Migrant benefits rules changing
December 8, 2008
Mr Woolas said benefits should only be claimed by British citizens
Some economic migrants may face a ten-year wait to claim benefits under new plans, says the immigration minister.
Phil Woolas told the Sun “entitlement to benefits should be for citizens of our country, not other people”.
Currently migrants from outside the European Economic Area can get full benefits access after five years.
The new rules would mean a wait of between six and ten years. They would not apply to EU migrants, asylum seekers or refugees.
It also does not include “contributory” benefits like Jobseekers Allowance and incapacity benefit, which can be claimed by any immigrants who have paid National Insurance for two years.
Integrate or wait, migrants told
Mr Woolas was referring to measures in the Borders, Immigration and Citizenship Bill, outlined in the Queen's Speech, which take forward plans for “earned citizenship”.
He told the newspaper: “If you are a citizen you have earned the right to benefits. People must show they are here to work.”
Migrants from outside the European Economic Area are entitled to full access to benefits once they are given “settlement”, or indefinite leave to remain, usually after five years.
They then have full access to “non contributory” benefits like housing and council tax benefits and child tax credits, depending on their circumstances.
The new rules would see economic migrants spending five years as “temporary residents” before becoming “probationary citizens”.
To earn full citizenship they would have to show they were working, paying tax, learning a reasonable level of English and “playing by the rules”, a Home Office spokesman said.
Those who make additional contributions to the community, such as voluntary work, may be granted citizenship within a year – but the average is expected to be two or three years.
But others could face a five year wait – including those who commit minor crimes and those who do not want to become British citizens but do want to be permanent residents, a Home Office spokesman said.
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said: “Phil Woolas is continuing with his right-wing mood music as the Government's desperation to look tough on immigration continues.
“The problems are not going to be solved by attacking legal migrants when ministers have completely lost control of illegal immigration.
“Mr Woolas admits we should be counting people in and out of Britain. But despite what he says, the Government still doesn't do that. Exit checks must be reintroduced immediately.”