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New government proposals on earning British citizenship

Published on 13/10/2009

Local people in the Midlands are being asked what foreign nationals should do if they want to stay in the country permanently and become British citizens.

The Government is currently undertaking a United Kingdom tour to gauge opinion on proposals to introduce a points system for migrants to earn British citizenship.

Plans in the new consultation, published in August, 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.

Eddy Montgomery, North West regional director at the UK Border Agency, was at the Council House, Birmingham, on 5 October 2009 to chair the latest of ten regional events exploring just how the proposals might work.

Mr Montgomery said: "The principle that British citizenship is a privilege which must be earned is already established. This new consultation looks at just how that privilege should be earned, what kind of activities should score prospective citizens points and, by the same token, what kind of behaviour should slow down, or even halt, someone’s path towards settlement?"

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 this activity. That is why a migrant’s journey to citizenship will speed 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.

A range of local organisations have been invited to the Council House event.

UKBA/ Expatica