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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 February, 2004, 15:10 GMT
Q&A: The road to UK citizenship
The first of the government's new citizenship ceremonies takes place this week - before the introduction of the "Britishness" tests that are supposed to help determine a person's eligibility.

The tests are part of a revamp of the naturalisation process intended to ensure a commitment to - and understanding of - Britain that will help applicants integrate into society. Here is a brief guide to the details.

Why are things changing?

The government believes foreign nationals wanting to become British should demonstrate a commitment to the country - and to secure sufficient knowledge of the languages and customs to be able to feel comfortable.

Home Office minister Beverley Hughes said: "Becoming a citizen of the UK is something to be proud of.

"We want to help people becoming citizens to play a full part in our society and encourage those who are settled here to apply for citizenship." Language skills and knowledge of the British "system" are considered essential for this.

What is proposed?

Anyone applying for naturalisation from 1 January 2004 will take part in a citizenship ceremony in their home area once they have become eligible.

Current residential qualifications still apply, but applicants will now usually need to understand sufficient English to enable them at least to get an unskilled job.

Courses and a handbook will be provided, although neither these nor the eventual "Britishness" tests are yet in place.

The first of the pilot ceremonies, though, will go ahead despite this.

Must have lived legally in the UK for five years
If married to a British national, the qualification period is three years

What will the test consist of?

The precise detail of the tests will evolve in a succession of pilots.

But they are expected to examine knowledge of institutions, aspects of the law, where help and information are available and everyday activities, such as paying bills.

Test questions have not been finalised but could include:

  • Who is the Prime Minister?
  • How do you pay a telephone bill?
  • Describe the main political parties.

Will there be a pass mark?

The Home Office says it does not want to impose rigid standards.

It just requires citizens to have attained a grasp of English, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic and an understanding of the way British society works.

Applicants will not be able to take part in the citizenship ceremonies until they have demonstrated measurable progress in language and an understanding of Britain's laws, rights and duties.

A Home Office spokesman said people would have opportunities to try again if they did not initially achieve a sufficient standard.

What about the ceremonies?

London borough of Brent
London borough of Wandsworth
Telford & Wrekin

The first citizenship ceremony, in the London borough of Brent, will be a fairly grand affair, with the Prince of Wales attending.

Subsequent ones could be more low-key, taking place in town halls, libraries or even in people's homes.

The Home Office says they should be localised to reflect regional differences, which means Scottish or Welsh anthems might be played alongside - or instead of - the National Anthem.

But every person will have to make a citizenship pledge and continue to swear allegiance to the Queen.

When do the changes take effect?

The new rules apply to every citizenship application received after 1 January 2004.

All local authorities will now have to hold citizenship ceremonies.

But the tests are expected to be phased in later this year, once English and citizenship classes have been introduced.

What question would you like to see included in the "Britishness" tests?

This discussion is now closed. Read some of your comments below.

A selection of your comments:

If the plural of 'mouse' is 'mice', what is the plural of 'house'? If the plural of 'goose' is 'geese', what is the plural of 'moose'? How do you pronounce 'live' (as in: 'this band is playing live' or 'I live here')? When should you have an apostrophe in 'its'? When do you use 'their' as opposed to 'there' or 'they're'?
Or should you be asking the British these questions first???? (and in case you're wondering: I am a German, and YES, I DO think THAT episode of Fawlty Towers is one of the funniest things I've ever seen...)
Elke, Edinburgh, UK

Two of your correspondents used "who" instead of "whom" in their questions. Should they be un-Britished?
Fred Speirs, Cayman Islands

I think it's high time people should be loyal and patriotic to their motherlands. However, in most Commonwealth countries English is the official language. I don't see any viable reasons why a Commonwealth citizen should be forced to take English classes. I reckon that I know more about British politics than a vast number of people who dwell there.
Mwakenya, Nairobi, Kenya

Describe the difference between the United Kingdom, Great Britain, and the British Isles?
Vicki McGee, Stow, Scottish Borders, Scotland

1) Isn't it sad that British people have nothing nice to say about their own country?
2)Why are the best questions here posted by people living outside the U.K?
3) Why is it that people with no sense of national pride have a desperate urge to stop anyone else developing it? Why are they also the ones who claim to be "liberal"?
Peter, U.K

While it is sounding increasingly like the US citizenship requirements, I agree that most current British 'citizens' (shouldnt that be 'subjects'?) would not be able to answer any questions on the country as it is never taught there. In the USA, they are taught 'Civics' from an early age. In the UK, we are ashamed of our history.
Mark Urquhart-Webb, Orangevale, CA, USA (UK Expat)

I'm really sick of all the smart comments. I see being British as something to be proud of. Being British is more than having a passport, everyone seems to encourage everyone to be proud of their heritage, but it seems that when it comes to being proud to be British no-one could care less.
I really don't get some people. If you hate this country so much, its traditions and its beliefs, then why stay? Some people really do take what this country gives for granted. Why not take a moment to remember those who died to give us the freedoms we have today?
Murray Bryant, London

If someone bumped into you in the corridor and it was not your fault, would you still say sorry?
Asif Givashi, France

Using the London Undergound map, describe how you would get from Golders Green to South Kensington on the London Underground.
John Read, Toowoomba, Qld, Australia

I think the idea of encouraging someone to believe they are somehow special just because of where they reside is quite dangerous and pointless in an increasingly globalised world. However, I applaud any new measures to help people to geniunely integrate into British society. This is one of the hallmarks of the successful society modern Britain is today and which many others could learn from.
Tasuki Yamamoto, Hertfordshire, UK

Q1: What is the favourite British pastime?
a) Moaning
b) Moaning
c) Moaning
Q2: How much would the average Brit learn about their own country if they took the courses associated with the test?
Rich, ex-UK

The ceremonies & oath etc, will not make any difference. Just a waste of time.
D Khan, London

Moan about the weather for five minutes.
JP Coetzee, Bristol, UK

Is binge drinking a good idea? Is yobbish behaviour acceptable? Should you stop drinking if you feel you have had enough? Will you die if you don't keep up with the Joneses? Will you die of exhaustion if you strain yourself to learn a few words of another language? Is it always someone else's fault? Apart from Ibiza, will you go off the edge of the earth if you go beyond the political boundaries of the UK?
If the candidate fails to answer yes to at least one of the questions, they should fail the test and be thrown out of the country immediately.
Graeme Phillips, Berlin, Germany (normally UK)

Can you name any British-owned companies? No? Have another go. No? Well done. You've passed!
Graham Rae, Northampton, UK

Why is Britain 'Great' ?
Pieter Paul Laenen, Oxford, UK (Belgian)

Shepherd's Pie with ale or Lamb Bhuna with Cobra?
Football or soccer?
MG Rover or BMW?
Mitesh Shah, Hemel Hempstead, England

The test of Britishness should be whether a pedestrian thanks drivers who stop for them at a zebra crossing.
Jane, London, England

How to pay a telephone bill? My housemate is clearly in serious danger of deportation...
Dom Blathwayt, Battersea

What countries can you enter without a visa with a British passport?
Is the euro currency good for Britain?
Is Chelsea a British club? ...
Vladimir Pilipyuk, Orpington, Kent

Who was the first Prime Minister?
Jim Hodges, Dartmouth, S.Devon.

What side should the port be passed on?
What does this mean: "Queue here"?
How does the weather today compare with seasonal expectations?
Dean, London

EastEnders or Coronation Street?
Dave Bishton, Sheffield UK

If a UK citizen takes the test and fails, will they be thrown out of the country?
Vernon Sassman, Coventry, UK

Name the main ingredients of a chip butty.
Which breed of dog does the Queen favour?
What is the national speed limit? (Essex drivers: subtract 10mph from your first guess).
Anna, Essex, UK

Why are "new Britons" taking a test that many "true Britons" would probably fail?
Alan, London

What makes you laugh? Fawlty Towers? - Welcome to Britain. Last of The Summer Wine? - Here's your coat.....
Steve Gordon, Glasgow, Scotland

If war broke out between Britain and your homeland, who would you fight for?
Dale Mellor, London, England

I find it thoroughly amusing that those taking the citizenship test will probably have a better grasp of being English than those people who happened to be born here. I think everyone should take this type of test before they are 16 to be eligible to vote. We may be surprised by the results!
Shane Bartley, Chelmsford, Essex

Which sports would you associate with the following Britons: 1. Greg Rusedski 2. Andy Caddick 3. Lennox Lewis 4. Mike Catt 5. Sven Goran Eriksson
Tim, Manchester

The whole thing just seems vaguely silly to me. How can you assess somebody's "Britishness"? As for ceremonies and pledges of allegiance, I am British born and bred and I couldn't keep a straight face while pledging allegiance to any country - including Britain.
Angus Gulliver, Luton, UK

What nationality do you have to be for Ann Winterton not to make a joke out of you?
Ivor Rackham, Argyll, Scotland

Name the Kings and Queens of England since Queen Elizabeth I? What events in history do you think made Britain the way it is today?
Julian, Middlesbrough, Teesside

1) Who was found guilty at the Sheep Dog Trials?
2) Explain: " I'm going to spend a penny".
3) What is bangers and mash?
Norrie Brian Hathaway Born in the UK in 1946, Cloverdale British Columbia Canada

Who would you support in a sports match in which Britain play the country of your birth?
Danny Kelly, Hong Kong

Before stepping out in the street, which way should you look first?
KA Tieszen, Dallas TX USA

If women are from Venus, is David Blunkett from Mars?
How many native-born British citizens are able to answer the questions on the "Britishness" test correctly?
Murray Altheim, Milton Keynes, UK

What is the difference between your local council and Parliament? What is the relationship between the Head of State (who is?) and the Prime Minister and the Government?
Peter Penberthy, Bournemouth, UK

Is Blunkett playing double standards by talking up a Britishness test then failing it himself by his attempt to abolish our long-standing heritage of fair trials?
Mark, England

The consumption of which dish will most impress your drunken British colleagues? a) Chicken Tikka Masala, b) Chicken Vindaloo or c) Chicken Phal
Dipak Patel, Leicester, England

Citizenship: The immigrants' view
03 Sep 03  |  Politics
Britain's brave new nationals
02 Sep 03  |  Politics
Tea and cakes for the new Britons
25 Jul 03  |  Politics
Schools struggling with citizenship
02 Jul 03  |  Education

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