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New rules for British citizenship announced

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The government of the United Kingdom has proposed new changes to rules for migrants who wish to attain British citizenship, including a probationary period for new citizens, payments that migrants must pay towards helping communities deal with the impact of increased immigration, and tough measures for prospective citizens who commit offenses.

"Our new deal for citizenship is clear and fair. The rights and benefits of citizenship will be available to those who can demonstrate a commitment to our shared values and a willingness to contribute to the community," said Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.

The changes to citizenship legislation would be backed by a new single piece of legislation that will replace all existing immigration laws, which will be tabled before Parliament in November 2008.

If the naturalization measures are passed into law, they would introduce a 'path to citizenship' which would propose:

  • a three stage path to citizenship, including a new probationary period
  • full access to benefits being delayed until migrants have completed their probationary period
  • a requirement for migrants to improve their English ability (if needed) before completing the probationary period
  • that migrants who commit offenses resulting in prison are barred from citizenship
  • that migrants who commit minor offenses have their probationary period extended
  • that migrants contribute to a new fund for "managing the transitional impacts of migration" and "providing extra financial help to communities experiencing change from migration"
  • that migrants who engage in community volunteer work are able to graduate to British citizenship more quickly

"British people have welcomed migrants over the years. Our economy and our communities are stronger for their contribution to British life. And people think it's fair that the benefits of citizenship are matched by responsibilities and contributions to Britain," Smith said.

Smith said the proposals are part of the "biggest changes to British immigration policy for a generation" which will include a new Australian-style points based system.