Proposed new rules for gaining citizenship


by Rumbold
20th February, 2008 at 2:05 pm    

The Home Office has yet again proposed a tweaking of the system which allows foreigners to become subjects of Her Majesty Elizabeth II:

“Immigrants who want to become British and settle permanently in the UK will need to pass more tests to “prove their worth” to the country under new plans. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said migrants would need to demonstrate their contribution to society beyond simply working and paying taxes.

Some migrants may also have to pay into a fund towards public services and have a period of “probationary citizenship”. The Tories called the plans, which do not cover EU citizens, a “gimmick”. Unveiling the proposals, Ms Smith said reforming how people become citizens was the unfinished business of the UK’s migration system.

She said that future migrants would need to “earn” citizenship. This scraps the current system which allows people to apply for naturalisation on the basis of how long they have lived in the UK.”

The idea of ‘probationary citizenship’ sounds to me quite promising, however the rest of the proposals seem to be ill-thought out:

“The package of measures includes:

-Raising visa fees for a special “transitional impact” fund

-More English language testing ahead of nationality

-Requirements to prove integration into communities

-Increasing how long it takes to become British

Ministers say the impacts fund and its fees are yet to be worked out but would be designed to ease pressures caused by the movement of people. Press reports suggest it would raise £15m a year.”

If the purpose of the tests is to help prospective citizens integrate better, then it is unclear why they need to pay extra money, which will have very little effect anyway. The financial centrepiece is nothing but a headline for the tabloids. There does need to be a better allocation of resources in areas with high numbers of migrants, but this can be done simply and without the need for gimmicks.

“The system could see migrants with children or elderly relatives expected to pay higher application fees. Migrants would find their route to citizenship and full access to benefits, such as higher education, accelerated if they can prove they are “active” citizens. This would include proof of charity work, involvement in the local community and letters from referees.”

Again, this sounds relatively nice in theory, but how will it work in practice? What if you are a small businessman, who works long hours and pays plenty in taxes? You will not have time for all this extra ‘active’ life, but why should you be denied citizenship on the basis of that? Will higher fees for children or the elderly encourage the would-be citizens to leave them in another country- do we really want to create this sort of society where the weakest immigrants are jettisoned as a financial burden?


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  1. sonia — on 20th February, 2008 at 2:16 pm  

    a lot of rhetoric, as you say. What is the actual difference going to be – from the rules in force now. Where you have to pass the citizenship test, which is itself a test of english, ( i.e. if you can pass that, they assume you have proficient enough english). a lot of people have to take English classes before they can take that test. The fees to apply were very high – £356 ( which itself was increased recently, visa fees generally have been increasing exponentially over the last 5 years, i suppose the general british public wouldn’t know this. you should see how much transferring a visa stamp into a new passport costs!)

    and you do have to have signatures from certain people (professional standing or standing in the community) I suppose they might make the people who co-sign your application – actually give you a reference. And might make you work harder at proving you are a person of ‘good character’ = which (in theory)is required currently. * i suppose they are talking about actually putting in some actions for that?

    doesn’t sound drastically too different from the hoops you have to jump through now. i guess the home office just want to make it clear to the british public how ‘look, its not so easy to get a passport!we’re making foreigners jump through hoops’…

    they should simply come out and say that a nice way of making money out of those on visas is that they have to pay income tax and are not allowed recourse to public funds.

  2. sonia — on 20th February, 2008 at 2:19 pm  

    “Some migrants may also have to pay into a fund towards public services ”

    hmm – isn’t that called tax? i do wish people would make specific points rather than vague generalisations! and what does ‘migrant’ actually mean? that is ridiculously vague terminology. someone on a student visa? someone on a work permit? someone on indefinite leave? a naturalised citizen? someone from the EU who is not subject to immigration control? Who? all of these people could be called ‘migrants’ and different rules and regulations apply.

    I am sick and tired of the lack of specificity the so-called ‘immigration debate’ constantly holds.

  3. sonia — on 20th February, 2008 at 2:20 pm  

    to me, that lack of specificity seems to imply that no one cares really, its just a political football and something for the media to chew over.

  4. Katherine — on 20th February, 2008 at 4:40 pm  

    I think this is utter bollocks. I didn’t have to take any test to become a citizen of this country – I just happened to be born here. I can’t see why anyone else should have to prove “worthy” – especially when that seems to translate to “rich”, if the amount of fees, extra contributions and whatnot is anything to go by – if they’ve already jumped through the hoops to enter the country.

  5. sonia — on 20th February, 2008 at 5:01 pm  

    what worries me more rather than the hoops you have to jump through to be ‘naturalised’ is what happens after you become a citizen.

    the last lot of ‘claims’ from Jacquie suggested they were going to make changes so that if you’ve been naturalised, then commit a crime, they can take it away from you. ( previously i think the deal was that they could take it away from you, as they have ‘conferred it’ but it was only with referece to ‘treason’ etc. very serious crimes, and they were threatening to ‘extend this, although again, not giving enough detail to really evaluate). the issue there i was thinking of – if you gave up your existing citizenship to become British, then that leaves you with the possibility of becoming stateless, should you have to give up your British nationality, and also – second, it really does make a big difference if you were naturalised, or not. i.e. it creates classes of citizens.

  6. douglas clark — on 20th February, 2008 at 5:29 pm  

    Two minor points,

    What would be quite good would be if the Plutocrats were actually obliged to go through a citizenship process, y’know after they’ve bought over our football teams and stuff, and actually paid taxes.

    It is quite clearly rubbish that, after you’ve jumped through all the hoops, they can still hold a sword of Damocles over you.

  7. Don — on 20th February, 2008 at 5:35 pm  

    Does anybody know what the current rules are for denaturalisation? I understand that in some countries it can be applied to citizens born in a country as well as naturalised arrivals.

  8. Avi Cohen — on 20th February, 2008 at 6:34 pm  

    A tax on brown-skinned people who already have to pay more to come here anyway.

    If you are white and from South Africa with a Grand-parent from the UK you get a visa without problem. If you are black and have more skills you don’t and pay more fees. That is really fair huh!

    Now race is being taxed at different levels.

    So much for the one rule for all.

    Probably won’t survive the European Human Rights Act.

  9. Avi Cohen — on 20th February, 2008 at 6:40 pm  

    Sonia – The thing I’d like to see is those men from abroad who come here having married a British Citizen and then committ domestic violence, then send them back if they are convicted and the woman wants a divorce.

    Now that is legislation to help women.

  10. Ravi Naik — on 20th February, 2008 at 7:13 pm  

    “If you are white and from South Africa with a Grand-parent from the UK you get a visa without problem. If you are black and have more skills you don’t and pay more fees. That is really fair huh!

    Now race is being taxed at different levels.”

    What a stupid argument. Would you say it is racist that a black man from South Africa who has an UK grandfather is able to get in easier than a white South African with no connections to the UK?

  11. Avi Cohen — on 20th February, 2008 at 8:00 pm  

    Why is it a stupid argument? Why are US, Canadian and Australian Citizens able to get visas quicker than people from the Indian Subcontinent when neither have a connection to the UK.

    In the case of the South African – the actual person has no connection so why do they get a speedier visa because a grandparent was resident here?

    Both people at their level have no contribution to the UK. How many Black South Africans will have Grandparents resident here?

  12. Muhamad — on 20th February, 2008 at 8:39 pm  

    So, I need not vote for the BNP, when New Labour is doing it’s job. Great, I’ll be a New Labour sucker.

  13. douglas clark — on 21st February, 2008 at 12:07 am  

    Avi,

    Let me make it clear here. I welcomed Sonia’s naturalisation (is that right?) in the sense that so, far, I have never disagreed with what she has to say on here And, if we ever did, it would be an honest debate.

    So, under the new rules, lets look at me. Am I a person of status in the community? I have no idea. Could my comment, that:

    “I have found Sonia to be very profound.”

    be enough to meet the criteria?

    involvement in the local community and letters from referees.

    Would my words:

    “Sonia has grown perhaps the best Maris Piper potatoes in the history of the allotment society”

    have any more relevance than:

    “Err, that bird Sonia, lives next door, seems all right”

    Or are we looking for something like this, perhaps?

    “As a completely wanky politician, I have never heard of her, and she should be deported this instant. “Is that all right?”"

    Get a fucking grip.

    {Sonia, I apologise, this is supposed to be satire. If I’d had another name, or a generic one to use, I’d have done it. But you are the only person I know that came through this lunacy sane.}

  14. digitalcntrl — on 21st February, 2008 at 12:22 am  

    @ Avi
    “Why are US, Canadian and Australian Citizens able to get visas quicker than people from the Indian Subcontinent when neither have a connection to the UK.”

    I don’t believe US or Canadian citizens even need visas for short stays….just a passport is sufficient. The issue of visas IMO is not related to connections to the UK rather it reflects the probablity that a nation will be deluged by foriegners seeking a better life if open borders existed. I doubt you have many people from the US desperate to head to the UK.

  15. Ellie — on 21st February, 2008 at 1:34 am  

    Wow, it gets better and better. So called democracy.
    Ok, I agree that people should make an effort to speak english, and given the waiting time, that shouldn’t be a problem. you can get that by watching telly. Now I just don’t get that life in the uk test. I mean come on, 75%? 35 quid to sit the test? that’s just a way of draining money out of pockets! I asked 10 british friends to take the test and guess what? all 10 failed including myself. why don’t they ask people to write a small report on how they have contributed to the economy, on voluntary work carried out etc. and say why they feel they should become citizens. that would seem more fair! but 2500 questions to learn? get real.

  16. Ellie — on 21st February, 2008 at 1:37 am  

    oh, and how fair to impose the new rules of adding an extra year to the waiting time? what about foreigners already living here? correct me if i got this wrong, but my mate’s been crying about it all night. she calls it a prison sentence, says she feels like she’s been in limbo. she feels so inferior and is put off completely now. so much for us all trying to make her feel at home.

  17. digitalcntrl — on 21st February, 2008 at 3:45 am  

    @Ellie

    “Ok, I agree that people should make an effort to speak english, and given the waiting time, that shouldn’t be a problem. you can get that by watching telly. Now I just don’t get that life in the uk test. I mean come on, 75%? 35 quid to sit the test? that’s just a way of draining money out of pockets! I asked 10 british friends to take the test and guess what? all 10 failed including myself. why don’t they ask people to write a small report on how they have contributed to the economy, on voluntary work carried out etc. and say why they feel they should become citizens. that would seem more fair! but 2500 questions to learn? get real.”

    Give the people want they want, namely no more migrants. Populism at its very finest.

  18. douglas clark — on 21st February, 2008 at 4:47 am  

    Ellie,

    Assuming it was the same test, I failed too.

    I am actually quite pleased that I had no idea which day each of our patron saints was supposed to be celebrated on.

    The questions were set by idiots.

    How about:

    In a secular society is it better to argue:

    a) That your religion takes precedence, or

    b) Hey, lets all get along together?

    Or the amazingly inept:

    Is it your intention to undermine our completely wonderful state by opposing it?

    Answer yes and you will be subjected to the ducking stool, answer no and you will also be subjected to the ducking stool, ’cause we don’t believe you, you dirty foreigner you.

    Quite obviously the right questions for foreigners should meet my agenda.

    Are you a Plutocrat?

    Answer yes or no.

    Have you heard of Partick Thistle?

    Answer yes or no.

    Are you willing to spend ridiculous amounts of money, probaby billions on my, sorry, our football team?

    You are?

    Enter, friend.

    And, might I say, the gas fields of Siberia are yours to give in the search for the European Cup. Please come, please pay no taxes, just get us that trophy.

    What? You might be a bit of a crook?

    Forfend, I say.

    What was that about the Champions League?

    Obviously, if there was one plutocratic person out there willing to play my game, he or she’d be a hero. The fact that, so far, they are money grabbing little tits makes me a bit suspicious.

  19. sonia — on 21st February, 2008 at 10:59 am  

    sword of damocles – good one douglas!
    don – acoording to wikipedia:

    Deprivation of British nationality

    Under amendments made by the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006, British nationals can be deprived of their citizenship if the Secretary of State is satisfied “deprivation is conducive to the public good”. This provision has been in force since 16 June 2006 when the Immigration, Nationality and Asylum Act 2006 (Commencement No 1) Order 2006 came into force. This provision only applies to dual nationals — it is not applicable if deprivation would result in a person’s statelessness.

    Prior to that date, since 2003, under amendments made by the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, British nationals could be deprived of their citizenship if the Secretary of State is satisfied they are responsible for acts seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the United Kingdom or an Overseas Territory.

    British nationals who are naturalised or registered may have their certificates revoked (and hence lose British nationality) if British nationality was obtained by fraud or concealment of a material fact.

    interesting..

  20. Rumbold — on 21st February, 2008 at 10:59 am  

    Sonia:

    This government doesn’t like specifics, because someone may try and hold them to them later. What they like are broad sweeping policies, which look good on the front page of The Sun.

    Douglas:

    “What would be quite good would be if the Plutocrats were actually obliged to go through a citizenship process, y’know after they’ve bought over our football teams and stuff, and actually paid taxes.”

    Heh- making Abramhovic sit in an exam room for three hours would be worth any hassle afterwards.

    Avi Cohen:

    “Now race is being taxed at different levels.”

    I am not sure that anyone is suggesting that. What I do find interesting is that EU nationals are exempt. Why?

  21. sonia — on 21st February, 2008 at 11:00 am  

    i hope they carry on taking seriously the possibility of being made stateless..

  22. sonia — on 21st February, 2008 at 11:14 am  

    but rumbold, there are ‘specifics’ – those people who are subject to immigration control do have specific rules that apply to them. I guess the point is that the people at the top/politicians don’t really know what goes on with regards to implementation of these “broad policies”, as with most organisations, especially bureaucratic ones.

    that’s why im often suspicious of a lot of people who sit around and debate ‘policy’ – it seems to be ‘policy’ in the abstract, with very little bearing on what actually goes on, on the ground. (given that lots of them aren’t really “practitioners” of some kind but just professional debaters! this makes me all the more suspicious)

  23. douglas clark — on 21st February, 2008 at 11:22 am  

    Sonia,

    Thanks for taking my comments here in the spirit they were intended.

    Rumbold,

    Seriously, we have one law for the rich and another for the poor. It is some sort of economic deal. Obviously Abramhovich is unlikely to ever be a burden on the state, which seems to be the criteria for admission for, more or less anyone. It is just easier if you happen to own all the natural gas in trans Siberia.

    You really haven’t got it about the EU, have you? Mobility of labour, and indeed everyone else, is enshrined in it’s constitution. The French, let us say, would have to put up with Rumbold as their next door neighbour. You have rights, and so do they.

  24. sonia — on 21st February, 2008 at 11:49 am  

    yep douglas about the EU. and english people wouldn’t be able to sashay into france and buy houses there so easily otherwise.

    of course, the problem now is really that as the EU gets bigger, the same reciprocal privileges that were a key part, seem to be up for reconsideration for the newer countries joining. like all the threats about Romanians (having the right to free entry), but having to apply for work authorisation. ( does anyone know if that is actually the case now? i need to go and trawl my friend the IND website.

    ah here we are:

    This page explains the restrictions that are in place on Bulgarian and Romanian nationals taking employment in the United Kingdom.

    If you are a Bulgarian or Romanian national you are free to come to the United Kingdom to live. You will need to be able to support yourself and family in the United Kingdom without the help of public funds.

    If you want to work as an employee in the United Kingdom you will need our permission before you start work. Details of the type of work you can take and how to apply for permission to work can be found in the Bulgarian and Romanian nationals section.

    Once you have been working legally as an employee in the United Kingdom for 12 months without a break you will have full rights of free movement and will no longer need our permission to take work. You can then get a registration certificate confirming your right to live and work in the United Kingdom, although you are not obliged to do so. Details on how to apply for registration certificate can be found on the applying page.

    You do not need our permission if you are working in a self-employed capacity. However, you can apply for a registration certificate to confirm your right to work as a self-employed person in the United Kingdom if you wish. More details can be found on the applying page.

    there we go. Less restrictions than those applied to non EU citizens, and its interesting to see that if they are self-employed, they don’t need permission.

  25. douglas clark — on 21st February, 2008 at 12:20 pm  

    Yup,

    I had forgotten about the so-called transition arrangements for Bulgarians and Rumanians. I think I am right in saying though that these restrictions are time limited are they not?

    I expect that what with Turkeys prosepective accession we’ll see a lot more of these weasel words.

  26. A councillor writes — on 21st February, 2008 at 12:44 pm  

    There were complicated transition arrangements for the A8 countries as well, although not as restrictive as the Romania and Bulgaria ones. Both sets of arrangements are time-limited.

    As for the other EU arrangements, they are actually a little more complicated in many EU countries than in the UK. Whilst residence is pretty easy to arrange (usually just register with the local authorities), an EU citizen still has to arrange work permits in many EU countries. It’s supposed to be a given, but it’s certainly a bureaucratic nightmare in Germany and can be very, very difficult in Italy.

    I really don’t approve of “provisional citizenship”, you are either a citizen or you aren’t and citizenship should not be revokable by the government for anything short of “treason” and no citizenship should be revokable if that person has no second citizenship.

    “letters from referees” – oh dear, this is going to be the passports debacle over again, isn’t it. For those who don’t know, for UK passports, you are supposed to have known the person for the appropriate amount of time. The legal advice is that councillors shouldn’t just sign because people are their constituents (and indeed, I get letters from IND about people who I have signed for on occasion). People do get quite indignant when I say “I’m sorry, but I can’t sign it”. I also imagine that some of those referees will start charging for such letters.

  27. Rumbold — on 21st February, 2008 at 2:26 pm  

    Sonia:

    “But rumbold, there are ’specifics’ – those people who are subject to immigration control do have specific rules that apply to them. I guess the point is that the people at the top/politicians don’t really know what goes on with regards to implementation of these “broad policies”, as with most organisations, especially bureaucratic ones.”

    Sorry, I did not make myself clear; I was in fact agreeing with you. You are right to say that there are specifics, and that they affect real people. I, like you, was bemoaning the fact that often these ‘policies’ are completly abstract and headline-friendly, and give little thought to the actual detail.

    Douglas:

    “Seriously, we have one law for the rich and another for the poor. It is some sort of economic deal. Obviously Abramhovich is unlikely to ever be a burden on the state, which seems to be the criteria for admission for, more or less anyone. It is just easier if you happen to own all the natural gas in trans Siberia.”

    The rich find it easier to get jobs here, especially if they own the company employing them. It is a shame that there is unfariness, but I am not sure how useful legislation would be in this case.

    “You really haven’t got it about the EU, have you? Mobility of labour, and indeed everyone else, is enshrined in it’s constitution. The French, let us say, would have to put up with Rumbold as their next door neighbour. You have rights, and so do they.”

    It was not an attack on freedom of movement, which I fully support. The proposals realte to gaining citizenship, which I think should be the same for everyone. I do not see why EU citizens should be able to gain British nationality more easily than others, just as I should not be able to become French easily. Freedom of EU movement remains unimparied,even if the rules apply to everyone.

    A councillor writes:

    ” really don’t approve of “provisional citizenship”, you are either a citizen or you aren’t and citizenship should not be revokable by the government for anything short of “treason” and no citizenship should be revokable if that person has no second citizenship.”

    My support for provisional citizenship was based on the (probably mistaken) belief that such a state would only apply while the application was being processed. I would support a similar scheme for aslyum seekers; provisional right to work. I agree that the idea that citizenship could be cancelled if a criminal activity is committed is terrbile, as it undermines the idea of just punishments (everybody gets the same). If someone was convicted of treason, I would strip them of their citizenship, even if they were British from birth.

  28. sonia — on 21st February, 2008 at 3:03 pm  

    .. like you, was bemoaning the fact that often these ‘policies’ are completly abstract and headline-friendly, and give little thought to the actual detail.

    absolutely. and it makes you wonder if they know what their departments are actually doing, or even care.

  29. piglet — on 21st February, 2008 at 7:22 pm  

    These guidelines are pretty frightening. Creating a class of “probationary” citizens, that’s exactly what we need. Will give integration a big boost.

  30. Ajay — on 23rd February, 2008 at 11:11 am  

    Why all these new immigration rules are for asian or sub continental people?
    There are some other people from other countries who can,t speak english for e.g Poland, salvakia
    why dont they apply the same rules to them?
    Making the new rules is not wrong but implementing on certain people of group is deffinatly wrong
    and i personaly think that will increase the gap between the british and other nations

  31. shek miah — on 2nd March, 2008 at 7:44 pm  

    again the great ‘democratic’ scandal. I mean the bbc website reported a documentary on the new life in the uk test. it found that not 8/10 mps actually failed the tests themselves yet the homeoffice is forcing a ridiculous burden on people who they know will have very little hope. These new proposals are ‘disgusting’. i my self dont have british citizenship yet im 27 yrs old and have been residing in the uk since the age of 3yrs old. I just could nt be bothered to get a citzenship done becoz ive never been abroad. i ve been paying my taxes ever since i started employment @ the age of 17. why should i contribute towards another public fund? …..this stupid minister needs to be told: THE LAWS IN PLACE WORK PERFECTLY FINE JUST BLOODY TRY ENFORCING THEM MORE EFFICIENTLY’.

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