The Turnbull government is tightening the requirements for Australian citizenship, with applicants to face a stand-alone English test and be asked to commit to embracing Australian values.

Under the overhaul, would-be citizens will need to have been a permanent resident of Australia for four years, rather than 12 months.

Prospective citizens will also be required to have increased proficiency with the English language – a requirement Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said is “the single best thing any person coming to this country can do”.

“The headline points are these… They’ve lived here for four years as permanent residents, they speak English, share our values and are integrated… This will be good for the applicants, and good for the nation,” Mr Turnbull said today.

“What we’re doing is strengthening our multicultural society and strengthening our commitment to Australian values.”

The prime minister and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton emphasised the focus on the nation’s values as a prime indicator of whether citizenship would be granted.

The current multiple-choice test will possibly include questions about the applicant’s attitudes to female genital mutilation and spousal abuse.

A possible question which would-be citizens might face. (Supplied)

Applicants will also be required to prove they have integrated into society, for example by showing they are employed or have enrolled their children in school.

Mr Dutton said the government was “making no apologies” for wanting people to live, work and integrate into society “and not have them living on welfare”.

Applicants will only be allowed to fail the citizenship test three times. At present, there is no limit to the number of times a person can fail the test.

They will also have to adhere to stricter criminal checks, which Mr Dutton said at the moment are “insufficient”.

Mr Turnbull agreed some applicants “will lie”, but said rigorous checks will endeavour to pick up matters like Apprehended Violence Orders or “evidence of domestic violence”.

“If we know that people are lying, there are consequences for that already under the Citizenship Act. So if somebody lies in an application ... there is an existing power under the act in certain circumstances to revoke that citizenship.”

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop earlier told the TODAY Show the changes will not alienate those at risk of radicalisation.

“I don’t think anyone could seriously defend an attitude that says women are not equal to men, or that violence against women is acceptable, so we’re looking to test attitudes… that [would-be citizens] are prepared to embrace the values, laws and attitudes of our society,” she said.

Ms Bishop said there was “very wide” consultation with community groups despite the move being likely to unsettle some migrant communities.

“We are putting out a series of reforms that I believe will be embraced by most Australians and most certainly, people wanting to become Australian citizens,” she said.

“We want this to be a successful, multicultural, tolerant, free and open society.”

The announcement comes two days after the prime minister outlined an overhaul of the 457 temporary foreign worker visa system.

The 457 foreign worker visa program will be axed and replaced with a new “Australia first” visa program.

“I don’t think anyone seriously argues against the proposition that if there is an Australian willing and able to take a job, that they should be overlooked by a foreign worker brought in to take that job,” Ms Bishop said.

The Coalition now needs to pass the changes through Parliament.

Citizenship reforms:

Applicants must be permanent residents for four years before seeking citizenship (up from 12 months now).

* Must demonstrate competent English language skills through a tougher reading, writing and listening test (people with permanent or enduring incapacity, or aged under 16, exempted).

* Prospective Australian citizens must show the steps they have taken to integrate into and contribute to the Australian community (evidence of employment, membership of community organisations, school enrolment for all eligible children);

* Applicants who cheat during the citizenship test will automatically fail.

* Tougher criminal history checks, including involvement in gang activity or domestic violence.

* Wording of the citizenship pledge will change.

© Nine Digital Pty Ltd 2017

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