Proposed new path to citizenship in the UK gains momentum

Published: 14/08/2009

August 2009 has seen the proposed introduction of a new points-based test for UK citizenship.

Rather like the current Australian scheme, the UK Border Agency is looking at ways to increase the ‘earned citizenship’ which is at the heart of a number of proposed changes to the UK immigration situation in what is seen as a major reform of the existing rules.

The suggestion is that UK visa applicants can earn points, or be rewarded with points, by conducting themselves in a manner which benefits the UK. Such behaviour is likely to include positive economic contributions, proficiency in the English language over and above the minimal requirements and offering valued skills. Conversely, potential points can be removed due to negative contributions to live in the UK, such as anti-social behaviour or illegal activities.

This encouragement of ‘earned citizenship’ is an extension of the principle of ‘active citizenship’, whereby UK citizenship applicants undertake a strong, positive role in their community prior to gaining permanent residence. Border and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas explained, “The Government has already made fundamental reforms to the immigration system to control migration is a way that is firm, and has a positive impact on our workforce and economy. To complement this, we have made it clear that 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.”

It is expected that the new system will give the Government greater control over the number of people allowed to settle permanently in the UK, as well as providing a set of rules and regulations that can be amended as and when economic developments require.

The concept of both ‘earned citizenship’ and ‘active citizenship’ have long been an undefined part of positive integration of migrants into the UK, but the latest proposals have sought to quantify this behaviour, and indeed the converse negative behaviour, in order to reward those that contribute positively to life in the UK.

The existing Life in the UK test will continue, with the proposed changes working in harmony with the test, which already covers issues such as knowledge of the country and English language skills. The new two-stage system will include more difficult questions relating to the history and politics of the UK, as well as stricter language requirements.

Mr Woolas MP is also aware that greater control over UK migration can help to ensure that the so-called ‘brain drain’ doesn’t cause problems for developing countries. He pointed out, “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.”

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