The government has proposed the creation of a new category of “probationary citizen” whose application for a British passport can be sped up or slowed down on the basis of a points system that evaluates their conduct.
Migrants who contribute to “the democratic life of the country”, by canvassing for political parties for example, or who show “active citizenship” by serving in their communities, may have their application process shortened from three years to one.
But those who show an “active disregard for UK values”, which could include protesting at homecoming parades of British troops, may find their applications blocked. The proposals, unveiled yesterday by Immigration minister Phil Woolas, would make it much tougher for the 150,000 people who apply for British citizenship each year.
He said: “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.”
Those who fail to integrate into “the British way of life”, or find themselves in “circumstances where an active disregard for UK values is demonstrated” would face having points deducted.
Until now, newcomers were virtually assured of British citizenship provided they had been resident in the country legally for five years, working and paying taxes. Family members and refugees would automatically pass the test but for economic migrants, criteria such as earning potential, artistic, scientific or literary merits, qualifications, their ability to speak English and how long they have been resident in Britain would all play a part.
The Conservative immigration spokesman Damian Green said the proposals were “pure spin”, adding: “This is an act of desperation by a government that ... has let immigration run out of control for more than a decade.”