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Prime Minister launches contract for foreign nationals seeking British citizenship

Radical changes to the way newcomers are able to earn their stay in Britain were proposed by the Government today.

The measures being announced follow consultation with people from across the UK and set the stage for a new Bill to implement these proposals.

The public was clear that people who want to make Britain their home should speak English, pay their way, obey the law and give something back to their community.

The Green Paper: 'The path to citizenship' proposes:

  • a three stage route to citizenship, including a new probationary period of citizenship, requiring new migrants to demonstrate their contribution to the UK at every stage or leave the country;
  • full access to benefits being delayed until migrants have completed the probationary period;
  • migrants having to improve their command of English to pass probation;
  • anyone committing an offence resulting in prison being barred from becoming a citizen;
  • those committing minor offences being required to spend longer in the new probationary period of citizenship;
  • migrants contributing to a new fund for managing the transitional impacts of migration, providing extra financial help to communities experiencing change from migration; and
  • migrants getting involved in their communities through volunteering being able to graduate to British citizenship more quickly.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said:

"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.

"This is a country of liberty and tolerance, opportunity and diversity – and these values are reinforced by the expectation that all who live here should learn our language, play by the rules, obey the law and contribute to the community.

"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.

"Today's proposals are part of the biggest changes to British immigration policy for a generation. This year will also see the introduction of a new Australian-style Points Based System, which will ensure the UK attracts only people with the skills it needs and the establishment of a new UK Border Agency to help strengthen our border controls helping ensure ours is one of the toughest borders in the world."

These changes to citizenship come against a backdrop of radical changes to the immigration system. In 2008 the Government will deliver a complete overhaul of the way we judge who can come to Britain and the way we police the system.

These changes include the introduction of the new Australian style Points Based System from the end of this month which will provide clearer controls on who can come to the UK, making sure that the country only takes in the brightest and the best; a single border force to guard our ports and airports with new police-like powers, all visa applicants fingerprinted, the introduction of a new system to count people in and out and ID cards which will strengthen the UK border and help keep out those who don't have the right to be in the UK.

These reforms to the immigration system will be backed up with a new single piece of legislation, replacing all existing immigration laws, which will be introduced to Parliament in November this year. This is designed to make immigration law more straightforward and transparent and make the UK's immigration system more effective.