Thursday, 16 August 2012

Citizenship Tests

Chris and Pauline have been living and working in the UK for more than 10 years, and they have decided to apply for British citizenship. The first step is to take the test which shows that they are familiar enough with British law, culture and institutions.

This is a subject close to my heart, since it was only 3 years ago that I became a British citizen, and then through administrative error. Before that, I was classified a 'British Subject', even though three of my four grandparents were born in the UK (Ireland still having been part of that unit in the 1880s). The only right of citizenship I held was to 'reside in the United Kingdom', my passport told the world, so of course my travel rights, among other things, should have been severely limited. I had a well-prepared speech, in German and that all-purpose Slavic tongue, Slovak, explaining away this anomaly. I only had to use each one once, without mishap, but it made my nomadic lifestyle in the 1990s a bit hazardous.

We decided to hold a 'How British Are You?' Quiz Night at their place yesterday evening, and our visitors this week, Nigel and Diane, took the test, sight unseen (as Chan Canasta used to say), while Chris and Pauline had read the booklet of information about the UK supplied to all applicants. We three Brits were pretty horrified at most of the subject matter that Damian, as quizzmaster, expected us to know about, and it seemed like a missed opportunity to familiarise applicants from countries which are not free and democratic with our political, legal and cultural distinctiveness.

Fair enough to be expected to know that Guy Fawkes did not attempt to blow up Parliament in 1066 or 1815, but is it really necessary to be aware that the proportion of minority ethnic population in Scotland is 10 per cent and not 9 per cent, or that more than 25,000 refugees from South-East Asia applied for asylum here since 1979, not fewer? The consequence of getting more than 25 per cent of these answers wrong is to be refused access to the next step in the application for citizenship, the payment of a fee of over £2,000 for a family with two children.

Nigel, Diane and I all managed scores of 60-70 per cent, so we would have failed. Chris and Pauline both got scores above 80 per cent, so they should be OK with the real thing. 

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