Woolas advocates a five-year 'probationary citizenship' for economic immigrants to UK

Under new proposals put forwards by UK Immigration Minister Phil Woolas, economic immigrants in the UK will have to earn the right to a passport by serving a five-year 'probationary citizenship.'

In an interview with The Sun newspaper, he said: 'Entitlement to benefits should be for citizens of our country, not other people. If you are a citizen you have earned the right to benefits. People must show they are here to work.'

Economic immigrants who stay out of trouble, make efforts to integrate and do voluntary work will become eligible for state benefits and social housing one or two years after completing a five year period of residency. Anyone found guilty of committing even a minor offence would have to wait another five years before they could claim the benefits.

The plans to 'implement the new path to citizenship within a firm but fair immigration system' are to be included in the new Borders, Immigration and Citizenship Bill, due to be published in January, 2009.

Apart from ensuring that newcomers to the UK earn the right to stay, the main aim of this bill will be to strengthen border controls by bringing together customs and immigration powers and to place a duty on the UK Border Agency to safeguard the welfare of children encountered in its work.

It will also ensure fairness in nationality cases by removing the historical cut-off point for enabling children of British mothers born before 1961 to become British themselves, and enabling those serving overseas in the armed forces to register their children as British.