the outcome of their citizenship application.

India top source of Australian citizenship

India has been the top source of Australian citizenship for the last two years, with over 28,000 Indian nationals becoming Australian citizens in 2018-19.

Source of Australian Citizenship 2018-19

Source of Australian Citizenship 2018-19
Department of Home Affairs

Indian-born applicants also top the list of visa recipients by country under Australia’s annual permanent immigration program.

Source: Australian citizenship approvals up by 56 per cent but waiting period shoots up

Thousands now face indefinite wait for Australian citizenship as ceremonies cancelled

Similar to Canada in terms of applications and ceremonies on hold, but overall demand has returned to more traditional levels following C-6:

Tens of thousands of migrants waiting to become Australian citizens are now facing an indefinite wait for the process to be finalised after ceremonies across the country were cancelled due to restrictions brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

Many are now calling on the government to follow New Zealand and temporarily waive the requirement of a public ceremony and oath-taking while national restrictions on mass gatherings remain in place.

Concerns have also been raised that pressing pause on citizenship ceremonies all together will create further unnecessary delays in the already overloaded citizenship process.

But despite meeting the residence, character, and other requirements to become a citizen, and passing the citizenship test, her hopes were shattered after the City of Sydney council announced their ceremonies would be cancelled until further notice.

While she understands the public health rationale for shutting down the ceremonies, she wants the government to find an alternative way to grant her citizenship.

“We have been left in limbo … we don’t know when it’s going to end,” the 32-year-old told SBS News. “To have the citizenship put on hold right at the end when all we need to do is attend the ceremony is a bit disappointing.”

Ms Parmentier said she was particularly worried as her home country has stopped issuing passports and she is currently unable to travel in an emergency.

After joining a forum with other people left waiting for their citizenship to be finalised, she decided to start a petition calling on the government to act.

“It’s a goal that has taken, for many of us at least, five years of hard work, taking tests, having our degrees assessed, saving money for visas and permanent residencies,” she said.

“The majority of people are looking forward to making the pledge of commitment, that’s part of the requirement and we’re more than happy to do it, either electronically or via statutory declaration.”

After an application for Australian citizenship is approved, migrants are required to attend an in-person ceremony and make the Australian Citizenship Pledge before becoming an official citizen. Incoming citizens are usually invited to a ceremony organised by their local council within six months of their application being approved.

In the 2018-19 financial year, 127,674 people became Australian citizens – almost 2,500 every week – but a backlog is now expected to pile up.

On 29 February 2020, the Department of Home Affairs had more than 120,000 applications on hand, with more than 16,000 new applications received in February alone.

The current waiting time from date of application to ceremony can be up to two years for 90 per cent of applicants in the main stream.

New Zealand national Carla Jones is among the thousands waiting for their citizenship process to come to an end after she said “ceremonies came to a grinding halt”.

The Brisbane resident, who came to Australian in 2011 following the Christchurch earthquakes, said there has been “no communication whatsoever” about the cancellation, leaving her and others who have had their applications approved to discover the news on social media.

“I want to be able to vote, there are state elections coming up in October, I want to be able to fully participate in Australian society and currently I’m hamstrung from doing so,” she said.

Ms Jones added that she was unable to finalise her divorce without proving her Australian citizenship.

Last month, New Zealand’s department of internal affairs announced that all citizenship ceremonies would be cancelled and prospective citizens would be allowed to sign a statutory declaration as a replacement for a public oath.

Professor Mary Crock, an expert in citizenship law at the University of Sydney, said there were alternative ways prospective citizens could take an oath without attending a mass gathering, but that developing a new process was likely low priority for the government.

“You’re dealing with a government that is just struggling to keep its head above water, and for that reason, citizenship has just slipped down the list of priorities,” she said.

Those waiting for their official ceremony are still able to access most of the same rights afforded to Australian citizens, including unemployment benefits for permanent residents, but they are not able to vote or apply for an Australian passport.

New Zealand nationals in Australia affected by the COVID-19 restrictions have also been included in the Government’s JobKeeper supplement, which allows employees of companies and not-for-profits that have lost at least 30 per cent of their revenue to be paid $1,500 a fortnight.

The Department of Home Affairs did not respond to a request for comment.

In September last year, Immigration Minister David Coleman said his department had been working to process citizenship applications as “efficiently as possible, while also maintaining the integrity of the program”.

Source: Thousands now face indefinite wait for Australian citizenship as ceremonies cancelled