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Changes to British Citizenship applications proposed

Changes to British Citizenship applications proposed

At the 2018 Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid has indicated his intention to reform the requirements for naturalisation applications for citizenship in the UK. This may form part of a suggested overhaul of the immigration system in light of the Brexit referendum.

Currently, when applying to naturalise as British, individuals must be able to show that they can meet residency and good character requirements, and show their intention to continue to live in the UK. A further requirement, introduced in 2005, requires that all applicants can demonstrate sufficient knowledge of life and language in the UK. Though the nature of tests required have been varied, significant changes to the application process have not been put in place since that date.

Applicants, aged between 18 and 65 years, must be able to demonstrate, through a written test, that they have an adequate Knowledge of Life in the UK and that they have adequate knowledge of the English language.

What is the Knowledge of life Test?

The Knowledge of Life test was introduced so that applicants can show ‘amongst other things, that they are committed to learning English and have an understanding of British history, culture and traditions.’[1] It involves a 45-minute computer-based test where test-takers need to answer 24 questions. More information and the booking form is found on this link: https://www.gov.uk/life-in-the-uk-test.

What level of English is required currently?

Applicants can currently demonstrate sufficient knowledge of English language where they have a qualification at Level B1, B2, C1 or C2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), or they hold certain degrees taught in English. Nationals of certain majority English speaking countries do not need to take the test.

The changes proposed

On 02 October 2018, Mr Javid stated that the Knowledge of Life and Language Test is ‘not enough’. He prefers a new test that so new citizens can understand the ‘liberal, democratic values that bind our society together’ and help with their integration in the UK. Reflecting his thinking, Mr Javid has said that he will bring in a British Values Test to replace the Knowledge of Life Test. The Home Secretary also confirmed his intention to strengthen the English Language requirements for all new citizens.

As of October 2018, Knowledge of Life in the UK tests are still valid for applications for indefinite leave to remain and to naturalise as British (where required). The fee for current citizenship applications is £1,033 and so the cost of an application already means that it is not an option for all. Though no one who lives in the UK is required to naturalise as British, the changes proposed in Mr Javid’s speech suggest that the path to citizenship will be even more difficult in future.

It is not yet known when the changes will come into effect or whether existing Knowledge of Life test certificates used for settlement applications in the past will be of use for future naturalisation applications.

If you are concerned about your eligibility to naturalise before the changes are introduced please speak - in confidence - to our solicitors at Clifford Johnston on 0161 975 1900, or email info@cj-law.co.uk. We advise on all aspect of immigration, asylum and nationality law.