Immigrants who make little effort to integrate into society will wait longer before they can become British citizens under changes to citizenship rules. As part of the Borders, Immigration and Citizenship Bill, they will have to “earn” the right to a passport rather than simply achieving it through five years’ residence. The latest measure will end the automatic right to stay and replace it with a new system of “earned citizenship” and temporary residence.
Arrivals will have to demonstrate a good ability in English and a knowledge of life in Britain before becoming citizens. Immigrants who do no voluntary work will qualify only after eight years and those who become unemployed will be asked to leave.
The Bill will deny full access to social benefits, including social housing, to those who have not completed a new period of probationary citizenship of between one and five years. The aim is to link the gaining of a British passport to a greater commitment to the British way of life. Immigrants convicted of serious criminal offences could be barred from citizenship and those found guilty of minor crimes may face delays in having their applications processed.
The suggestion of a Bank Holiday to celebrate Britain appears to have been abandoned.
The Bill will also reduce the restrictions on people from overseas, but who have a British-born mother, applying to become a citizen. Children born to British mothers before 1961 will be able to apply for citizenship. Previously it was passed on through fathers.
The Government proposes to levy a top-up fee on immigrants to create a fund expected to run to 20 million pounds. Cash from the fund will be distributed to local authorities facing short-term pressure because of an influx of migrants.
Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: “These proposed reforms are a tacit admission that the Government has failed in its seven previous immigration Bills. We need to re-establish controls over our borders so we can count people in and out.”
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