March 2008

Vol 7 - No. 9
 

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Letter from U.K. | March 2008

 


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UK Plans to Abolish 'ancestry visa'

The British Government is considering a proposal to end the automatic right of Commonwealth nationals to live in the UK using ancestry visas.

The British Home Office's Green Paper on the issue says, "We need to decide whether a Commonwealth national's ancestral connections to the UK are sufficient to allow them to come here to work without the need to satisfy a resident labour market test."

The government is proposing that 'ancestry visa-holders' face the same restrictions on working here as other non-European migrants. It comes alongside proposals to introduce an "immigrant tax" for non-European visitors and the requirement that non-European spouses and fiancees of British national face and pass an English language test if they are to enter the UK at all.

The so-called 'ancestry visa', introduced 36 years ago by Britain as a mark of appreciation of its former dominions, is available to Commonwealth nationals aged 17 or over, whose grandparents were born in the UK. This visa entitles holders to live in Britain for four years to work and eventually to settle.

Nationals of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa have mainly used the permit.

Labour MP Austin Mitchell, criticised the move to remove ancestry visa-holders' rights and privileges as an un-British attempt. He said, "What is happening here is that in a general rush to make ourselves European, we are trying to shrug off our Commonwealth commitments."

Mitchell stressed, "The dominions sprang to our aid when we needed them in two world wars and since. Their inhabitants are of British descent. They are keen to maintain the long-standing Commonwealth ties and associations with this country. Yet, the Green Paper blithely proposes to abolish the ancestry visas granted in recognition of these ties on the grounds that they are 'outdated'."

He denounced the proposed change as a sign of the government's "contempt for the long historic associations between Britain, New Zealand and Australia".

"Here you have a long-standing historical and emotional ties, ties of kith and kin, and indeed supporting each other through two World Wars and events afterwards," he said.

"You can't just kick away historical obligations like that."

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