The UK has held its first virtual citizenship ceremony, allowing thousands who had their ceremonies cancelled to finally look forward to completing their journey to becoming a British citizen. This first virtual ceremony was conducted by Southwark Council, London. The ceremony was attended, also virtually, by the Minister for Future Borders and Immigration, Kevin Foster, who described the event as “a moment in history”. It follows similar moves in the US, Canada and the Republic of Ireland, who have also moved their ceremonies online for the time being.
Until recently, the law relating to naturalisation applications did not permit citizenship ceremonies to take place otherwise than in person at the relevant authority’s premises. As a result of the Coronavirus pandemic citizenship ceremonies were suspended by local councils and British missions abroad. However, given that the crisis remains ongoing and gatherings could remain problematic for some time, the Home Office and local authorities have been forced to adapt. The Home Office also extended the time to attend a ceremony from 3 months to 6 months after receiving the invitation.
During the year leading up to September 2019, 153,742 people were granted British citizenship, either through naturalisation or registration. Those who have their applications approved are not British citizens until they have attended their citizenship ceremony. For this reason, whilst the ceremony for many is a symbolic occasion, it is also a legal requirement. During citizenship ceremonies, attendees take an oath or pledge of allegiance to the monarchy, loyalty to the UK and respect for its rights and freedoms, and also receive their citizenship certificate.
The current measures are expected to be temporary, with local authorities resuming ceremonies in person once it is safe to do so and in line with social distancing guidelines.
Gherson has extensive experience with all aspects of British nationality law and issues relating to naturalisation and registration applications. If you require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact us.
The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.