03 August 2009
Plans requiring would-be-citizens to earn enough points to stay permanently in the United Kingdom were revealed by the Government today.
The new points based test for citizenship - an extension of the already successful Australian-style points based system - will award migrants pointsfor building up different attributes and skills. Proposals being launched in the new consultation would see people 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.
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.'
This system builds on the changes to earned citizenship introduced by the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009, which passed through Parliament last month. 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.
One of the key principles of the earned citizenship system is building community cohesion, through encouraging community involvement through 'active citizenship'.
Migrants already contribute to communities throughout the United Kingdom and the
Government wants to support integration by encouraging more of these activities. That is why a migrant's journey to citizenship will be sped up if they conduct voluntary or civic work. 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.
Under the current system those wanting citizenship have to pass a Life in the UK test to demonstrate both their knowledge of the country and their ability to speak English. The Government is proposing tightening 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.'