The UK Border Agency this week announced proposals requiring would-be-citizens to earn enough points to stay permanently in the UK.
The new points based test for citizenship will award migrants points for building up different attributes and skills, much like the Aussie-style points system for immigration.
The plans launched in a new consultation would see migrants rewarded for economic contributions, skills and English language proficiency above the level already expected. Points could be removed and citizenship withheld or delayed for those breaking the law or committing anti-social behaviour, such as taking part in anti-war demonstrations.
Border and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said:
‘The Government has already made fundamental reforms to the immigration system to control migration in a way that is firm, and has a positive impact on our workforce and economy.
‘To complement this, we have made it clear people must earn their right to stay in the UK permanently by working hard, obeying the law and speaking English.
‘Being British is a privilege – these proposals break the link between coming to work here temporarily and being given the right to citizenship.’
The new system will build on the changes to earned citizenship introduced by the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009, which passed through Parliament last month.
The UKBA (UK Border Agency) said: “a points based test for citizenship will give the Government more control over the numbers of people permitted to settle here permanently, allowing the bar for settlement to be raised or lowered depending on the needs of the country and the economy”.
A key principle of earned citizenship system is the building of “community cohesion”, through encouraging community involvement through ‘active citizenship’, the UKBA added.
The Government said migrants can speed up their “journey to citizenship” by contributing to the community by doing voluntary or civic work, which they believe will encourage and support more integration.
As part of this new 12 week consultation, the Government will work closely with local authorities to ensure any voluntary or community work being undertaken by applicants is checked and verified.
Currently migrants applying for British Citizenship (after first being granted Indefinite Leave to Remain – ILR) must first pass a ‘Life in the UK’ test to demonstrate both their knowledge of the country and their ability to speak English.
The Government wants to tighten this even further with a new two-stage system. This will focus on practical information about life in the United Kingdom at ‘probationary’ citizenship stage, and then a further test at the final stage with more challenging topics including history and politics.
The Government will also seek views on how the positive impacts of migration for developing countries – for example in terms of remittances and increased skills – can be maximised, and the negative impacts such as the brain drain can be reduced.
Mr Woolas added;
‘The new path to citizenship aims to create the right balance for Britain, allowing us to better manage and provide support for those on the journey to citizenship. But it is important also to recognise the impacts – both positive and negative – which migration can have on source countries in the developing world.
‘We believe it is right that Government should play a role in managing negative impacts on developing countries.’
To take part in the ‘Earning the right to stay: A new points test for citizenship‘ consultation visit: http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/aboutus/consultations/current/
Immigration Matters Comment
The Labour Government has been under intense media and Tory opposition pressure to slash immigration as well as the numbers of people settling in the UK. Labour have resisted calls for a cap on immigration, but have introduced a series of points based measures designed to turn the tap on and off when it chooses.
These proposals go much further than stemming the flow of new migrants and will directly affect those already here on working visas by making it harder for them to settle in the UK.
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