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Strengthening the rules for citizenship

15 January 2009

The Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill changes the rules for aspiring citizens, requiring hard work and rewarding volunteerism.

The bill makes the process of attaining British citizenship longer and more difficult.

It would require all immigrants who wish to gain British citizenship to learn to speak English, and to obey the law. But it would also speed up the citizenship process for those who contribute to the community through hard work and volunteerism.

New system, new rules

Under the rules of the new bill, anyone wishing to apply for citizenship would have to live in the UK for five years, then spend an additional year proving they deserve citizenship.

They could prove this by demonstrating they've been:

  • working legally and supporting themselves
  • paying taxes
  • giving back to the community through volunteer work
  • learning to speak English

Breaking the law, even with minor crimes, would lengthen the application process. Anyone sent to prison for a serious crime could face deportation.
Under the new system, only citizens and permanent residents would have full access to benefits, including social housing.

Proving their commitment

Home Office Minister Phil Woolas said those applying for citizenship should 'speak English, work hard, and earn the right to stay here - and only get British citizenship once they have proved their commitment to the country.'

He added, ''Migration only works if it brings benefits, and these measures will ensure that only those migrants who make a positive impact on their local community will be able to stay in the UK.'

The bill would also strengthen the country's security by giving UK Border Agency frontline staff combined customs and immigration powers - making it easier for them to crack down on illegal immigration and smuggling.

The bill will also enable routine border controls on air and sea routes between the Republic of Ireland and the UK.  However, there are no plans to introduce fixed controls on the land border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

More changes

In addition, the bill would:

  • require the UK Border Agency to safeguard the welfare of children in its work
  • give automatic British nationality to a child born in the UK where at least one parent is a foreign or commonwealth member of the British armed forces
  • remedy the situation whereby a father of a child born abroad before 1961 can pass on his British nationality while a mother cannot

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