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What’s the point? Migrants to earn points for British citizenship


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This is a question many immigrants and immigration lawyers are asking themselves about the so-called Points Based System. Genuine highly skilled immigrants and foreign students are considering heading to other countries and immigration lawyers are conflicted: the points based system is great for business but this is because it is so maddeningly badly implemented. If only the Home Office did what ILPA suggested, there would be a lot less work for ILPA members!

More bad news: there’s a splash by the Home Office today about how a similar so-called points system is to be extended to nationality applications.

The media coverage is frustrating. The main Home Office justification for the change is that the proposed new system will allow them to refuse citizenship to those of bad character. THERE IS ALREADY A GOOD CHARACTER REQUIREMENT FOR BRITISH NATIONALITY. Even at the moment it is for the Home Office decide who has or does not have good character. A criminal offence pretty much precludes one from citizenship, but it is certainly not limited to those who have committed offences. I’ve come across cases where the aspirant citizen has a bad reputation but no convictions and is still refused. Indeed, I was instructed on a case like this only a fortnight ago and had to tell the chap he didn’t have a leg to stand on.

The Home Office press releases explicitly suggest that in the past anyone could become a British citizen. This simply isn’t true, and it would have represented a gross dereliction of duty on the part of the Home Office had this been the case.

Now, to the rub. To suggest that applications in future will be judged on points is entirely misleading. I have no doubt at all that the Home Office will not introduce a system whereby a person commits a criminal offence but can nonetheless gain citizenship by doing lots of voluntary work: points are lost through the criminal offence but can be made up in some other way. If the Home Office did implement a genuine points system of this nature, it would be a lot more generous than the current system. This isn’t exactly the spin they are putting on it now, though, I notice.

The Home Office persists in pretending that the new immigration system is a ‘points based system’, but in fact it is full of mandatory requirements. For example, 10 points are available for English language. These 10 points are mandatory and must be scored. One is awarded 0 points or 10 points. There are many other similar examples. Several so-called points based categories require a certificate of sponsorship. 50 points are available for such a certificate. 50 points are needed. There is no way other than through the certificate to score the necessary 50 points. Why dress it all up as ‘points based’ when actually it is full of mandatory requirements? The citizenship rules will no doubt be the same.

Just by-the-by, still Immigration Minister Phil Woolas’ asserted on Today this morning that only citizens have a right of free speech. Others don’t apparently. I’m not sure whether he really believes this or whether it was another example of his mouth opening and ignorant, uninformed rubbish coming out. It’s rather worrying either way.

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The Free Movement blog was founded in 2007 by Colin Yeo, a barrister at Garden Court Chambers specialising in immigration law. The blog provides updates and commentary on immigration and asylum law by a variety of authors.


8 Responses

  1. I have found the media coverage bemusing, particularly Alan Johnson on TV this morning. Is he trying to detract from the issue of the Computer Hacker extradiction?

    With one exception that I know of, Adult Naturalisation requires ILR for a valid application. So refusing to naturalise does not result in deportation or removal of ILR. Hence I presume the title to FM’s article saying “What’s the point?”

    -The proposed PBS scheme may well increase “Red Tape” for the HO, which will require more staff, and more training to impliment. But if the number of applications stay at current levels, where does the extra money come from? Has no-one at the HO done a cost/benefit analysis?
    -Preventing one adult from acquiring British Citizenship can stop a couple from benefitting from EU Freemovement rules, and they end up “Stuck” in Britain when they want to rellocate to elsewhere in the EU.
    -Benefits removed for those with ILR sounds to me illegal. Has the HO learned nothing from the COA debacle?

    BBC reports Minister Phil Woolas as saying “it would break the link between temporary migration and permanant citizenship”.
    Since when has ILR, a pre-requisite also called “permanant residence”, been categorised as “temporary migration”? Maybe he has let slip some future plans of the HO.

  2. Mr T,

    Agree with many of your sentiments. This one though:

    “-Preventing one adult from acquiring British Citizenship can stop a couple from benefitting from EU Freemovement rules, and they end up “Stuck” in Britain when they want to rellocate to elsewhere in the EU.”

    ….assumes neither adult has a UK passport, otherwise in this case the right of movement with a spouse/partner etc. within Europe is covered by the EC directive 2004/38/EC. http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/justice_freedom_security/free_movement_of_persons_asylum_immigration/l33152_en.htm

    FM – some observations

    I watched Wollas on C4 news whilst cleaning up, and this short piece sprang to mind: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/jul/12/brown-summer-recess-ban-holidays . Seems like they’re announcing for the sake of being seen to be doing something.

    I can understand what he is driving at (not that I agree with it), but he really needs to come right out with specifics rather than generalisations. You’ve said before that “calculating machine Byrne” made a faint attempt to remove some of the subjectivity in decisions could this be the same?

    1. DP

      Yes, I envisaged the scenario of a guy coming to the UK, achieving ILR after 5 years work, then bringing his fiance/wife across. After 12 months ILR he can apply for British Citizenship for himself.
      Clearly the wife is at least a few years short of being able to Naturalise herself.

      If they have children though, that changes things a little, as the children if not British already can naturalise.

  3. Thank heavens these Home Office people have to spend their working days in Marsham Street, and not on the streets, where they might create so much havoc.

    1. I’ve been into the Dragon’s Den at Marsham Street a few times. It does not surprise me that civil servants and ministers there feel able to cook up obscure and pointless plans to introduce laws we already have rather than getting on with the business of enforcing them properly.

    2. Well, look on the bright side. At least while they’re there they’re not at the Foreign Office or Defence cooking up silly wars of extremely dubious legality resulting in the deaths of tens if not hundreds of thousands of people.

      A hundred years ago, we could make these people governers of a myriad of obscure islands all over the show, but alas their inhabitants saw the light.

      In the words of Spike Milligan, everybody has to be somewhere. They’re at the Home Office.

      I’ve come to the conclusion that they feel their job is to make new immigration rules and criminal laws, irrespective of whether we need any, like a machine without an off switch.

      I rather suspect a computer system is behind all this points stuff. Chances are some secretary who hasn’t quite mastered Excel is the cause of the problem.

    1. Now isn’t that a strange thing? I read the highly illuminating Porter piece, was about to add to its comments but had to be reminded of my password. Opened my mailbox, no sign yet of password but had received a Google email alert for ‘trafficking + the UK’ which I follow in connection with my blog.

      In turned oput to be this interesting Yorkshire Evening Post case, freemovement, which is much more up your street than mine: