Migrants who want British citizenship will have to prove their worth to society through community service if they want to take the fast track to a passport under radical Government proposals unveiled this week.
The proposals form part of a ‘Green Paper’, (consultation document) – ‘The path to citizenship’, which could become law later this year.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith wants migrants to “earn” citizenship, rather than being able to apply for naturalisation based of how long they have lived in the UK, as is the case under present immigration rules.
“Our new deal for citizenship is clear and fair. The rights and benefits of citizenship will be available to those who can demonstrate a commitment to our shared values and a willingness to contribute to the community.
“This is a country of liberty and tolerance, opportunity and diversity – and these values are reinforced by the expectation that all who live here should learn our language, play by the rules, obey the law and contribute to the community.
“British people have welcomed migrants over the years. Our economy and our communities are stronger for their contribution to British life. And people think it’s fair that the benefits of citizenship are matched by responsibilities and contributions to Britain.” Ms Smith said.
The introduction of “probationary citizenship” means it will take at least six years from the time of arrival for a person to become a UK citizen, a year longer than under current rules.
The probation period will last 12 months if ‘citizen to be’ takes part in community activities such as volunteering, charity fundraising, or running a sports team.
Migrants who do not take part in community work will have to wait longer – the existing five years plus a minimum of three years’ probation, which may even become compulsory. European Union citizens will be exempt.
Paradoxically, Ms Smith said she wanted more people who move to Britain to take out citizenship, which appears contradictory when she is making them wait longer and jump through several more hoops to obtain it.
Many eligible overseas residents choose not take up British Citizenship, which is not always to their advantage. “Permanent” residency does not offer the same level of security as full citizenship, as demonstrated in the case of the Filipino with Indefinite Leave deported for breaking an ASBO.
The Home Office has said the existing provision for migrants to gain Indefinite Leave to Remain, or permanent residency, without taking citizenship would not be abolished under the new plans.
But they would be encouraged to apply for citizenship because that was the only way they could gain access to welfare benefits like child support.
Higher charges for migrants on the way
The government is also proposing would-be migrants with children or elderly relatives pay an additional levy on their normal visa fees to ease pressure on services such as healthcare.
The reforms to the immigration system will be backed up with a new single piece of legislation, replacing all existing immigration laws, which will be introduced to Parliament in November this year.
Shadow home secretary David Davis criticised the moves as “a complicated, expensive, bureaucratic set of mechanisms to deal with the adverse consequences of out of control immigration”.
This week Prime Minister Gordon Brown also announced the expected introduction of English tests for foreigners who plan to marry British citizens and settle in the UK.
This weeks announcements are part of a major overhaul of UK immigration policy, which includes the introduction of an Australian-style Points Based System in a few weeks time to restrict migration to those with skills needed in the UK.
To qualify for citizenship, migrants must have completed at least 5 years lawful residence in the UK, and have had your Indefinite Leave to Remain for at least 1 year. They would then be eligible to apply for British Citizenship, subject to certain other conditions.
Applicants also need to supply evidence that they have sufficient knowledge of English (minimum ESOL Entry Level 3), and demonstrate sufficient knowledge of life in the UK by passing the Life in the UK test.
Before attempting the test you should read the publication “Life in the United Kingdom. A Journey to Citizenship”, which is published on behalf of the Life in the United Kingdom Advisory Group by TSO (The Stationary Office) ISBN011 3413025, online www.tso.co.uk/bookshop TSO PO Box 29, Norwich NR3 1GN. See USEFUL WEBSITES
Once you feel you have sufficient knowledge, you may apply to take a test at a Life in the UK Test Centre. If you feel you need extra English tuition, you may enquire for English courses at Learn Direct – See USEFUL WEBSITES.
When you have completed the course, passed the tests, and you have received the appropriate certificate and letter, you will then be able to proceed with an application for naturalisation as a British citizenship.
Things are not getting any easier for UK migrants and there’s more to come: ID Cards for foreigners, fingerprinting and further restrictions on non EU immigration.
Earlier this month a Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules HC 321 was laid before Parliament introducing new rules which could see rule-breaking migrants being banned from applying for entry to the UK for 10 years.