Thu | Dec 2, 2021

Immigration Corner | The citizenship ceremony

Published:Tuesday | March 2, 2021 | 12:09 AM
John Bassie
John Bassie
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Dear Mr Bassie,

D o I have to attend a citizenship ceremony if I become a British citizen? Please let me know if this is so.

– R.J.

Dear R.J.,

Persons need to attend a citizenship ceremony if they are 18 years old or over and have successfully applied to become a British citizen. Please note that those persons who become British citizens under the Windrush scheme can choose if they want to attend a citizenship ceremony. If they choose not to, they will not have to pay the fee.

CITIZENSHIP CEREMONIES AND COVID-19

Generally speaking, persons must attend a citizenship ceremony within three months of receiving their invitation from the Home Office. However, because of coronavirus this has been extended to six months.

Persons should not book a ceremony until they have received their invitation letter. As a result of coronavirus, it can take up to three months from being told their application was successful to receiving their letter.

Persons should be aware that the local authority will confirm any restrictions, for example, if guests can attend when booking the ceremony. Also, persons might be able to have an online ‘virtual’ ceremony if their local council offers it. Those persons can attend alone or with members of their household.

BOOKING THE CEREMONY

Persons should note that their local council will organise the citizenship ceremonies. These ceremonies are usually done in groups, but if they prefer persons can ask for a private ceremony. Persons should book their citizenship ceremony with their council. Those persons must take their invitation when they go to their ceremony and they are usually allowed to take two guests.

CITIZENSHIP CEREMONY COST

The cost of the ceremony is included in the application fee. However, persons might need to pay more for a private ceremony. Those persons desiring a private ceremony should check how much it would cost with their local council.

PERSONS NOT LIVING IN THE UNITED KINGDOM

Persons can ask the embassy or consulate in the country that they are living in if they can have the ceremony there instead, or if they can provide a virtual ceremony.

Persons who are only abroad for a short time, might be asked to postpone the ceremony until they return to the United Kingdom. Those persons must still book their ceremony within six months of getting an invitation.

Persons might have to prove that they are planning to live in the United Kingdom permanently if they are going to be abroad for more than a few months. Please be aware that persons who applied for citizenship in the United Kingdom cannot have their ceremony abroad.

THE CEREMONY

Persons will have to make an oath of allegiance (or an affirmation if they prefer not to swear by God) and a pledge. This means that they promise to respect the rights, freedoms and laws of the United Kingdom.

At the end of the ceremony, persons will be presented with their certificate of British citizenship and a welcome pack. Persons who attend a virtual ceremony will be sent a copy of the certificate afterwards. Some local councils sell photographs or videos of the event.

PERSONS WHO DO NOT NEED TO ATTEND A CEREMONY

Persons will not need to attend a citizenship ceremony if they are registering to become a:

• British overseas territories citizen

• British overseas citizen

• British subject

Persons will still need to make an oath or affirmation of allegiance and they will be sent details of how to do this.

I hope this helps.

John S. Bassie is a barrister/attorney-at-law who practises law in Jamaica. He is a justice of the peace, a Supreme Court-appointed mediator, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, a chartered arbitrator, global vice president of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and a member of the Immigration Law Practitioners Association (UK). Email: lawbassie@yahoo.com