Background to ABNI

Legislation in the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act (NIA) 2002 requires prospective British citizens to demonstrate that they have sufficient understanding of English (or Welsh or Scottish Gaelic) and of life in the United Kingdom.

The overall objective of the provisions, which are set out in Sections 1-4 of the Act, is to provide prospective new citizens with practical help and to facilitate their integration. This aims to encourage people who are settling here to acquire a basic knowledge of English and an understanding of British society, including its political institutions. It is hoped that this will contribute to greater mutual understanding and common values of tolerance and respect.

On September 11 2002 then Home Secretary, David Blunkett, appointed an Advisory Group chaired by Sir Bernard to look at the content, conduct and implementation of programmes of study for potential citizens. The Group published its final report in January and its final report, The New and the Old, in September 2003. Chapter 9 of the Report “A New Authority: an Advisory Board” recommended that an implementation and assessment authority be set up with membership drawn from leading public figures and experts in the fields of ESOL, Citizenship training, employment of migrants and community development and integration.

The Government accepted this recommendation in a written statement to the House of Lords by Lady Scotland on 2nd February 2004.

The group also proposed the preparation of a handbook for new migrants to the UK. The longer version of the handbook - titled Life in the United Kingdom: a journey to citizenship was published on 15th December 2004 by The Stationery Office (TSO). A second edition was published in April 2007, Chapters, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 form the basis of the Life in the UK Test.