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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 November 2005, 08:01 GMT
New UK citizenship testing starts
Shoppers in London's Oxford Street
Issues of Britishness have been much discussed in recent years
British citizenship tests are being launched across the UK.

The 45-minute test - covering government, society and practical issues and costing 34 - comes into force on Tuesday.

People seeking to become British will take the test at one of 90 centres across the country, before taking part in a formal citizenship ceremony.

The number of people granted citizenship reached a record 141,000 in 2004 - a rise of 12% on 2003.

The "Life in the UK" test is the last of a series of changes to how people become British brought in by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett.

Potential citizens must answer 75% of the questions correctly to pass, but they are allowed to retake it until they pass.

'Not Britishness test'

The Home Office said it wanted to create a new, more meaningful, way of becoming a citizen in an effort to help people integrate and share in British values and traditions. Immigration Minister Tony McNulty said: "This is not a test of someone's ability to be British or a test of their Britishness.

"It is a test of their preparedness to become citizens, in keeping with the language requirement as well.

"It is about looking forward, rather than an assessment of their ability to understand history."

Prospective new citizens already need to demonstrate sufficient working knowledge of English to help them get on.

Citizenship applications

Among the 24 questions in the test are:

  • Where are the Geordie, Cockney, and Scouse dialects spoken?;

  • What are MPs?

  • What is the Church of England and who is its head?

    The number of people granted British citizenship in 2004 rose by 12% to 140,795 in 2004, the highest annual figure.

    TAKING THE TEST
    24 questions
    British life and culture
    Institutions and governance
    History and traditions

    Almost 6,000 of these new citizens had taken part in special citizenship ceremonies which had recently come into force.

    Applications for citizenship ran at about 40,000 a year during the mid-1990s until, in line with migration trends, they began rising in 1998.

    While the number of people granted citizenship grew, the rate of new applications fell slightly during 2004, probably due to the new English language requirements causing some people to wait.

    Just under half of all applications were granted on the basis of residence in the UK.

    Some 29% of new citizens were accepted on the basis of marriage to a British resident, while about a fifth were children.

    HAVE YOUR SAY
    Will indigenous Britons take the test? Are immigrants to be regularly retested?
    Todmalthus, Barnstaple

    People born in Asian or African countries accounted for 40% and 32% respectively of all applications, the principal nationalities being Pakistani, Indian and Somalian.

    Almost 60% of people born abroad living in the UK take British citizenship within six years, according to figures from 2004.

    The Life in the UK citizenship guide for prospective new citizens includes information on British history and society, its institutions and political system - but also practical issues key to integration such as employment, healthcare, education and using public services like libraries.

    Keith Best, chief executive of the Immigration Advisory Service, said his organisation welcomed the tests but said they needed "a light touch" as there was a "danger" of their being "seen as a way of excluding people from British citizenship".


  • BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
    See what the citizenship questions will be like



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