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Volume 684: debated on Thursday 20 July 2006

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have increased or intend to increase the period required before legal migrants into the United Kingdom may settle permanently; if so, what their reasons are for making such a change; and whether any change will have retrospective effect.[HL6637]

The minimum qualifying period for settlement was increased from four years to five years on 3 April. The change to five years brings us in line with other European countries on length of residence criteria. The Government do not feel that there are any benefits to be had by maintaining a different provision in the UK from that which applies elsewhere in the EU. The Government also feel that settlement should be based on a degree of attachment to the United Kingdom similar to that currently required for citizenship, and should form the later part of a journey towards integration. We feel that the increase in the qualifying period supports this. Those who have already qualified for settlement are allowed to keep their settled status subject to continuing to be ordinarily resident here. The change only affects those who have still not qualified. The change is not therefore retrospective.