A ceiling on number of citizenships in offing

Citizenship awarded only to foreigners who contribute to society 3 June 2009: A ceiling will finally be placed on the number of non-European Union immigrants allowed to settle permanently in Britain.

As of now firm details of the limit have not been revealed. But, the rules will allow ministers to pick only the ones contributing most to the society.

Under current rules, non-EU migrants granted permission to enter the UK automatically progress towards citizenship, normally after four or five years.

The Home Office has already announced a plan to make them ‘earn’ citizenship by not carrying out any criminal acts and adhering to certain rules. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has now promised a new points system for those wanting to apply for citizenship, in her final act before stepping down.

It is expected to be separate from the current points system used to determine who is allowed to come here in the first place. The need for the system was being felt as the number of British passports handed out reached record levels of 164,635 in 2007.

Available information suggests points will be earned. Among other things, a strong track record of paying taxes or carrying out voluntary work may add up to the final tally. Campaigners hope it will significantly reduce the number of passports handed out each year.

Frank Field, on behalf of the crossparty Balanced Migration coalition, says: ‘This marks a major change in immigration policy with the Government announcing its intention to break the link between coming here to work and automatically gaining citizenship.’

A Home Office spokesman says the success of the points system for work permits lay behind the proposals.

The critics, meanwhile, find themselves groping in dark as far as the details are concerned.

Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling says: ‘It’s difficult to know whether this is a policy announcement or an off-the-cuff remark by a Home Secretary on her way out. This is a Government all over the place on immigration.’

The new points system, by giving ministers power to control the numbers approved each year, will enable them to ‘raise or lower the bar’ depending on the political and economic climate.

Moreover, those not scoring enough points could be told to leave.

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