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Citizenship Plan in U.K. Stirs Ire

Posted on August 5, 2009
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The U.K.’s proposals to tighten its citizenship process and make prospective Britons act more British brought renewed criticism from some immigrant and business groups, which accused the government of seeking populist headlines that will make it harder to attract talent. 

In what the country’s Home Office described as another step in the biggest shake-up of U.K. immigration law in 45 years, ministers proposed that foreigners would have to score a certain number of points to become British citizens — a requirement also recently applied to people entering the country to work or study.

Growing unemployment, overstretched public services and the terrorist threat have in recent years prompted the U.K. to restrict the surge in immigration that helped to fuel a decadelong economic boom.

Industry sectors as diverse as catering and banking have complained that recent rounds of tightening have already made it harder to attract staff that aren’t available in the U.K. Amit Kapadia, executive director of HSMP Forum, a migrant-rights group, said the measures would discourage highly skilled migrants from coming to Britain.

The proposed system laid out Monday explains how points toward citizenship could be earned through positive contributions to U.K. life. But points would be deducted for bad behavior.

For example, the proposals would mete out rewards based on how much potential citizens earn. Specific “artistic, literary or scientific” talents would earn more points. Points would be awarded for English-language proficiency and for “community involvement,” a move designed to encourage integration.

Anyone breaking the law or being “antisocial” would have points deducted. Displaying disregard for British values would result in deductions.

Still, the government may receive applause from one section of the U.K.: the public. Many Britons believe Prime Minister Gordon Brown isn’t doing enough to stem the flow of immigrants.

Write to Alistair MacDonald at

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Xavier Augustin

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