UK passports: another year wait for migrants

Immigration Bill may keep skilled immigrants away from Britain 12 January 2009 – Economic migrants seeking a UK passport will have to spend at least a year as "probationary citizens".

The Borders, Immigration and Citizenship Bill, which will have its first reading on Wednesday, introduces a one- to three-year waiting period for migrants wanting to apply for a passport, on top of the existing five-year residency qualification.

All new migrants are to be required to demonstrate good English ability and a knowledge of life in the UK before becoming citizens. Those who work in the UK legally, pay taxes, get involved in their communities and do not acquire a criminal record will be able to be become citizens within six years of arrival.

Those do not do any voluntary work will only qualify after eight years and those who become unemployed will be asked to leave the country.

The government claims that the move represents a fairer immigration system that will see foreigners "earn" their right to become British, but the left-leaning Institute for Public Policy Research thinktank has warned skilled migrants may be put off as result.

The Immigration Bill will also deny full access to benefits, including social housing, to those who have completed a new period of probationary citizenship of between one and five years.

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