Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The UK Citizenship Test - New Third Edition

Readers may recall past commentaries on the UK citizenship test. All persons who want to secure Indefinite Leave to Remain (permitting permanent residency) or British citizenship must sit and pass the UK citizenship test.

Of course, the "citizenship test" (as it is commonly known) is a misnomer. Passing the test doesn't make anyone a citizen. Instead, the test's name is, in fact, the "Life in the UK" test.

The test used to emphasize the need for future citizens to become knowledgeable about their rights and how to secure employment without any questions about British history, geography or law. This made the test very different from the US citizenship test where there are questions about the Founding Fathers, America's largest rivers (the Mississippi and Missouri, of course) and basic points of law that citizens are expected to know. The British version emphasized the goal of future citizens being able to function in society; the American version perhaps has greater emphasis on historical and cultural knowledge instead.

My past commentary and criticisms can be listened to here (from 23 mins) on BBC Radio 4 or read here in The Political Quarterly.

One major problem I identified was that the then current test was woefully out of date. It was published in March 2007 and, thus, questions about British politics and policies could only be answered correctly by accurately noting what was true in March 2007. Since that time government departments have merged or been rebranded, programmes cut, etc. Plus, the test asked questions about census figures from 2001.

A second major problem I identified was the need for some inclusion of British history and culture - as well as some basic points of law. The former test omitted questions in these areas to its detriment. The right to remain silent and other rights are among those things we should expect citizens to know.

The government has now published a new textbook - the 3rd edition - from which questions on the citienship test will come from March 2013. The textbook has some welcome changes, such as bringing British history and culture back in although we await to see what exactly will be tested. One real concern is that the historical legacy will be politicised (or "Toryfied"), but this remains to be seen.

One potential concern is that things may have begun to swing too far the other way -- with far too much emphasis on a particular version of historical and cultural importance and far too little on daily British life. If so, this would be a move too far in the wrong direction.

Initial reports suggest that the test may have become much easier. Questions used to focus on various benefits programmes and the functioning of schools. But now questions - at least those released thus far - are more simple and less technical, such as the location of Stonehenge and the London Paralympics. If true, then one perhaps surprising result may well be that the test may be much easier to pass. So a Tory-led government focussed on reducing immigration may make it much easier for new immigrants to pass an important hurdle on the path to permanent residency and citizenship.

Expect to see much more soon on the new test.


rob leach said...

You are completely wrong that the new LITUK book should be better; the new edition is a horrific canter through a rightwing view of history and national aggrandismeent that will make any Labour supporter nauseous. The two main parts' titles 'a long and illustrious history' and 'a modern, thriving society' give you some idea of its tone. Nearly all the useful stuff about employment, healthcare, housing, welfare, children and education is gone.

The Brooks Blog said...

I'm unsure we disagree. If you read my post, I have been very critical of the current test and disappointed with what I've seen in the newly published test. I'm wading through the new third edition now -- and (continue to) agree the view about history is a shambles.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I came to the UK on Ancestral visas, from South Africa, in 2006, when the requirements were 4 years before you could do the Life in the Uk test. As we were preparing to do the test, the powers that be changed the goalposts to 5 years, and we then had to pay for an extension to our visas. So, we paid, for the extended year instead of being able to pay for our tests etc and start the process of becoming UK citizens. Costs then were about £500 - £600 and £50 for a spouse. We are both English speaking South Africans. Due to financial constraints, we were unable to proceed with the process at that time. As you can imagine, the costs are now exorbitant, AND we now also have to do the English Proficiency test. Costs now are £1,130 each! I really wish there was a way to recoup the money we had to pay out unnecessarily! We live in the county of Hampshire. Are we able to do the English Prof test and the Life in the UK test on the same day and are there legitimate places, other than in London, that do the tests?

Thom Brooks said...

The costs have increased dramatically over a short period. I expect costs will continue to rise although do not have any specific information about that.

The English language proficiency test is often sat as part of an ESOL programme - and these take more than a day (or week). There are several exemptions. Unfortunately, South Africa (surprisingly) is not on the list of countries whose nationals are exempt from the list. (US, Canada and even Belize are all exempt.)BUT if you have a degree (even a research degree) conducted in English, then you might qualify for an exemption and so no test/ESOL need be sat.

It can be *very* difficult booking appointments to sit tests - althought this depends on where in the UK you are applying to. Test centres are located across the UK. I would follow links from gov.uk to see locations. These exist outside London and cover full UK.

Hope this helps!