New citizenship proposals outlined in the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration ACT, which became law on 21 July, will make it harder to settle in the UK.
The UK government is radically changing the route to British citizenship under a new system of ‘earned citizenship’. Until now migrants have largely taken for granted that they would gain a British passport or permanent residence by virtue of the amount of time spent in the UK.
But this is all about to change as the UK Border Agency introduces the radical new concept of earning citizenship as part of the biggest immigration shake-up for sixty years.
The new system will create a clear, three-stage ‘path to citizenship’ for migrants to become British citizens, which will include for the first time a new ‘probationary citizenship’ stage.
The government say the proposed new rules will ensure that the “rights and benefits of British citizenship are matched by responsibilities and contributions made to our society.
“Those who want to settle permanently in the United Kingdom will have to earn the right to stay by learning English, paying taxes and obeying the law.”
The government said it will support migrants who “play by the rules”, and will take action to punish those who do not. Migrants who demonstrate ‘active citizenship’ will be able to become British citizens more quickly.
Border and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said:
“We are clear that newcomers should speak English, work hard, and earn the right to stay here – and only get British citizenship once they have proved their commitment to the country.
“Migration only works if it brings benefits, and these measures will ensure that only those migrants that make a positive impact on their local community will be able to stay in the UK.”
How will the new system work?
Presently migrants qualify for ‘indefinite leave to remain’ and then citizenship by meeting certain conditions for a given period of time and simply making an application to the UK Border Agency. Under earned citizenship there will be three stages which a migrant must go through before being granted permanent stay or British citizenship.
Measures in the new “Path to Citizenship” include:
- a new naturalisation process for foreign nationals to become British Citizens
- extending the Citizenship process from 5 to 8 years
- introducing the concept of ‘Earned Citizenship and
- introducing a ‘probationary citizenship’ replacing Indefinite Leave to Remain
- restricting Citizenship to certain skilled categories
The three stages of the citizenship process
Stage 1: Temporary residence
All migrants will be at this stage when they first come to the United Kingdom. To be able to progress to the second stage, they will need to:
- spend a minimum amount of time (which will vary between the different routes)
- obey the law – not gain a criminal record
- pass a test of their English language skills and/or their knowledge of life in the United Kingdom and
- meet additional requirements
For instance, someone on the work permit or Tier 2 route will normally need to still be employed and paying taxes, those on the Family route will need to show that they have an ongoing relationship with a person who has close ties to the United Kingdom, and those on the Protection route will need to continue requiring international protection.
Stage 2: Probationary citizenship
During this stage, migrants will have to demonstrate that they have earned the right to make the United Kingdom their home.
Before progressing to the final stage, a migrant must spend a minimum amount of time as a probationary citizen – this amount of time will depend on their route (Work, Family or Protection).
Migrants who can demonstrate that they are actively contributing to the community through ‘active citizenship’ will be able to move to the next stage more quickly.
To demonstrate active citizenship, a migrant might volunteer with a recognised organisation such as a charity, serve on a community body or take part in an activity that advances: education, health, social and community welfare, heritage, arts, culture or sport. It would also include working with organisations which benefits children, young people, elderly people, disabled people or other vulnerable groups and/or involves mentoring or befriending.
The government said these activities will encourage integration, by “bringing migrants into greater contact with the wider community so that they share values and use their English language skills”.
To be able to progress to the third stage, migrants will need to:
- have obeyed the law during their probationary citizenship;
- have continued to be self-sufficient, with no access to benefits (unless they are on the Protection route) and
- meet additional requirements specific to their route
Migrants who receive custodial or prison sentences will normally be prevented from progressing on the ‘path to citizenship’. Those convicted of minor offences will normally have to wait until their conviction is spent before they can progress to the final stage.
Any migrant who has spent five years as a probationary citizen will need to either move on to the final stage or leave the UK.
Stage 3: British Citizenship or permanent residence
Migrants who become British citizens will have full entitlement to the rights and benefits that this brings.
The status of permanent residence will be available to migrants who do not want to or cannot become British citizens (because of dual nationality issues, for example).
Transitional arrangements for migrants with Indefinite Leave to Remain.
The UK Border Agency has announced transitional arrangements for migrants who will be on the ‘journey to British citizenship’ when earned citizenship is introduced.
As the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill progressed through Parliament, the government listened to the views of both the House of Lords and the House of Commons.
The government subsequently agreed the following transitional arrangements:
- If a migrant has already been given indefinite leave to remain (ILR – also known as settlement) on the date when earned citizenship is introduced, they will automatically be considered to be a ‘permanent resident’. They will not need to pay or apply for this to occur. They will be eligible to apply for British citizenship under the current rules during the first two years after earned citizenship is introduced.
- If a migrant has applied for indefinite leave to remain before the date when earned citizenship is introduced, and is subsequently granted indefinite leave to remain, they will be eligible to apply for British citizenship under the current rules during the first two years after earned citizenship is introduced.
- The government will continue to meet its obligations to migrants who entered the United Kingdom on the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) and had a legitimate expectation that they would be able to apply for and be granted indefinite leave to remain, in accordance with the Immigration Rules that were in place when they applied to the HSMP.
- The introduction of earned citizenship has been postponed by six months, to give people time to adjust to the new system and to allow more applicants who are already in the United Kingdom to apply under the current rules. Earned citizenship will now be introduced in July 2011.
All applications for indefinite leave to remain and British citizenship received before earned citizenship is introduced will be dealt with under the current system.
The message is clear. If you qualify for ILR, apply now while it’s still on sale.
If you need any immigration advice or help with Studying in the UK, Settlement, Citizenship, Sponsorship, extending Work Permits, Visa or an appeal against a refusal please email: