The Purpose of the UK Citizenship Ceremony
Prior to 2004 acquiring British citizenship was an extremely low key affair with very little to mark what, for many people, is a momentous day in their lives. It was decided that more should be done to emphasise the significance and value of becoming a British citizen. One of the innovations that was introduced was a citizenship ceremony that all new British citizens are obliged to attend.
The main formal purpose of the ceremony is that this is when new citizens swear their oath of allegiance and receive their certificate of naturalisation. Previously the oath was sworn in front of a solicitor and the certificate was posted to the new citizen. However, it is also a stated purpose of the ceremony that it is a way of welcoming new citizens into the community. The first citizenship ceremony took place in February 2004 in Brent, London when 19 people officially became British citizens. Citizenship ceremonies usually take place in the Register Office or Town Hall for the new citizen’s area.
Invitation to the UK Citizenship Ceremony
When a foreign national successfully applies to become a British citizen the notice informing them of this will also contain an invitation to attend a citizenship ceremony. Attendance is not, however, optional. To comply with the rules all new British citizens must attend a citizenship ceremony within 90 days of receiving their invitation. The invitation will contain contact-details for the local authority of the area in which the new British citizen lives. Children who become British Citizens when they are under the age of 18 do not have to attend a citizenship ceremony or swear an oath of allegiance.
Most citizenship ceremonies take place in the local area but there is some provision for a ceremony to be arranged elsewhere. People who wish there citizenship ceremony to take place away from the local area should notify the UK Border Agency of this when they make their application for citizenship. New citizens may bring two guests to the ceremony.
Citizenship ceremonies will usually be arranged for several people at the same time. It is possible to arrange a private ceremony but some local authorities may charge an additional fee for this. New British citizens attending their citizenship ceremony should take photo identification and their letter of invitation with them.
The Oath of Allegiance and the Pledge
All new citizens have to swear an oath of allegiance and make a pledge. The oath and pledge are said in English unless the ceremony is taking place in Wales where they may be said in Welsh.
The oath of allegiance is a way of swearing loyalty to the Monarch, which represents loyalty to the United Kingdom. The oath means swearing by God but those who do not have a religion may make a solemn affirmation of their allegiance instead. The pledge is a promise to respect and uphold the laws and values of the United Kingdom. The full wording for the oath (or affirmation) of allegiance and the pledge are available on the UK Border Agency website.
Other Components of the UK Citizenship Ceremony
In addition to swearing the oath and making the pledge there are likely to be other elements to the ceremony which will vary from area to area. These may include a speech of welcome by a local dignitary, such as the mayor. New citizens will be given the certificate confirming that they have been naturalised as British citizens as well as information about being a British citizen. The national anthem will be played and everyone at the ceremony will be expected to stand to show their respect for the United Kingdom and its head of state.
Whilst different authorities will have different rules it is likely that the new citizens and their guests will be allowed to photograph or video the ceremony. At some ceremonies food and drink may be served and the new citizens may be given a gift to commemorate the occasion.