Learning English, paying tax and volunteering will now help immigrants gain British citizenship faster under a new citizenship law, described as the “biggest transformation” of border controls in a generation.
The Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act, which was given Royal Assent on Wednesday, ensures that immigrants who want to become British citizens earn the right to stay by speaking English, paying tax, obeying the law and volunteering, Border and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said.
“It will speed up the path to citizenship for those who contribute to the community by being active citizens,” Woolas said, adding, “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”.
“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,” he said.
The minister also 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”.
Woolas said: “Within the next few weeks the Home Office 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.”
This will build on the reforms to citizenship in the new Act providing even greater controls over the number of people who want to settle permanently in the UK.
He also said, “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.”
This is a further step in transformation of the UK Border Agency and strengthens its ability to crack down on those attempting to smuggle drugs and weapons into Britain and ensures the country continues to have one of the strongest borders in the world, the Home Office said on Wednesday.
Frontline customs and immigration officers now work together as the UK Border Agency with the power to quiz passengers on immigration and customs matters, the office said.
This means many passengers will face just one primary checkpoint while entering in to the UK, speeding up their journey, it said.
Since the creation of the border agency in April 2008, it has stopped over 30,000 individual attempts by illegal migrants to get into Britain through France and Belgium besides seizing a huge amount of illegal drugs and dangerous weapons, it added.