If you are 18 or over and have successfully applied to become a British citizen you will need to attend a citizenship ceremony. Citizenship ceremonies were introduced in 2004 and are arranged by local authorities. The requirement to attend one came into force on 1 January 2004. The first ever citizenship ceremony took place on 26 February 2004 at Brent Town Hall.
If you become a British citizen under the Windrush scheme, you can choose if you want to attend a citizenship ceremony.
The period allowed for booking a ceremony was extended from 3 months to 6 months as a result of Covid-19. You will need to receive your invitation from the Home Office first before booking a ceremony.
At the end of the ceremony you'll be presented with your certificate of British citizenship together with a welcome pack. Some local authorities permit a virtual ceremony. In that case you will be sent a copy of the certificate after the virtual ceremony has taken place.
Once you have attended your British citizenship ceremony and have your certificate you will officially become recognised as a British citizen.
Can I Travel Whilst My British Citizenship Application Is Pending?
If you have applied for British Citizenship, you can travel outside the UK while your application is being considered. An application for citizenship is different to an immigration application made under the Immigration Rules, where there are consequences if you travel. When you apply for British Citizenship, you can submit a full copy of your passport and keep your original passport with you. You can then use your original valid passport to travel overseas. You will still need your ILR or evidence of other valid immigration status in order to return to the UK.
You should ensure that you either keep in touch with legal representatives if you have them or if not check you have not received any correspondence to the addresses you provided as there could be requests for further information.
What Should I Do Now I Am a British Citizen?
Once you become a British citizen you must apply for a British passport in order to enter the UK in the event you leave. If you do not want a British passport you can apply for a certificate of entitlement to the right of abode instead.
It is important that you plan when booking your citizenship ceremony as once you are British you cannot enter the UK using your BRP or evidence of your immigration status. The certificate of British citizenship you receive following the ceremony will not be sufficient either.
How Do I Apply For a British Passport?
Applications can be made online or on paper. If you make the application on paper you will need to obtain it from a Post Office that offers the Passport Check and Send service.
Current processing times for a British passport are 10 weeks. You can read more: here.
There are expedited services and a 1 week Fast Track services. You may be able to apply for a passport urgently if you require medical treatment or because a friend or family member is seriously ill or has died. You will need to contact the Passport Adviceline in those circumstances.
The 1 week Fast Track service is only available for the following:
- renew an adult or child passport
- change your name on your passport (for example with a marriage certificate or deed poll)
- make changes to your personal details on your passport (for example, your gender)
- replace a lost, stolen or damaged passport
- apply for a first child passport
Your eligibility and entitlement to a British passport will be considered when you make an application for a passport.
How Do I Apply For a Certificate Of Entitlement to the Right of Abode?
You can apply for a certificate of entitlement to prove you have right of abode in the UK. The certificate is endorsed in your passport.
You cannot get a certificate if you already have a British passport or a valid certificate of entitlement in another foreign passport.
You can apply from inside the UK or outside of the UK.
Applications are made online.
At the time of writing a certificate of entitlement costs £388 outside the UK and £372 in the UK.
It is important to note you will need to apply for a new certificate when your passport expires.
Once I am British Is My Biometric Residence Permit Still Valid?
If you hold a biometric residence permit you will need to return this once you are British. There are usually instructions in any letter granting your application.
You will be expected to cut up the BRP and return to the Home Office.
You must send your biometric residence permit (BRP) back to the Home Office within 5 working days of getting your certificate of British citizenship.
You should cut your BRP into 4 pieces and put it in a windowless envelope. You should ensure you cut through your personal details, the royal coat of arms and gold biometric chip if your BRP has one.
You should Include a note saying you're returning your permit because you've become a citizen.
Further you should include your name, date of birth and the document number (found on the front of the card) in the note.
You should return the BRP to the address specified in any correspondence you receive. At the time of writing it is possible to return a BRP to the following address:
Naturalisation BRP Return
PO Box 195
You may wish to consider keeping a record of this return given the implications of not doing so.
What If I Made An Application To Register as a British Citizen
If a child makes an application to register as a British citizen, they can still travel whilst their application is pending. If they remain under 18 and are therefore not required to attend a citizenship ceremony they will become British the moment the certificate of registration is issued. Therefore, as there are no restrictions on travelling whilst an application is pending it is possible a child could become British whilst outside of the UK. If the child becomes British they would need a passport or certificate of entitlement to prove a right of abode in the UK to be able to re-enter. The situation is therefore different to an applicant who is required to attend a citizen ceremony before they are recognised as British and can have some influence over the timing.
This is a practical consideration for those with a pending application and is of course a potential risk. Although current processing times are up to six months, it is not possible to predict with any certainty when an application may be approved.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.