The UK Government’s plan lengthen the period immigrants must live in the U.K. before applying for citizenship may become law next week after backing down on stricter passport checks between Britain and Ireland yesterday.
The Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill cleared its final stage in the House of Commons this week with the support of both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat opposition parties. The Labour government had climbed down plans to impose identity checks on journeys between the U.K. and Ireland.
The House of Lords could grant final approval to the legislation on July 21, allowing the measures to go on the statutes, and receive the Royal Assent, as the Borders, Immigration and Citizenship Act 2009, before Parliament enters its summer recess, a spokesman for the Home Office said today.
The rules are part of the biggest curbs on migration in six decades and will make it much harder for working migrants to settle in the UK.
Border and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said in the House of Commons last night.
“That makes a reality of the pledge to ensure that those who wish to become British citizens earn the right,”
All parties support the central pillar of the bill, which will extend the basic period of residence in the U.K. needed to qualify for citizenship to eight years from five for people on work permits.
Those with a family connection to a British national will need to spend five years in the U.K. instead of three. Applicants can shave two years off their wait by doing approved volunteer work.
What we are seeing is the culmination of Britain’s reversal of its open policy on migration, following public concerns since 2004 when Poland and seven other eastern European nations joined the European Union.
European freedom-of-movement laws mean Britain has little power to control arrivals from inside the EU, but can restrict non-EU migrants, including those already in the UK.
The Government has almost completed implementation the Australian-style points-based system for people entering Britain from outside the EU, with the final phase of Tier 4 due to start in September.
The Government gave in to Conservative demands to phase in the new system over a longer period, allowing many people now in the country to apply under the current rules.
The new citizenship rules will take effect no earlier than July 2011. People who have permanent residency at that time, or Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR), will be able to apply under the old rules for the next two years.
Phil Woolas wanted to bring in the new measures more quickly and leave details about the transitional arrangements for an executive order sometime after the legislation was enacted.
“We should pay tribute to him for retreating on the retrospection clauses,” Damian Green, the Conservative spokesman on immigration, said in Parliament. “That is a welcome improvement.”
Immigration Matters Comment
Migrants here on work permits have by any standards been treated poorly by the Labour Government.
No other western Government gives gainfully employed working migrants, who do the jobs which cannot be filled by resident workers, such a hard time as the British.
Work permit holders, who pay taxes and claim no benefits, have recently been dealt a series of hammer blows by the Labour Government which encouraged them to come to Britain to fill labour shortages.
Firstly, the Home Office changed the qualifying period for ILR from four to five years without warning.
Secondly, restrictions were introduced for major work permit categories such as Nurses Senior Carers and Chefs, forcing thousands out of the UK in 2007/8.
Thirdly, the points based system has forced bewildered employers to register as sponsors in order to renew ‘old rules’ work permits for its overseas workers who fall short of five years work – in some cases by less than a month.
Finally, just when many work permit holders thought they were in sight of the finish line and could see ‘light at the end of the tunnel’, the Home Office put up yet another barrier designed to reduce the numbers of working migrants settling in the UK – restrictions on gaining permanent residency.
When you see light at the end of tunnel, watch out, because it could be the headlight of an oncoming train.
In this case the express train from Westminster is the ‘Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act special’, and it is set railroad thousands of hardworking migrants out of the UK.
What should you do if you are in the UK on a Work Permit?
Evelie Padadac of Immigration Advisers Bison UK advises migrant workers to “apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain as soon as you are eligible and make sure your current permit takes you beyond five years of continuous work”.
What should you do if you are in the UK under other categories such as ILR?
Apply for Citizenship as soon as you are eligible, unless of course you have no desire to be a British Citizen.
If you do not agree with the above changes, you should write to your MP and ask him or her to write to Phil Woolas to request a longer transitional period.
If you need any immigration advice or help with Settlement, Citizenship, Sponsorship, extending Work Permits, Visa or an appeal against a refusal please email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.immigrationmatters.co.uk