Brown Wins Authority to Curb Applications for U.K. Citizenship
By Reed V. Landberg
July 21 (Bloomberg) — Prime Minister Gordon Brown won the authority to lengthen the period immigrants must live in the U.K. before they can apply for citizenship, part of the biggest clampdown on immigration since World War II.
The Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill will receive Queen Elizabeth IIs approval today. It extends the residence requirement for citizenship applicants to eight years from five for people with work permits. Those married to a British national need five years in the U.K. instead of three.
Britain has reversed its open-door policy as public concern grew over the scale of immigration since 2004, when Poland and seven other Eastern European nations joined the European Union, gaining the right to work without restriction in the U.K. Brown has focused his clampdown on migration from outside Europe, restricting both family and work visas.
That makes a reality of the pledge to ensure that those who wish to become British citizens earn the right, Immigration Minister Phil Woolas told lawmakers on July 14 as the bill won approval from the House of Commons.
Applicants can shave two years off their wait by doing approved volunteer work. The measures had the support of both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat opposition parties.
The Labour government backed away from plans to impose identity checks on journeys between the U.K. and Ireland. It also agreed to a series of concessions phasing in the new rules over the next few years.
The House of Lords approved those measures last night without a vote and handed the legislation to the queen, who will sign it before Parliament rises for its summer recess today, according to the daily agenda for the upper chamber.
While European freedom-of-movement laws mean Britain has little power to control arrivals from inside the EU, most immigration has come from beyond Europe in recent years. The government last year began an Australian-style points-based system for people entering Britain from outside the EU.
The new citizenship rules will take effect no earlier than July 2011. People who have permanent residency at that time, known as indefinite leave to remain, can apply under the old rules for the following two years.
The government have put on the face of the bill transitional arrangements on earned citizenship, as requested by this house, William Brett, a Labour member of the House of Lords, told the upper chamber of Parliament last night.
Woolas had wanted to bring in the new measures more quickly and leave details about the transitional arrangements for an executive order sometime after the legislation was enacted.
We should pay tribute to him for retreating on the retrospection clauses, Damian Green, the Conservative lawmaker who speaks on immigration, said in Parliament on July 14. That is a welcome improvement.
Last week, the government dropped plans to tighten passport controls between Britain and its surrounding islands after resistance from both houses of Parliament.
The Home Office abandoned its effort to require people to show passports on request on journeys in the Common Travel Area, which includes the U.K., Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. It will try to push through the measures sometime later this year, though it kept them out of the bill.
We think that it is still an area of concern in terms of security against terrorism and serious crime, said Brett, who speaks for the government on home affairs matters and has been known as Lord Brett since he was named a baron by Labour in 1999.
Woolas has said 8,000 people a year enter the U.K. illegally, many of them from surrounding islands where border controls are lax. French authorizes recently broke up a gang offering migrants club class travel on airlines from Dublin to small regional airports in the U.K. for 10,000 pounds ($16,300) each, Woolas says.
To contact the reporter on this story: Reed Landberg in London at email@example.com
Last Updated: July 21, 2009 09:34 EDT