Page last updated at 12:11 GMT, Wednesday, 3 September 2003 13:11 UK

Citizenship: The immigrants' view

British passport
The classes will begin next year
The government has unveiled plans under which immigrants to the UK wishing to become British will have to take part in special language and citizenship classes and a test.

Haibin Gao might one day be sitting in such a class.

Mr Gao came to the UK from China as a student seven years ago and becomes eligible to apply for British citizenship at the end of 2003.

He has not yet decided whether to apply but said the new rules would make getting a British passport a lot more time-consuming.

They don't welcome people here anyway so what's the point of the new rules?
Salina McKee
He told BBC News Online he saw no problem about people being tested in the English language but wondered about the need for testing on British culture.

"I fail to appreciate what British culture is, there is no British culture as such, maybe 100 years ago there was such a thing but not now," he said.

That is an opinion shared by St Lucia-born Sabina McKee who recently got a British passport, 10 years after she married a British citizen and moved to the UK.

"A lot of the things they're talking about wanting to teach people can't be taught, for example what makes a good neighbour," she said.


"They don't welcome people here anyway, so what's the point of the new rules?"

And she disagreed with the idea that people should have to 'earn' citizenship.

Just because people are born in this country it doesn't mean they will contribute more or love this country more
Haibin Gao
"It's something you have to pay for anyway, I had to pay 120 and it would have been more if I wasn't married to a British citizen and lived here for over five years," she said.

People who fail the test would be able to remain in the UK but Mr Gao said a British passport brought certain advantages such as being able to travel freely in Europe.

Mr Gao, who runs a centre giving advice on immigration matters, said he thought the new nationality system had the potential to create a two-tier society.

"Just because people are born in this country it doesn't mean they will contribute more or love this country more," he said.

"The new rules would be creating a second-class citizenship, if people are paying the same taxes and making the same contribution they should be treated equally."

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