Economic migrants could face a ten-year wait to claim benefits under new plans announced by the UK Immigration Minister.
In an interview with the Sun, Phil Woolas said that “entitlement to benefits should be for citizens of our country, not other people”.
Currently migrants from outside the European Economic Area can get full benefits access once they obtain permanent residency, normally granted after five years.
The new rules will mean a wait of between six and ten years, but will not apply to EU migrants, asylum seekers or refugees.
It will also not apply to “contributory” benefits like Jobseekers Allowance and incapacity benefit, which can be claimed by any immigrants who have paid National Insurance for two years.
Mr Woolas was referring to measures in the Borders, Immigration and Citizenship Bill, outlined last week in the Queen’s Speech, which take forward plans for “earned citizenship”, a major change in the way permanent residency and citizenship are granted to migrants.
The outspoken minister told the newspaper:
“If you are a citizen you have earned the right to benefits. People must show they are here to work.”
Migrants from outside the European Economic Area are entitled to full access to benefits once they are granted “settlement” in the UK, known as ‘indefinite leave to remain’, usually after five years.
They then have full access to “non contributory” benefits like housing and council tax benefits and child tax credits, depending on their circumstances.
Overseas students do not accrue settlement rights on Student Visas, but can qualify for indefinite leave under long stay rules after 10 years.
The new rules would see economic migrants spending five years as “temporary residents” before becoming “probationary citizens”.
To earn full citizenship they would have to show they were working, paying tax, learning a reasonable level of English and “playing by the rules”, a Home Office spokesman said.
Those who carry out voluntary work or make additional ‘contributions to the community’, may be granted citizenship within a year, but the average is expected to be two or three years.
Some could face a five year wait – for instance those who commit minor crimes and those who do not want to become British citizens but do want to be permanent residents, a Home Office spokesman said.
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said:
“Phil Woolas is continuing with his right-wing mood music as the Government’s desperation to look tough on immigration continues.
“The problems are not going to be solved by attacking legal migrants when ministers have completely lost control of illegal immigration.
“Mr Woolas admits we should be counting people in and out of Britain. But despite what he says, the Government still doesn’t do that. Exit checks must be reintroduced immediately.”
Immigration Matters Comment
The move follows a series ‘get tough’ messages aimed at non-EU migrants in the last year. The roll out of the Points Based System, part of the “biggest shake up in immigration policy for 45 years”, ID Cards for foreign students and the measures proposed in the Borders, Immigration and Citizenship Bill is giving a false impression that migrants are no longer welcome in Britain.
Ironically, it is the million or so EU migrants who are far more likely to draw from the ‘benefits well’, as construction jobs dry up. EU migrants, unlike those here on Work Permits, can claim benefits such as Child Benefit for their children back home.
Making life tough for the easy target Work Permit holders is not going to solve the country’s immigration problem.