Immigrants contributing to democratic life to get passports faster

Behaviour and conduct to determine the time required for processing passport applications

Tags: Phil Woolas, Alan Johnson, Damian Green

4th August 2009: The Government has made it clear that an immigrant’s behaviour and conduct will eventually expedite, or slow down, the processing of his application for British passport under the point-based system.
With this, the Government has apparently decided to adopt a system akin to the one existing in America and France.
Available information suggests the Government has proposed the creation of a new category of “probationary citizen”.
Under it, migrants displaying an “active disregard for UK values” may find their applications blocked. The “disregard” would include protesting at homecoming parades of British troops.
On the other hand, migrants contributing to “the democratic life of the country” may eventually find that the time taken for processing their applications has been shortened from three years to one. The contribution can be in the form of canvassing for political parties, or showing active citizenship by serving in their communities,
Elaborating, Immigration minister Phil Woolas says:  “If someone is applying to be a citizen to our country we think that you should not only obey the law but show you are committed to our country. This is what America does, it is what France does … and we think we should do the same.”
The point based system would also require the immigrants to brush up their history. For they will now be made to take a British history test.
It is a part of the Government’s endeavour to cut down the number of passports being given to the immigrants each year. At present, those who work legally in Britain for five years can get the passport, after if they pass a multiple-choice Life in the UK test, introduced in 2005.
The test concentrates on issues like how to contact the emergency services and claim benefits. But so far it does not include any questions on history.
The move to have a history paper also marks the end of UK Home Office’s four-year refusal to make migrants go back to the history books before applying for citizenship in an apparent attempt to prove they have studied the country’s traditions and have learnt about historical figures such as Sir Winston Churchill.
The argument of the officials previously was that Britain had ‘too much’ history and a test would not be fair.  But now it seems the immigrants will have to undergo the test at the final stage of a points-based citizenship scheme.
Woolas adds the scheme will stop the population reaching the 70million; and increasing the population, currently at 61million, was ‘not sustainable’.
It is already clear that under the system procuring British nationality will no more be automatic for immigrants, who will soon have wait for longer durations and earn their passports. Skills, jobs and qualifications will add up to the points. On the other hand, bad behaviour will be penalised and cost them dear in terms of points.
Under the tough new rules, an immigrant in future may have to hang on for as long as 10 years before becoming eligible.
The system is in sharp contrast to the previous mechanism of obtaining British nationality, in which a foreigner would automatically be eligible after working for five years in the country. The prime requirement then was payment of taxes, knowledge of spoken English and obedience of the law.
Giving details of the point system just before the launch of a consultation Home Secretary Alan Johnson said under the new citizenship proposals they would require people to earn points for, among other things, their skills, their job and their qualifications. As of now, the would-be migrants from outside the EU already go through the points-based system. Introduced last year, the system permits access to the UK, only if the immigrants have skills needed by the British economy.
A Home Office spokesman said: "The points-based system has already proved to be a powerful tool for controlling migration for the benefit of British people and the economy.
"We have already announced our intention to consult on applying these principles to the path to citizenship.
"New laws require migrants to earn citizenship by playing by the rules, speaking English and contributing to the community.
We intend to consult on how we can further strengthen these reforms and provide flexibility for the Government to respond to the changing economic needs of the country."
Reacting to the developments, Conservative immigration spokesman Damian Green said an automatic right to British citizenship was never in existence. The Government has simply let an unprecedented number of people obtain citizenship and were on an average issuing a British passport every five minutes.
The proposed system was an act of desperation by a Government as it knows it has let immigration run out of control for more than a decade.

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