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Earning the right to stay under new UK citizenship rules | Immigration Matters

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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.

See also:

UK Border Agency announce points based system for citizenship

Transitional arrangements for earned citizenship announced by Border Agency

Immigrants must ‘earn’ citizenship says Phil Woolas

Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 Commencement No. 1

Citizenships granted fall by 35,000 in a year, says The Independent in ‘The truth about immigration’

Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill will make it harder to settle in the UK

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:

info@immigrationmatters.co.uk or visit www.immigrationmatters.co.uk

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17 Responses to “Earning the right to stay under new UK citizenship rules”
Read them below or add one

  1. its a lot harder to get a passport in other countries.

  2. CHERYL TEBBUTT says :

    I have just seen that the prIce of CITIZENSHIP
    APPLICATION is now £895.00….should you make an error the HOME OFFICE KEEPS THE MONEY! WHY? IT DOES NOT COST THIS AMOUNT TO LOOK AT AN APPLICATION…rip off again……………..

    the HOME OFFICE SHOULD INTERVIEW YOU PERSONALLY,
    calling police is stupid!
    they are corrupt and lie, and Englsih police have a disliek forIMMIGRANTS…hidden but there.
    UNFAIR…THE SELECTION PROCESS IS UNFAIR…….
    why are you allowing old parents to come in to take take …………………..

  3. The whole system is unfair and note equal for all. It has nothing to do with helping people English, or other. It has every thing to do with making money. At least in other countries the corruption is transparent.I am so disgusted with the whole process this country puts its citizens through extracting money all the way? and they say about human rights? It is a crime of government.

  4. I can only cry …my all reletive will vote labor party as ever conervative go david camel go

  5. Many state benefits are given to migrants in error, as the system is swamped with claims and officers are not sufficiently trained in immigration law. However, claiming benefits illegally can have serious consequences when migrants come to apply for indefinte leave (ILR) or further stay, as in the case of X Factor Gamu’ parents.
    Many work permit holders (senior Carers) have been refused ILR just because they took Child Benefit for instance.

  6. AS PER THE DIRECT GOV WEBSITE ONLY PERMANENT RESIDENTS &BRITISH CITIZEN ARE ELIGIBLE FOR CLAMING BENEFITS. BUT IT IS OBSERVED THAT SOME PEOPLE WITH SETTLEMENT VISA(SPOUSE) WITH TWO YEARS INDEFINITE LEAVE TO ENTER THE UK.ARE CLAMING HOUSING BENEFITS, COUNCIL TAX BENEFITS ALONG WITHH PENSION CREDITS. WITHOUT TAKING RESIDENCE PERMIT (INDEFINITE LEAVE TO REMAIN IN THE U.K.) &THIS IS UNFAIR TO MY MIND

  7. johnny says :

    This new policy if it is introduced is not fair…..it very easy said than done for the people who sit in there offices making these new policies up, i dont think they take evrything into considertion, because what about those people who are in coomunities where they are so hated and badly treated. For them its very hard to try and mix with evryone.Also there are people who will be finding it hard because of religeous reasons example what they wear (hijabs)what would someone say when a person wearing a hijab approaches them for charity reasons, people will start looking down at them and make it really uncomfortable, i can understand if this rule was for high skilled workers, refuges but not for people who have come to this country because there partner is a born british citizen, i dont see the need for them to prove anything. yes i can understand that some people taking advantge and are getting away with it very easy but im sure there are other rules that can be introduced just to make abit fair.

  8. I think its high time we made it more difficult for immigrants to settle in the uk, its always been far to easy for anyone to come and settle here and why should they be able to earn british nationality,they are after all not british, they should only be able to receive some of the benefits not all,we should keep our benefits for the real british !! We are after all only a small island and other nations make immigration far more difficult than the uk. We are in danger of over crowding the nation and do we really need them all here ??

  9. Simon, thank you for that update.

  10. 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.

  11. cheryl tebbutt says :

    it is time to stop the extra families from coming into the U.K. they arrive and get benefits and never have to work
    AND THEY OBTAIN THE RIGHT TO STAY WHILST OTHERS WHO WORK HARD AND HONEST LIKE SOUTN AFRFICANS ARE PREVENTED FROM WORKING…………………wwhy does the govt. want to make this an island of losers, obeying all its rules.

  12. I think the new system will improve the image of british government in front of the english people for a short time. But on the long run things are becoming unfairly hard for foreign nationals who wish to migrate thruogh legal and proper routes. 5 years to wait for nationality application is far long so waht about 8? Points based system is a tricky way to manipulate on the migrants needs and weaknesses as they are bound to the host country as long as they are needed or needing this place!

  13. cheryl tebbutt says :

    I read the new ridiculous rules by Woolas and look around and see lazy people just breeding getting CITIZENSHIP who have no u.k. blood at all but good citizens from countries where ENGLISH IMMIGRATED and children were born battle to get CITIZENSHIP
    if and error is made. I mis calculated my time I of being in the u.k. BY A FEW WEEKS!! in error and
    they treated me like dirt…..and I have to wait
    another few years as punishment for trying to “deceive them” (Liverpool) AND THEY KEPT MY £480.00, and it is so expensive noe NOT FAIR SYSTEM…………..seems if you are honest you fail
    but certain nationalities with guns/knives are welcome.

  14. cheryl tebbutt says :

    THE PRICE IS RIDULOUS FOR CITIZENSHIP WHILST OTHER GET IN SCOTT FREE
    I
    Good Character!!!!! THIS IS NOT A GOOD SYSTEM PEOPLE ARE IN HERE THAT HAVE GUNS AND RAPE…..but if you have a brush with the police who are not honest!!!

    YOU SUFFER AND

  15. […] concept of ‘earned citizenship’ or ‘earning the right to stay’ was born, meaning that migrants will no longer be automatically granted Indefinite Leave to […]

  16. alijandra says :

    im worry if thre still renewal of working permit on 2011?

  17. susan riley says :

    The system as it currently exist is already flawed. The government should try to find a fair and efficient way of managing their every growing processes instead of wasting tax payers money buy creating ever more complex systems to address immigration, that even they don’t seem to understand. I wonder how much they are planning to charge people for the pleasure of going through this new lengthy process. I predict around a £1000 for each stage. This system is bound to be about as fair as car park penalty charges.

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