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August 4, 2009

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Non-EU migrants will have to earn UK passport

NON-EUROPEAN Union immigrants hoping to settle permanently in Britain may face tougher tests under a new points-based system proposal unveiled by the government yesterday that effectively forces them to earn citizenship.

The Home Office said the plans for the new "Points Based Test For Citizenship" will reward migrants for building up skills and English-language proficiency above the level already expected to enter Britain.

Would-be migrants could also speed up their application if they join a political party, trade union or do voluntary work.

Under the scheme, points could also be deducted and a British passport withheld for those breaking the law, "displaying behavior deemed unpatriotic" or committing anti-social behavior, a Home Office spokesman said.

Border and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said the plans, to be reviewed for 12 weeks, build on reforms to the immigration system that received parliamentary approval last month.

"To complement this, we have made it clear people must earn their right to stay in the UK permanently by working hard, obeying the law and speaking English," Woolas said.

Citizenship a privilege

"Being British is a privilege - these proposals break the link between coming to work here temporarily and being given the right to citizenship," he said.

The Home Office said, subject to the outcome of the public consultation, the new probationary citizenship measures could be introduced by 2011.

The tough new rules could also mean that foreigners could have to wait 10 years, instead of the current five, to become eligible for a British passport.

Would-be migrants are already subject to a points-based system to enter the UK based on the Australian model of entry.

Until now, obtaining nationality has been virtually automatic after five years working in the country, so long as applicants have paid taxes, obeyed the law and spoke English.

Conservative immigration spokesman Damian Green attacked the proposals as "pure spin" saying it was "an act of desperation by a government that knows it has let immigration run out of control for more than a decade."


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