In The culture test: Welcoming new citizens or a way to stop immigration? Part 1, we found that the culture tests for the EU countries considered so far appear to be designed to welcome prospective new citizens, whilst the UK test seems more like a method to stop immigration. I had hoped in this second section to look at the tests for three more countries, but the difficulties presented to my correspondents in those countries by post-Brexit reality are such that they have not been able to provide me with the information I needed. So, to accompany the following response from Denmark, we’ll look at the wider implications of our freedom of movement being stolen from us.
Denmark Cultural test
“The content of the test is varied, the questions are divided into several categories: cultural, historical, political and current affairs amongst others. All questions are multiple choice.
“To prepare there is a booklet, altered every year, of around 140–150 pages, containing all the information required to answer all but the last 3 current affairs questions. You have to download the booklet as soon as you have been informed that you will be taking the test, about 2 months prior to the actual day. So, it just means studying the material; since many of the pages have pictures, there are far fewer than 140+ pages to memorize.
“The time allotted for completing the test is 45 mins. There are 40 questions and 32 correct answers are required to pass the test. You also need to have passed a Danish written and oral exam, equivalent to exams taken by 15-year-olds in Denmark, before you can apply for citizenship.
“My experience of the test was a positive one. I am not a straight A student and never have been: at school in the 60s and 70s, most of my teachers used to write ‘could do better’ or ‘needs to try harder’ in my school reports. So, I felt at age 62 that I would do better and try harder. I studied properly for the test, reading the material provided, and it paid off.
“I found the test easy; in fact, I completed it in 6 minutes. I re-read the test and checked my answers, which took about 3 minutes, and was out of the room within 10 minutes of the start; another person stood up, finished, as I was on my way out of the door, so I am not unique or super clever: it’s all about preparation, reading and understanding the booklet provided.
“My final score was 39/40; I failed one question, which I expected as it was a question about a building designed by a famous Danish architect.
“I had been a bit worried before taking the test. It is possible to take previous years’ tests online and the majority of my Danish work colleagues who had a go failed the tests!! In fact, only one Dane that I know passed.
“The worst part of all of the process for me was filling out the application form, with proof of mother/father, D.O.B., exam results from school with proof of certificates and such, although it must be said, the Danish authorities are incredibly helpful when/if you call with questions.”
Neither of my two possible sources of information in Sweden has been able to respond to my request. However, it’s an opportunity to describe the predicament that is causing huge stress to one of them, who is somebody I have known well for many decades. Andrew went to live and work in Sweden 25 years ago in a highly specialised branch of science; trilingual (English, Swedish and German), his efforts and expertise generate considerable income in an international dimension for Swedish and EU companies. If he could get that far, you would think he would have no problem with the language and culture tests for Swedish citizenship.However, he is struggling just to obtain residency against a tide of bureaucracy; people in his situation – as many EU citizens in the UK – could never have anticipated how much documentation they ‘should have kept’ to satisfy the requirements for residency and citizenship applications.. Without residency, he will no longer be able to work on international EU projects, and may even not be able to remain living and working in Sweden. His life and career have been absolutely blighted by Brexit.
The only response of any sort I have obtained in respect of living in France was this:
“We had to apply online. As we’ve been here more than 5 years, there were fewer things we had to submit. I have my appointment later this month to go to the prefecture with photos and passport and will get my fingerprints taken. Then it should take about a month to receive my permanent residency card. No culture or language tests.”
However, a family member who met her French husband-to-be during the year in France that was part of her degree is having difficulties of her own. Although her husband has obtained Settled Status after living and working for over 20 years in the UK – and contributing taxes and national insurance – he still feels insecure in Priti Patel’s hostile environment. The couple plan to move to France when their sons are older, but working through the bureaucracy to secure her future status in France, and even to obtain French passports for their sons, is a huge and stressful headache. Again, all thanks to Brexit.
And what about OUR freedom of movement?
Last time my wife and I travelled to France – in fact on the way back from a trip to Italy three years ago – we stopped at the border at the top of the Petit St Bernard Pass. We got talking to a young woman from New Zealand. She couldn’t get over the fact that she could straddle the invisible border with one foot in Italy, the other in France. No border controls, no officials of any sort whatsoever, except for the ‘gendarme’ in the photo, and a St Bernard dog carved out of a tree trunk! That is the point about the EU, and specifically the Schengen Area, which covers 22 of the 27 EU countries:
“The border-free Schengen Area guarantees free movement to more than 400 million EU citizens, along with non-EU nationals living in the EU or visiting the EU as tourists, exchange students or for business purposes (anyone legally present in the EU). Free movement of persons enables every EU citizen to travel, work and live in an EU country without special formalities. Schengen underpins this freedom by enabling citizens to move around the Schengen Area without being subject to border checks.”
THIS is what we can no longer enjoy because of Brexit and what 17.4 million people (misinformed and manipulated) voted to deny the rest of UK citizens. Hence, to retain the freedom of movement enjoyed by EU citizens, many Brits are applying for citizenship of an EU country, in many cases facing the need to tackle the relevant culture test as part of their application. Hence also the fact that UK citizens are now limited to 90 days out of 180 within the EU, will have to pay for entry visas and have lost a whole host of other benefits, advantages and privileges we used to enjoy as EU citizens, such as free emergency healthcare under the EHIC scheme and the great convenience of the ‘pet passport’.
So, be honest: would you choose to apply for citizenship of the country with the easiest culture test? Possibly not; and it’s the case that many people who apply for the relevant test already have a commitment to the country concerned, and wish to assert their right to live, work, love and settle in that country. The majority of people applying will already have lived in that country for many years, contributing to its skill-base, cultural breadth and possibly, one could even add, its gene-pool! In the 21st century, in a world that has become a global village, what can be more natural than allowing people to move around the village and settle wherever they want?
Supposedly, the UK’s ‘hostile environment’ is all about reducing immigration, though the opposite is actually happening: it is increasing! Yet, this is what we are lumbered with. It is such a pity that about 25 per cent of UK citizens chose to take us all back into the Dark Ages; in an idiotic act of self-harm, attempting to reduce immigration, it has also shackled its own citizens and made it much more complicated for us to move around our own continent. Highly ironic for a country that could fairly be described as a ‘mongrel nation’ – the result of millennia of immigration.
In the words of John le Carré: “Brexit is the greatest act of stupidity perpetrated by the United Kingdom.”