United Kingdom



Government appeared unprepared for the numbers of EU citizens who came from the 2004 accession countries. Debate raged about immigration’s perceived and real costs vs. benefits, ‘community cohesion’ and ‘British jobs for British workers.’

To restore public confidence, 2008’s points-based system controls the type of non-EU migrant workers and tried mitigating local impacts. Opposition and pressure groups talked about capping numbers of newcomers. When England was ranked Europe’s most densely populated country, they added capping population growth and net migration. The UK’s many mobile immigrants and expatriates make both targets problematic. With ‘earned citizenship,’ government shifted from controlling the numbers who can come to those who can stay.

On the eve of the May 2010 elections, MIPEX found the recent turn in policies made conditions slightly less favourable for integration. The UK fell 10 points—the most of any country—and out of the top 10. All residents will benefit from the stronger equality laws. If implemented, the long and confusing path to ‘earned citizenship’ may delay and discourage potential citizens and local communities from investing in integration as they
had before.

Timeline - What's Changed

-9 April 2007
Long-term residence
ESOL/citizenship course or ‘Life in UK’ test required for indefinite leave to remain.
-4 October 2007
Long-term residence
UK Borders Act enables Home Office to deport foreign national criminals.
-2 July 2008
Family reunion
21-year-old age limit announced for sponsors and spouses for family reunion.
0 September 2008
Diversity and Citizenship curriculum revised based on Ajegbo report.
-30 July 2009
Long-term residence
Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act – May take effect in July 2011.
-16 July 2009
Access to Nationality
Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act – May take effect in July 2011.
+5 April 2010
UK Equality Act makes law and equality duties simpler and more coherent.


UK Equality Act makes
law and equality duties
simpler and more
Education coherent

Key Findings

  • Longer and more bureaucratic path to ‘earned citizenship’: will newcomers contribute more to their communities, or less? 
  • Some of strongest anti-discrimination laws and equality policies. 
  • 2010 Equality Act makes law and duties simpler and easier to use. 
  • 21-year age limit for sponsors, spouses, partners: to fight forced marriage? 
  • UK policies for non-EU workers and families only half-way favourable: better career opportunities and more secure family life in CA and US. 
  • Schools in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland are some of best prepared for newcomer pupils, leading European countries of immigration. 
  • Strongest commitment to implement intercultural education. 

Score Changes

Areas of Integration

  • Show Labour Market Mobility

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    Non-EU migrants’ labour market mobility in the UK is no better than a few years ago, average for Europe and well below CA or the US. Their basic access to the labour market is favourable, as in most countries of labour migration. Once they pass the points system, they are generally treated the same as British workers. The UK does not close off sectors of the economy to immigrants, nor deny access to job services. However, they are unlikely to benefit from any special support (see SE, DE, DK). They are also denied access to many parts of social security, which is uncommon in most major countries of immigration such as CA, US, FR, DE and ES.

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    The limits of age limits?

    Sponsors and spouses/partners must be 21, although nationals can marry at 18. Preventing forced marriages through age limits is a trend in NL, DE and DK. The UK government pulled data from the ‘Forced Marriage Unit’ and Home Affairs Select Committee, according to which fewer forced marriages occur over 21 because older victims can better refuse them. Several academics and NGOs questioned the accuracy of forced marriage data, the effectiveness of age limits and the justification for the negative impact on all genuine couples.

    British family reunion policies are just half-way favourable for societal integration, especially when compared to the US and CA. EU citizens have the right to live with their families under EU law. Non-EU couples aged 18 to 20 will now be kept apart, ostensibly to frustrate an unknown number of forced marriages (see box). For other non-EU families, the general requirements to be fulfilled are average for Europe. The procedure should generally be based on the facts and the rule of law. Still, the rights for families once admitted fall below. Just 6 other countries specifically restrict their access to public benefits. ‘Indefinite leave to remain’ may be placed further out of their reach (see long-term residence). 

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    Citizenship, diversity, identity

    Since 2006, schools had legal duties to promote community cohesion, and Ofsted to inspect progress. Citizenship Education is a national curriculum subject, with ‘identity and diversity’ as a cross-curricular dimension. Though contested, it was revised using the 2007 Ajegbo report. Ofsted’s 2010 ‘Citizenship Established’ evaluation showed more confident schools and teachers. Schools must also accommodate different cultural, racial and religious needs (e.g. Race Relations Amendment Act 2000, Northern Ireland Act 1998). Teacher training and development bodies (TDA, ITTs) are reaching out to ethnic minority candidates (see DE, NO)

    Migrant pupils receive better support in schools across Britain than they do on the continent, while all pupils receive the best education on how to live together in a diverse society (see box). Still, the UK could learn from North American and Nordic countries on targeting new needs and opportunities that immigrants bring to schools. Generally across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, newcomers benefit from slightly favourable targeted measures. Data is collected on migrant pupils’ achievements and possible school segregation. But much depends on whether schools and municipalities apply for available extra funding, support and training. Migrants have hardly any entitlements; for example, to introduction or high quality English programmes. 

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    Non-EU residents would have the opportunity to become involved in public life if they lived in most other long-established countries of immigration in Europe. Not all can vote in elections, since only EU and Commonwealth citizens can. All enjoy basic political liberties under the law (as in 19 other countries). The many organisations that have been created by immigrants and often supported by government are not organised together in the types of consultative bodies that are emerging across Europe (e.g. IE) and even in the US. Grassroots movements on voting rights can also be seen in CA and the US, with IE as the leader.

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    The future of the 2009 Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act

    The new provisions on permanent residence and citizenship raised significant objections from opposition, many integration experts and the immigrant community. They questioned the methodology of the consultations, which produced a final proposal little different from the government’s plan. They also requested any evidence that the policy would improve integration in practice. The plans for a clearer and simpler architecture on citizenship have been called ‘complicated’, ‘bureaucratic’ and ‘pure spin’ by members of parliament. The Act would come into force in 2011 and be evaluated in 2014, if the new coalition passes the necessary secondary legislation.


    ‘Earned citizenship’ objectives

    Government believed that making non-EU residents demonstrate more that they earned their ‘citizenship’ would make the public more confident about the immigration system. Impact assessment claimed immigrants would have greater incentives and opportunities in their communities than before. As such, it assumed that application and acceptance rates would go up, not down. The assessment even noted withholding public benefits would increase the ‘value’ of citizenship and be a net transfer of funds from immigrants to the State, although it did not go so far as to quantify either.

    According to the 2007 MIPEX, ‘indefinite leave to remain’ (ILR) was one of the major strengths for integration policy in the UK, as it is in most European countries. Non-EU citizens do not have the right to permanent residence, as EU citizens do. Instead they had to apply for ILR to get basic security and rights through procedures that were just as demanding in the UK as in most MIPEX countries. They had to prove that they spoke English, maintained close ties with the UK and learned all about life there. Authorities could still reject them on several grounds. They could also withdraw ILR from criminals, as of the 2007 Border Act.

    If the new permanent residence policy is implemented (see box), immigrants and local communities could be significantly delayed or discouraged from investing in integration. Many legal residents, such as students and some workers, would be excluded from applying, while the rest would have to wait up to 8 years to be accepted. In between, they are held up for 3 to 5 years as ‘probationary citizens,’ with an uncertain future and without public benefits. All throughout, they would have to keep meeting new confusing requirements about how long they can travel outside the UK, be in-between jobs, and volunteer as part of their ‘activity condition’ (see next). Since the conditions would be the same as for citizenship, permanent residence would just be an ‘alternative’ for those unable to naturalise.

    The policy would not be similar to other advanced industrial states, as the government’s green paper on earned citizenship claimed. All EU Member States require 5 years or less; CA and the US do so for immigrants upon arrival; and none do so under probation. Dropping 43 points overall, the UK policies on permanent residence would be the weakest in Europe and North America; even weaker than Ireland, which has no set policy. 

  • Show Access to Nationality

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    Points-based citizenship?

    Government estimated the activity condition’s impact as increasing immigrant volunteering by 5%, worth 5.6 million pounds to the UK economy. But the Home Affairs Committee found little evidence that the voluntary sector needs or can handle this condition. Before elections, government proposed using a citizenship ‘points system.’ Based on 2008’s scheme to control the types of non-EU migrant workers, this system would aim to manage the number of residents granted citizenship. Immigrants would need more or fewer points if government thinks it is in the UK’s current interests.

    With a citizenship policy as welcoming as Canada’s, the UK often served as a model for reform across Europe. If the 2009 Act is implemented, potential citizens may be discouraged by the longer and less clear path to citizenship. The government assumed that they would apply and be accepted as much as before. Now the conditions go beyond the 5 years, which were the standard in the UK and still are in established countries of immigration (e.g. US, FR, NL, SE). If probationary citizens commit a crime, they wait longer. If they complete ‘prescribed activities’ in the voluntary sector (see box), they wait a little less: 1 year to become British citizens; 3 to become permanent residents. 

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    Equality Act 2010

    The Act aims to ‘rationalise, simplify and harmonise existing equality law into a consistent, coherent and easy to understand manner, which also serves to strengthen the law in treatment.’ It tackles multiple discrimination (as in only 6 others) and extends equality duties on race to religion and other grounds, in order to ‘improve efficiency and protection.’ It incorporates principles from ECHR and ECJ rulings and EU legislation. Extensive consultation preceded the changes and evaluation is planned. Secondary legislation is needed, for instance on equality duties.

    The UK has some of the strongest anti-discrimination laws and equality policies, which help newcomers and ethnic minorities achieve equal opportunities in practice. Discrimination is illegal on grounds of race, ethnicity, religion or nationality in all areas of life. During the last MIPEX, the 2006 Equality Act created a single equality body, the EHRC. The 2010 Equality Act makes the law more coherent and easy to use (see box). The UK has committed to promote equality through the EHRC’s powers, state equality duties and public information policies. Still, its rather average enforcement mechanisms would improve if equality NGOs could play a role in court, as in 24 countries, and use class actions, as in 14.