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Last Updated: Monday, 31 October 2005, 14:19 GMT
New citizens take the test
By Dominic Casciani
BBC News community affairs

Britain now has a citizenship test - if you want the passport you will have to pass the official national test, be accepted as speaking sufficient English and then attend a special public ceremony held by a local registrar. But what do those sitting the exam make of it? Two of the first candidates told us what they thought.

JOSEPH ANTWI, BORN IN GHANA

Joseph Antwi, born in Ghana, was among the first to sit the examination. Joseph, 29, first arrived in Britain six years ago to study for his degree. Now he is an accountant with a nutrition company - and he says he is immensely proud to be standing on the threshold of British citizenship.

Joseph: Very proud to become British
Joseph sat and passed the exam on the last day of October and said he found it fairly straightforward, although one question might have foxed him.

"I wasn't quite sure with a true-or-false question which asked if the heir to the throne can marry anyone who isn't Protestant, but overall I thought it was very positive.

"Before I studied for the test I knew a lot about British life because I have been here six years, but I didn't know much about the Queen or Royal Family. Thanks to the [official test] book I now know a lot more.

The north Londoner said that some of the most difficult questions to answer for any prospective citizen is how to sum up British culture.

"I don't think I really know what that means," he says. "Over the years it is surely something that changes a lot.

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

"I have the same friends that I have always had, some of them from back home. But I myself have changed a lot since I first arrived here."

Joseph came initially to study for a degree with no intention of staying in Britain for the long-term. But in 2002 he married a British citizen and realised that his future was here rather than in Ghana.

Today, he tries to regularly visit home and likes to see his mother come across to stay when she can.

"Becoming British is very important to me," he says. "I think it is important that my nationality changes because this is my home - and when I become British I will be very proud to do so.

"This is a great nation with very nice people who have always made me feel very welcomed. The British colonised my own country and did good things there. I saw those things and wanted to come here to see those things for myself.

"The experience has changed my attitudes because I have learned so much new every day. When I came first as a student I was working in McDonalds - now I have become an accountant."

SVETLANA PEARSON, BORN IN UKRAINE

Social care assistant Svetlana Pearson was one of the other seven prospective citizens taking part in the first formal test.

Svetlana: Tried out test on British friends
Born in Ukraine, Svetlana's story is similar to Joseph's. She came as a student, but fell in love with a British man and put down roots in west London.

She says that has been very pleased to sit the test, and found the reaction of some of her British friends the funniest part.

"I didn't have any intention of staying at all in Britain when I came in 1999," she says, sitting by her test computer.

"But I got married and am now very happy to be sitting the test. Britain is a good country with a democratic system. I came from such a corrupt country and to become British is, for me, the chance to seek a better life.

"I think that if I had not had the [official test] book, then some of the questions would have been difficult. I wanted to learn about Parliament, the government system and how the country works.

"But when I put some of the questions in the book to my English friends I found that they could not answer some of them."

Svetlana says that British people who fear immigrants need to think twice about their motivations - and question negative stereotypes.

"I have found British people to be very welcoming to me as a foreigner," she says. "I have made a lot of friends since arriving here.

"But some English people have a problem themselves - perhaps they are not achieving anything in life. I think this makes them aggressive towards us immigrants because they are trying to find some easy way of blaming people more fortunate than themselves."

And the question that troubled Joseph...? A brief answer:

Since the Bill of Rights 1688, the heir to the throne has been required to marry a Protestant to uphold a Protestant kingdom - or alternatively, they were banned from marrying a Catholic.

There has been a lot of recent talk of changing the law. The most recent attempt came from Conservative backbencher Edward Leigh, who proposed the Royal Marriages (Freedom of Choice) Bill in March 2005. The government says that it opposes discrimination but a change is unlikely because of its workload. See Internet links for the full story.


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



SEE ALSO
New UK citizenship testing starts
31 Oct 05 |  UK Politics

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