Becoming British: the citizenship ceremony

by | Feb 10, 2017 | Translators' Column

The hassle of applying for British citizenship

I started thinking about the necessity to become British in the wake of the Brexit referendum. Attending the citizenship ceremony was the last step in achieving this goal.

Collecting all the correct pieces of paper for the bureaucratic process of obtaining British citizenship took months. It involved things such as tedious form filling, learning irrelevant facts for the Life in the UK test and driving more than 500 miles to gather the missing paperwork. Obtaining British citizenship was certainly not easy.

During the process I felt frustrated, I felt that the application form was unnecessarily difficult to understand. While I am a professional linguist with an excellent knowledge of English, I felt sorry for those foreigners who are not as confident in their new language. If I struggled, how much more must they have wondered what to do?

I felt that I had to jump through a lot of hoops that in my eyes were not relevant to becoming British.(See my article on “Becoming British by integration“.)

For example: most of the information in the Life in the UK book is not very interesting or relevant to everyday life in the UK. Driving in the UK would have been a useful subject to cover. Or where to obtain help when faced with real Life in the UK questions (the CAB, for example).

I felt exasperated at times and almost threw in the towel, when I had to suffer the indignity of having to prove my knowledge of English, despite having proved this 21 years ago with the Institute of Linguists. As a professional English-German translator I felt insulted when asked to sit an English test. Being able to speak English is my profession, why is that not proof enough that I obviously speak the language?

Light at the end of the tunnel: the citizenship ceremony

Once the home office approved my citizenship application, I was “invited” to attend a citizenship ceremony. Reading on, I was then informed that, should I fail to attend this ceremony within three months of the approval letter, I would lose my right to British citizenship! So how is that an “invitation”? That is a summons! Don’t the Brits know their own language?

At that point, I wished for nothing more than receiving the piece of paper in the post. The last thing I wanted was to drive another 35 miles to receive a certificate at a meaningless citizenship ceremony.

Still, I “accepted the invitation” – ungracefully – and attended on 9 February 2017.

There were 10 new citizens at the local county hall and about 20 “guests”. The officials in attendance were all very friendly and approachable.

After completion of the signing in process, we received tea, coffee and cakes!

We were then finally ushered into the Council Chamber, where we swore our oath of allegiance after the registrar read a lovely note of welcome and reminded us of our duties as British citizens.

The ceremony culminated in the handing out of our citizenship certificates plus a small print of a local beauty spot.

We posed for photos in front of a portrait of the Queen and the British flag.

Everyone was smiling and clapping.

After months of feeling: they don’t really want me here, I finally felt welcomed into the British community.

Thank you!

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