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New tests to become British

Immigrants have to speak English, secure work, pay tax, volunteer 19 January 2009 – Immigrants wanting to become British will now face tough new tests under citizenship plans outlined by Immigration Minister Phil Woolas.

In the biggest shake-up of immigration for more than 50 years, the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill, unveiled by the Oldham East and Saddleworth MP will see new “earned citizenship” rules for spouses and economic migrants.

Husbands and wives of UK nationals will be able to become full citizens in as little as three years and economic migrants in six.

But they will have to be able to speak English, secure work and pay tax, and volunteer for community work if they want their application speeded up.

Mr Woolas said: “The Bill that we have introduced had its gestation in the Oldham riots in 2001 where we were able to persuade the Government and the authorities we needed to change the policy, that community cohesion was not only the right thing to do but is also supported by all communities, including the British Asian community, who reject of course, discrimination, as we all do, but also recognise that if you want to get on in Britain you have to play by the rules.”

Committing minor crimes could also lead to applications being delayed for up to 10 years. Access to benefits will be restricted until applicants have passed through the “probation” process.

Mr Woolas added: “I think people in Oldham across all communities will welcome this because it gives opportunities to people who are immigrants to learn English, play their part and understand how society works.

“It will be much better for community cohesion and reassure the general population that illegal immigration is being tackled.”

The Bill also includes greater powers for border officers as part of an overhaul of entry checks.

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