What is a British Citizenship Ceremony and How Do You Book One?
After many years of carefully navigating the UK’s immigration system, thousands of migrants each year look forward to gaining British citizenship. While gaining citizenship marks the end of the immigration journey, it represents the start of the process of truly settling down as a ‘Brit’ in your newly adopted home country. Receiving final confirmation that you have been granted British citizenship means that you are no longer subject to immigration control, you can acquire a British passport, and you are able to come and go freely. Part of the citizenship process is attending a formal citizenship ceremony. In this article, we will take a look at the British citizenship ceremony and how to book your ceremony.
What is a citizenship ceremony?
As in many countries around the world, if you become a British citizen, you will be expected to attend a citizenship ceremony. The ceremony will be arranged by your local authority and will be attended by other people who have been granted citizenship. While there is a serious and symbolic aspect to the ceremony, it can also be thought of as a welcome and celebration of becoming a British citizen.
Ceremonies typically last for around two hours, and attendees are typically asked to come in formal wear (i.e. no jeans, shorts, or trainers). The main part of the ceremony involves you swearing the Oath or the Affirmation of allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen and the Pledge of loyalty to the United Kingdom. By swearing or affirming the oath, you will be formally promising to Her Majesty the Queen and the United Kingdom. This means that you promise to respect the rights, freedoms and laws of the UK. Depending on where you live, you can swear the oath or affirm the oath in the English or Welsh language.
The difference between swearing or affirming is that with the former, you are effectively swearing to God, but if you choose to affirm, there is no religious meaning.
Citizenship ceremonies are typically attended by a local dignitary (e.g. your local mayor) with whom you may be invited to have a formal photograph taken.
At the end of the ceremony, all new citizens will be asked to sing the national anthem - God Save The Queen. You will typically be given the words to help you sing the anthem.
Do I need to attend a citizenship ceremony?
Generally speaking, it is a formal requirement to attend a UK citizenship ceremony if you are aged 18 years or over. There may be some limited exceptions, including those who gained citizenship through the Windrush scheme who have the option to choose and will not be required to pay the citizenship fee.
You will also not need to attend a ceremony if you are applying to become a British overseas territories citizen, British overseas citizen, or British subject. The Home Office does advise that you will need to make an oath or affirmation of allegiance, however.
How do I book my citizenship ceremony?
You will be able to book your citizenship ceremony if you have successfully applied for UK citizenship. An invitation and details of how to book your ceremony will be sent to you. Do not book until you have received your invitation.
To book, you will need to contact your local authority/council, who will take you through the process. If you are unsure which council to contact, you can enter your home postcode into the Home Office website, which will confirm this for you. We recommend going to the website for your local authority and either navigating or searching the website to find the citizenship webpage. You will typically be given an email/phone number to contact to arrange your ceremony.
You will not need to pay separately for your citizenship ceremony as the cost of this is included in the citizenship application fee.
While ceremonies are carried out in groups, if required, it may be possible to arrange a private ceremony with your local authority.
How has COVID-19 affected citizenship ceremonies?
The latest guidance on COVID-19 and citizenship ceremonies states that whereas it was mandatory to attend a ceremony within three months of receiving an invitation from the Home Office, this has now been increased to six months. This is because as a result of the pandemic, some people are waiting three months for their invitation letter. In some cases, you may be asked to attend a virtual/online ceremony instead of an in-person ceremony. Your local authority will advise you of the arrangements in the place where you live.
What if I have been given UK citizenship, but I am not in the UK?
If you have successfully applied for British citizenship, you may be able to arrange a ceremony in the country where you live. The guidance states, “You can ask the embassy or consulate in the country you’re living in if you can have the ceremony there instead, or if they can provide a virtual ceremony. If you’re only abroad for a short time, you might be asked to postpone the ceremony until you return to the UK. You must still book your ceremony within six months of getting an invitation. You might have to prove you’re planning to live in the UK permanently if you’re going to be abroad for more than a few months. If you applied for citizenship in the UK, you cannot have your ceremony abroad”.
If you are unsure of the best way to proceed given your circumstances, speak to an immigration Solicitor based in the UK.
Attending a citizenship ceremony represents an important landmark in the journey of all migrants and their family members who have chosen to come to the UK to live. If you have recently been informed that you have been awarded UK citizenship, we wish you and your family all of the very best with your new life in the UK.