UK introduces tougher English test for migrants

UK introduces tougher English test for migrants

The UK is introducing a series of tougher new tests that immigrants will have to clear before they can claim state benefits.

For the first time, claimants will be challenged to demonstrate their proficiency in English and to prove they were genuinely looking for work before they came to Britain.

From next Wednesday, foreign-born benefit claimants will face more questions from a list of 200, in lengthier interviews.

The rules apply to all overseas nationals and to Britons returning after living abroad.

"The roll-out of the new Habitual Residence Test is the first in a series of measures to ensure that we have a fair system: one which provides support for genuine workers and jobseekers, but does not allow people to come to our country and take advantage," said Work and Pensions Minister Ian Duncan Smith.

"It is a crucial part of our long-term plan to secure Britain’s economy...It is vitally important that we have strict rules in place to protect the integrity of our benefits system."

Smith said the British public are "rightly concerned" that migrants should contribute to the country and not be drawn by the benefits system. "And we are taking action to ensure that that is the case," he added.

Migrants are entitled to claim benefits only if they can prove that they are legally allowed to be in Britain, and that they have sufficient ties to the country to show they are "habitually resident".

The improved tests will see the bank of available questions increase by more than 100, while an "intelligent" IT system will ensure that the number and type of questions asked are tailored to each individual claimant and their personal circumstances.

The latest measures are a result of widespread concerns over the impact on the British economy of a feared influx of Romanian and Bulgarian nationals once border controls are lifted as part of European Union regulations on January 1, 2014. Britain is already in a legal battle with the European Commission, which says it is unlawful to test immigrants before they can claim benefits.

The Habitual Residence Test was originally introduced in 1994 to protect the benefit system from abuse and has undergone various revisions. "The improved Habitual Residence Test is in line with EU law," the Department for Work and Pensions claimed.

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