'Volunteer and win British citizenship'

Foreign residents applying for British citizenship could speed up their applications by volunteering for charities, the Home Office has said.

The draft Immigration and Citizenship Bill, published last week, said applications would be processed faster for people who show they are contributing to the community.

The Home Office will set up a working group, including voluntary organisations and local authorities, to advise the Government on how to speed up the citizenship applications of those who become ‘active citizens'.

The working group will look at what kind of work qualifies, how the Government can ensure it is being carried out and how to minimise negative impacts on voluntary groups responsible for finding opportunities.

The Home Office said volunteering would not be compulsory, but would "incentivise an outlook and attitude which we think is positive for Britain".

A Mori poll carried out for the Home Office found that 70 per cent of the public think that newcomers should earn the right to stay in Britain.

However, the same poll found that only 48 per cent thought that taking part in community activities should speed up a citizenship application. The Home Office's own consultation found that only 33 per cent of British citizens who gave written responses supported the idea of speeding up applications through volunteering.

Those who disagreed said it would be discriminatory to make probationary
citizens take part in voluntary activities if most British citizens do not do the same.

Home secretary Jacqui Smith said: "We are making the biggest changes to our immigration system for a generation, and part of that is making sure those
who stay in the UK make a positive impact on their local community."

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