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The UK Border Agency gets customs powers with Immigration Act

Many passengers will face just one primary check point while coming in to the UK

23rd July 2009: For cracking down all the more effectively on illegal immigration and smuggling of drugs and weapons, the Home Office has created a new unified force at the border, comprising thousands of customs and immigration officers sharing wide ranging powers.

The force has been created following Royal Assent of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009. With this, the UK Border Agency gets customs powers.

From 5 August 2009, 4,500 HM Revenue and Customs staff will formally become part of the UK Border Agency. This is a further step in the transformation of the Agency and strengthens its ability to crack down on those attempting to smuggle drugs and weapons in to the UK. It will also ensure Britain continues to have one of the strongest borders in the world.

The Home Office said frontline customs and immigration officers work together as the UK Border Agency, with the power to quiz passengers on immigration and customs matters. This also means expeditious journey, as many passengers will now face just one primary check point when coming in to the United Kingdom.

Since the creation of the UK Border Agency in April 2008, bringing together immigration, customs and visa checks, more than 3,500 officers have already been trained with the skills to carry out passport and customs checks.

Border and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said: “This is part of the biggest transformation of our border controls in a generation. A unified force at the Border with the powers to carry out customs and immigration checks allows us to continue the crack down on illegal immigration and the smuggling of drugs and weapons.

“I am determined that Britain’s border remains one of the strongest in the world. This Act is an important part of ensuring it stays that way.’”

The Act also ensures that migrants who want to become British citizens earn the right to stay by speaking English, paying taxes and obeying the law.

It will speed up the path to citizenship for those who contribute to the community by being active citizens. Under the new system full access to benefits and social housing will be reserved for citizens and permanent residents – a route that can take up to ten years.

Mr. Woolas added: “This new Act ensures that those who want to stay earn the right to do so, learn to speak English and play by the rules. Those that don’t will not be allowed to become citizens, making our system both firmer and fairer.

“I want to go further and within the next few weeks we will publish a consultation to examine how the current points based system for economic migrants, which has proved to be an effective and powerful tool for controlling migration, could be applied to citizenship.”

In the next few weeks the Home Office will publish proposals to extend the points based system to citizenship. This will build on the reforms to citizenship in the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act, providing even greater controls over the number of people who want to settle permanently in the United Kingdom. It will allow for a more flexible approach with the ability to raise and lower the threshold depending on the needs of the United Kingdom.

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