Posted on July 16th, 2013

Dr. Tilak Fernando

How many British born in the UK will be able to say confidently in which year Emperor Claudius invaded their country?  Did King Henry VIII create The Church of England?    Which scientist named the return of a comet after his name?  Was it Isaac Newton, Richard Arkwright, Samuel Pepys or Edmond Halley”¦. ?   Not many will be able to give a concise answer I bet, but these are the types of questions  anyone seeking British Nationality now  has to answer by sitting a special test called “ƒ”¹…” Life in the United Kingdom’.

The test was introduced on 1 November 2005 for naturalisation and on 2 April 2007 for settlement which is supposed to fulfill the language requirement by demonstrating “a sufficient knowledge of the English language”.

Nature of the Test

The test is computer-based, consists of 24 questions of which a minimum of 18 answers should be correct. The total duration of the test is 45 minutes. The pass mark is around 75%. Testing is not directly administered by the UK Border Agency, but it is carried out by Ufi Limited via a secure web connection at a fee of £50 from June 2011.

Those who had completed the EOSL course (English for Speakers of Other Languages certificate)    studied at an accredited college accepted by the Home Office before 6 November 2010 were regarded as having fulfilled the sufficient language and knowledge of life in the UK


Upon publication of an associated handbook that was supposed to help candidates to pass the examination with ease, it was widely criticised, particularly the section on the UK’s history, which was described as a “turgid, abysmal piece of writing,” filled with “factual errors,  sweeping generalisations and gross misrepresentations.” The book contains about 3000 facts including five phone numbers, 34 web sites, 278 historical dates and several excerpts of poetry. In 2011, the government announced its intention to include questions on the UK’s history and remove questions on the EU from the test.

Every member of the New Statesman editorial team failed the test in 2012 and described it as’ mocking Brutishness since there is no general agreement amongst the population on what is or isn’t relevant to culture and history“.

What is British citizenship?

British citizenship is one of the six different forms of British nationality. Some of these were defined in the British Nationality Act 1981, which came into force on 1 January 1983.

The forms of nationality are: British citizenship; British overseas citizenship; British overseas territories citizenship; British national (overseas); British protected person; and British subject.

Other forms of British nationality have existed, but they are not current – for example, citizenship of the United Kingdom and colonies (CUKC) or British Dependent Territories citizenship.

Only British citizens, and certain British subjects with right of abode through qualifying connections under the Immigration Act 1971, have the right to live and work in the UK. People holding one of the other forms of nationality may live and work in the UK if their immigration status allows them to do so.

University Research

Durham University recently after a recent survey has been highly critical of the new system adopted by the Home Office which made compulsory for migrants to sit for what they called  this a “ƒ”¹…”multiple close test’.

According to Dr. Thom Brooks, a member of the Labour Party in the UK states that “ƒ”¹…” the test does not  touch on GCSC or A Level examinations or about practical necessities in daily UK life such as how to  register with a General Practitioner or  how to go about reporting an emergency’.

Dr. Brooks sat the test in 2009 after arriving from the US and has been since complaining that much of the information included in the official hand book did not appear to be part of the examination. He  takes the view that  “ƒ”¹…” Britain will not be  more cohesive because many have heard about  the Battle of Trafalgar, but rather if future citizens understand better how to participate in daily British  life and make a contribution’.

However, officials at the Home Office who introduced the updated format of the test at the beginning of 2013 maintain they had deliberately placed the focus on British history, rather than the likes of how to claim benefits!

Past History

Prior to the introduction of the latest modus operandi Britain has been concerned (in 1960s) with the possible effect of large-scale immigration from its former colonies in Asia and Africa.  All Commonwealth citizens could enter and stay in the United Kingdom without any restriction until the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962 came into effect.

The Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962 made Citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies whose passports were not directly issued by the United Kingdom Government (i.e. passports issued by the Governor of a colony or by the Commander of a British protectorate) subject to immigration control. Those with passports issued at a British High Commission in an independent Commonwealth country or British Consulate remained free from immigration control.

The 1962 Act also increased the residence period for Commonwealth citizens (plus British subjects and Irish citizens) applying for registration as Citizens of the UK and Colonies from one year to five years.

The Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1968 sharpened the distinction between citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies (CUKCs) who had close ties with the United Kingdom and were free to enter, and those citizens who had no such ties and were therefore subject to immigration control. Particularly in the newly independent Commonwealth countries of East Africa, the result was that there were now citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies who had the right of residence nowhere.

Immigration Act 1971

The Immigration Act 1971 developed this distinction by creating the concept of partiality or right of abode. CUKCs and other Commonwealth citizens had the right of abode in the UK only if they, their husband (if female), their parents, or their grandparents were connected to the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

This placed the UK in a position where the immigration problem not only became an important tool for political football when it came to Election campaigns. As the numbers of immigrants started to expand and some nationalities who could not utter a word of English began to enter the country, let alone having any knowledge on the traditions of the host country.

Seemingly with the expansion of the immigration influx , especially from the  Asian commonwealth countries, where not only the spouse or the children of the immigrant but it lead to parents and grandparents etc., to arrive in England without knowing a single letter in English !  This caused numerous problem and expense too to the British government in their welfare activities where additional notices, leaflets and booklets in two three languages had to be published for the benefit of the non-speaking immigrant communities in Britain.

Democracy and multiculturalism

As the British society became a multicultural society and immigrants were able to contest in local and general elections, seemingly immigrant councilors and parliamentarians began to emerge. Simultaneously numerous associations and counseling organisations working for the welfare of immigrants started to develop which reduced the need or the urgency to learn the language or the British way of life of the host country for an immigrant.

Additionally, those who arrived in the country on the pretext of further studies began to hoodwink the home office and started moonlighting which made the Home Office to restrict and remove student working hours which has greatly affected the genuine students who are diligently engaged and focused on their future.

An accumulation of such abuses over a period of time has made the British authorities to modify the period of stay in the United Kingdom from one year at the beginning, then to 5 years and now expanded the time limit to 10 years before one could apply for British citizenship.  The latest “ƒ”¹…”immigrant passport test’ is the ultimate result of a continuous process of controlling the immigration to the United Kingdom.

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One Response to “Life Abroad –Part 34 MIGRANT PASSPORT TEST – ‘LIFE IN THE UK’”

  1. Fran Diaz Says:

    Dear Tilak Fernando,

    Thank you for this enlightening article. Even with a somewhat flawed questionnaire, the Brits do attempt to naturalise their citizens.


    Sad to say, in Sri Lanka, ‘Kallathonis’ from Tamil Nadu can come and go with impunity. They have no knowledge of the Lanka history, let alone speak even a word of Sinhala or even English as a link language. How careless our authorities have been since Independence from Britain ! But JRJ did attempt to stop illegal migrants with the TAFFAI but that unit was dismantled under Premadasa.

    Who rules Sri Lanka ?

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