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Friday, 26 January, 2001, 17:48 GMT
Hinduja's 'fast-track' passport
UK passport
UK passports: Can take two years to get hold of
Srichand Hinduja got a British passport, the shorthand for obtaining British nationality, in only six months.

But immigration lawyers and advisers say that 'ordinary' applicants usually only receive British nationality, by way of naturalisation, more than a year after filling in the forms.

Alison Stanley, head of London solicitors Bindman & Partners' immigration department, told BBC News Online that when Srichand Hinduja's application was received in March 1999, applicants were facing a wait of between 18-19 months.

Six months is about the shortest an application could ever be - the government still has to make inquiries

Alison Stanley
Immigration lawyer
Ms Stanley insisted six months represented a very quick response, saying: "You can ask to expedite the consideration of applications but they won't do it unless you have a jolly good reason.

"If you hold no other passport or travel document and are therefore 'marooned' and you have a good reason to travel abroad such as business reasons or an ill relative.

"Six months is about the shortest an application could ever be. The government still has to make inquiries. Delay is endemic throughout the whole of the Home Office."

Srichand Hinduja
Srichand Hinduja: Fortunate to get passport in six months
She said that although applicants were told it could be 14 months before a decision, many were processed between 11-14 months.

A spokesman for the Home Office confirmed that the current average for dealing with naturalisation applications was 15.5 months.

The spokeswoman said the average time for dealing with nationality applications at the end of 1999 was 18.8 months.

Ms Stanley said conditions for naturalisation included good character, languages, and residency with a "settled" status, adding: "'Settled status' or 'indefinite leave to remain' in the ordinary English is permanent residency."

Passport conditions
Must speak English, Scots Gaelic or Welsh adequately
Must intend to live in UK permanently
Must be of 'good character'
Other than spouses of British citizens, must have been legally resident for five years and 'settled' for one year
Habib Rahman, chief executive of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said the residency requirement was reduced for applicants married to UK spouses.

Mr Rahman also suggested that financial status and profession did play a part in the application process.

He said many applications took between 12-18 months depending on complexity, saying: "It takes more than a year, some of the cases take two years and I know of one case when it took more than two and a half years. "

He added: "I haven't heard of any done in six months but it is a discretionary process. The Home Office should treat everybody equally."

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