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British Citizenship: The Citizenship Ceremony

If an individual is over 18 and has made a successful application to become a British citizen, they will be required to attend a citizenship ceremony.  The individual is required to attend a ceremony by law.  

Background to Citizenship Ceremonies 

Citizenship ceremonies were introduced in 2004 and are arranged by local authorities.  They first came into force on 1 January 2004. The first ever citizenship ceremony took place on 26 February 2004 at Brent Town Hall. 

The citizenship ceremony requirement was introduced by the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 which amended the British Nationality Act 1981. 

The White Paper: Secure Borders, Safe Haven, Integration with Diversity in Modern Britain, explained the introduction:  

“It is symptomatic of the low-key and bureaucratic approach which the UK has adopted to the acquisition of British citizenship that, unlike the position in many other countries, there are no arrangements for any kind of public act to mark becoming a British citizen. The use of citizenship ceremonies is well established in Australia, Canada and the United States and is becoming increasingly common in European countries. There is evidence to suggest that these ceremonies can have an important impact on promoting the value of naturalisation and that immigrant groups welcome them.

The Government plans to address this by making provision in the forthcoming legislation for a citizenship ceremony to be held as an integral part of the naturalisation/registration process. This will give added significance to acquiring citizenship and provide an occasion at which individuals and their families and friends can mark the acquisition of citizenship. It also offers an opportunity for the State, and the local community, to welcome formally its new citizens.”.

How To Arrange A Citizenship Ceremony

Those wishing to arrange a ceremony will need to contact their local authority to find out when and where a ceremony can be arranged.    A list of register offices can be found: here.

Around 110,000 apply to become British citizens each year and all local authorities hold regular ceremonies. 

An invitation will be received from the Home Office, confirming the application is approved and confirming that in order to complete the process there is a requirement to attend a citizenship ceremony.  The ceremony must be booked within 3 months. 

Local authorities organise citizenship ceremonies.  The cost is usually £80 for a group ceremony and individuals can take up to 2 guests. The £80 cost is included in the application payment for the nationality application.  

Private ceremonies can be booked and paid for, but the cost will be more and will depend on the day of the week you are attending.  

When attending a ceremony the attendee will need to take their Home Office invitation letter and original photographic identification.  

What Happens During A Citizenship Ceremony

During the ceremony, new citizens will be required to pledge an oath of allegiance or affirmation if preferred and a pledge.  This means an individual will promise to respect the rights, freedoms and laws of UK. Cards are provided with full details of what to say.  

During the ceremony, the attendees will be presented with a certificate of British citizenship. 

Who Does Not Need To Attend A Citizenship Ceremony?

If the individual is not living in the UK, they can ask the Embassy or Consulate to arrange a citizenship ceremony.  

An individual  does not need to attend a ceremony if they are registering to become one of the following: 

  • British overseas territories citizen
  • British overseas citizen 
  • British subject

They will still make an oath or affirmation of allegiance. 

If an individual becomes a British citizen under the Windrush scheme, they can decide if they would like to attend a ceremony and there is no fee payable. 

The Future

Recently the House of Lords Select Committee on Citizenship and Civic Engagement published a report in 2018, recognising that Government still valued the ceremonies.  The Government gave evidence stating: “We also view the citizenship ceremony as an important part of the process of becoming a British citizen. It allows a successful applicant to commit their loyalty to their new country, often in front of family and friends.”

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