Thursday, April 18, 2013

FOR RELEASE: Changes to British citizenship: a useless gimmick about raising fees and not standards


BBC News reports today that:

"From October 2013, all those wishing to settle in the UK will have to pass an English language course as well as the existing test on life in the UK.

And that has now been extended to cover applicants for citizenship.

English-speakers applying for citizenship have currently only to take the life-in-the-UK test, which is in English."

The Home Office argues that they are raising standards and providing a new restriction on achieving citizenship by requiring applicants pass a new English language test in addition to passing the "Life in the UK" citizenship test.

These claims are inaccurate -- and demonstrate little knowledge about the "Life in the UK" test.

The test is now in its third edition launched last month. All three editions are designed so that persons that pass the test must have English at a standard of ESOL Entry Level 3. This has always been the case.

The British government will require applicants for permanent residency and citizenship to pass both the "Life in the UK" test and a new English language test from October 2013. Applicants must prove they have English language ability at ESOL Entry Level 3 to pass the new English language test. The new English language test does not, in fact, raise the standard for English proficiency required for permanent residency or citizenship. The existing test already secures this standard. The new English language test will only raise the costs of applications and not improve standards.

The British government also claims that the new test is now a new requirement for citizenship applications from October 2013. This is also inaccurate. The "Life in the UK" citizenship test is really a permanent residency test: it must be passed to secure permanent residency. Passing the citizenship test does not convey immediate citizenship. Applicants must gain permanent residency before applying for citizenship. Permanent residents may apply after one year. The result is that the test is not a new requirement for citizenship applications because (a) all prospective citizenship applicants must have already achieved permanent residency and (b) permanent residency requires passing the "Life in the UK" test which will expand to include a new English language test. So permanent residents will have already had to pass both the "Life in the UK" test and the English language test -- as it already states on page 9 of the current handbook. I note this was published in January 2013 so hardly news in mid-April.

Finally, no journalist has picked up on the problem that a person passing the "Life in the UK" test today will be held to have satisfactory English proficiency. But a person passing the same test from October 2013 will not. Either the government is wrong in its claim the current test guarantees applicants have English proficiency at Level 3 (and so misleading the public) or the future test is a useless gimmick and not raising standards at all (and so misleading the public).

Contact details for any journalists interested in this story can be found HERE.


James Connelly said...

Thanks for this Thom. this is of especial interest to me as my wife is Turkish and at some point she will be applying for permission to stay indefinitely (in a couple of years - at the moment we are awaiting for her first visa to come through). It will be interesting to see what she thinks of the various tests. As she teaches in English up to doctoral level, I can't imagine that the language test will be a problem. The other test might be a lot of fun. She is currently on a crash course in Coronation Street and I propose making progress on cricket later in the summer - but as for the rest ....? who knows?

Jamesalmond said...

I'll be interested in seeing how this all pans out. My wife is Turkish and at some point may be subjected to this. Last night we listened to your interview and despaired (not at you, at the situation!).

The Brooks Blog said...

My pleasure! The test is presented as a true test of British history and culture. You would then expect something testing knowledge about Coronation Street or Monty Python. But the questions are superficial: you need only know the former is a popular soap and the latter a comedy sketch. No need to know about the fact Carl is to blame for the fire that engulfed the Rovers recently nor anything about dead parrots. So all a bit silly. The more troublesome material is the historical content. Dozens of names are listed and each given dates of birth & death. But, from what I've seen in the sample tests recently published, there are no questions about dates of birth & death for anyone. So the problem is there may be far more facts in the handbook than will be addressed in any test. I'll be publishing an in-depth report in June with link on this blog. Watch this space...

Paloma said...

You say, 'permanent residency requires passing the "Life in the UK" test which will expand to include a new English language test.' In fact, if you are a EU citizen, you have automatic residency, so you do have to pass the test in order to apply for naturalisation. Your statement does not apply to EU citizens.

I am an academic too, a social anthropologist, getting ready for my exam tomorrow. I agree with you that this is a codification of a version of Britishness which tells you almost nothing about how things work. The book is almost useless, gives no information at all re doctors, schools, how to open a bank account, how to get a mortgage, how to call an ambulance... All the important things!

The Brooks Blog said...

Paloma - my comments are about non-EU migrants as you note. Strictly speaking, permanent residency via an Indefinite Leave to Remain requires applicants pass the Life in the UK test. EU citizens need not obtain the visa so the test is only applicable where they wish to become UK citizens: note EU citizens would still have to pass the test to fulfil residency requirement before applying for a UK passport. (I know some EU citizens intending to go down this route.)

Ram said...

Hi there.
Thanks for the info. It is literally misleading and confusing. My wife has certificate for ESOL at entry 1 and Entry 2 which was enough for applications made before 28 October 2013. ( It used to say it required Entry1, Entry2 or Entry 3 means one of them ) Now it says Entry3,Entry2 or Entry1 What I get is still one of them Only they replaced in the sentence. So is my wife ok to apply? Thanks

Thom Brooks said...

Whether or not your wife is ok to apply depends on more than ESOL score. Scores are variable depending on the level you start at provided there is evidence of improvement in proficiency. So different people need to achieve different scores to satisfy the language + knowledge of life in the UK requirements. However, there are other requirements too such as residency, etc. I would strongly recommend contacting a local solicitor who works in this area. The law is both technical, but there is also discretion. It would be wise to gain legal advice before making any application or so I'd recommend.

Anonymous said...

I have recently applied for my British citizenship however didnt not realise I was expected to have english language plus life in the uk test which I passed before the new edition came out plus new rules that were introduced in oct although I have studied in England since primary school high school and college with I gave to home office my Level 3 health and social care got triple distinction DDD is that okay need answer dont want to have an unsuccessful application

Thom Brooks said...

There are several exemptions you might qualify for. One is if you are from a qualifying country (e.g., the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand).

A second possible exemption is if you have received a degree that was taught in English (and can demonstrate proof) even if in a country that is not majority English speaking.

These exemptions are discussed in my report about the Life in the UK test found on my website: Hope this helps!

Anonymous said...

Hi my husband has got german nationalty living here for 8 years .And I wanted to apply for British nationalty have passed levael 2 in 2012.But I had passed entry lavel 3 in 2007 with a letter that I have knowlage of life in UK.Do I still need life in UK test to apply for British citizenship or this letter is ok.