Azara Blog: UK citizenship mess at the Home Office

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Date published: 2006/02/12

The BBC says:

More than 70,000 people are waiting to hear if they can become British citizens, BBC News has learned.

The Home Office confirmed it had been overwhelmed by people who applied before 1 November, after which citizenship tests became compulsory.

Home Office minister Tony McNulty said his staff were working hard but would be unable to clear the backlog until May or June 2006.

He said: "I can only apologise for the disruption to people's lives."

Mr McNulty added: "Resources are being put in place to deal with it as quickly as possible."

Prospective new citizens applying after 1 November 2005 will have to take a 45-minute test - covering government, society and practical issues and costing £34 - at one of 90 centres across the country.

But those who applied before the deadline need only demonstrate a working knowledge of the English language.

The BBC website utterly fails to mention one of the most relevant points. When you apply for citizenship you have to include your existing passport, so the Home Office is pointlessly sitting on this for months on end. They could of course ask you for your passport at the time they actually get around to wanting to verify it, which would take a few days or at worst weeks, but that would be far too logical for the UK civil service. So as it is these people applying for citizenship are stuck in the UK without an important piece of identification. It is disgraceful.

But these long delays are nothing new. A decade ago one applicant similarly had to wait for months on end waiting for a citizenship decision, without a passport. Only one day it looked like there was need for an urgent business trip to Mexico as part of a several hundred million dollar export deal. The employer made a call to the Home Office and the passport (and authorisation of citizenship) was returned within a day or two. Otherwise it probably would have dragged on for a few more months. (Unfortunately the Mexican economy took a nosedive so the export deal never happened.) And someone else was faced with a similarly long wait, only she happened to live in the constituency of the then Prime Minister (John Major) so her husband (a Brit with some business connections) made a phone call or two and the citizenship was approved within a week or two.

This is why government should not even be allowed to run a chip shop.

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