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News 2008
News ->New rules for foreigners seeking British Citizenship

(20 February 2008)

Jacqui SmithRadical changes to the way newcomers are able to earn their stay in Britain were proposed by the Government today. The measures set the stage for a new Bill to implement these proposals. Following a consultation exercise the Government said in its statement that 'the public was clear that people who want to make Britain their home should speak English, pay their way, obey the law and give something back to their community'.

The Green Paper: 'The path to citizenship' proposes:

  • a three stage route to citizenship, including a new probationary period of citizenship, requiring new migrants to demonstrate their contribution to the UK at every stage or leave the country;
  • full access to benefits being delayed until migrants have completed the probationary period;
  • migrants having to improve their command of English to pass probation;
  • anyone committing an offence resulting in prison being barred from becoming a citizen;
  • those committing minor offences being required to spend longer in the new probationary period of citizenship;
  • migrants contributing to a new fund for managing the transitional impacts of migration, providing extra financial help to communities experiencing change from migration; and
  • migrants getting involved in their communities through volunteering being able to graduate to British citizenship more quickly.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said: "Our new deal for citizenship is clear and fair. The rights and benefits of citizenship will be available to those who can demonstrate a commitment to our shared values and a willingness to contribute to the community.

"This is a country of liberty and tolerance, opportunity and diversity - and these values are reinforced by the expectation that all who live here should learn our language, play by the rules, obey the law and contribute to the community.

"British people have welcomed migrants over the years. Our economy and our communities are stronger for their contribution to British life. And people think it's fair that the benefits of citizenship are matched by responsibilities and contributions to Britain.

"Today's proposals are part of the biggest changes to British immigration policy for a generation. This year will also see the introduction of a new Australian-style Points Based System, which will ensure the UK attracts only people with the skills it needs and the establishment of a new UK Border Agency to help strengthen our border controls helping ensure ours is one of the toughest borders in the world."

These changes to citizenship come against a backdrop of radical changes to the immigration system. In 2008 the Government will deliver a complete overhaul of the way we judge who can come to Britain and the way we police the system.

These changes include the introduction of the new Australian style Points Based System from the end of this month which will provide clearer controls on who can come to the UK, making sure that the country only takes in the brightest and the best; a single border force to guard our ports and airports with new police-like powers, all visa applicants fingerprinted, the introduction of a new system to count people in and out and ID cards which will strengthen the UK border and help keep out those who don't have the right to be in the UK.

These reforms to the immigration system will be backed up with a new single piece of legislation, replacing all existing immigration laws, which will be introduced to Parliament in November this year. This is designed to make immigration law more straightforward and transparent and make the UK's immigration system more effective.

At the beginning of the year, the Immigration Minister, Liam Byrne, set out a ten point delivery plan for 2008. The milestones are:

  • within 15 days to check fingerprints before a visa is issued anywhere in the world;
  • within 60 days to introduce on the spot fines for employers who don't make the right right-to-work checks;
  • within 80 days to begin the introduction of a new points system for managing migration;
  • within 100 days to introduce a single border force and police-like powers for frontline staff;
  • within 180 days to confirm the number of foreign national prisoners deported in 2008 will exceed 2007;
  • within 200 days to activate powers to automatically deport foreign national prisoners;
  • within 300 days to expand detention capacity;
  • within 330 days to begin issuing compulsory ID cards for those foreign nationals who want to stay;
  • by Christmas to begin counting foreign nationals in and out of the country and to introduce compulsory watch-list checks for high risk journeys before they land;
  • within 360 days to make and enforce 60 per cent of asylum decisions within six months, with alternatives to detention for children.
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