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Immigration and Citizenship

Volume 489: debated on Friday 13 March 2009

The Humble Petition of the Malayalee community of Southend-on-Sea, Essex,

Sheweth: that the proposal in the Home Office’s Green Paper ‘The Path to Citizenship’ to increase the minimum period of temporary residency on the path to permanent settlement from five years to as much as ten years would not be fair to immigrants already in the United Kingdom who had anticipated they could permanently settle after only five years, and would result in one of the longest delays in access to citizenship in the European Union.

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House do urge the Secretary of State for the Home Department to allow those already in the United Kingdom to keep their entitlement to settle as per the existing rules.

And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.—[Presented by Mr. David Amess, Official Report,18 December 2008; Vol. 485, c. 1343.]


Observations from the Secretary of State for the Home Department:

The Government are currently taking forward the most radical reform of the immigration system in a generation. We are making changes to the way people come here and how we police our borders. To ensure these changes take real effect, we have proposed a fundamental overhaul of the law. Our earlier consultations showed widespread support for our ambition to reform and strengthen the law.

Having listened to and responded to the concerns of the British public we set out in the Government’s response to the Green Paper on citizenship what the new path to citizenship will be. Full details of our proposals were also published in the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill on 15 January. As part of our work we examined the requirements which will enable a migrant to progress on his path towards citizenship and also the rights and benefits available to him during that journey.

The measures we are introducing will ensure that economic migrants seeking citizenship have earned the right by demonstrating English language ability, contributing economically over a period of time and obeying the law. Where these requirements are met citizenship can be obtained after eight years. It can also be obtained more quickly—after six years—where the economic migrant undertakes active citizenship in the community.

We believe it is right to allow those who demonstrate their commitment to the UK by playing an active part in the community to achieve citizenship more quickly than those who do not. In addition, the Government want to encourage those who wish to remain in the UK to become British citizens. That is why we have proposed those who choose not to do so should be required to spend up to 10 years before they can remain permanently and access benefits. The deliberate intention of this proposal is to encourage more eligible migrants to become British and we believe that this is a clear incentive that will help achieve that aim.

We will set out in due course how the proposals will affect those already in the UK.