UK Immigration & My British Citizenship Ceremony – One American’s Experience

Elizabeth Harper Receiving British Citizenship Certificate From Deputy Lord-Lieutenant, Peter Davies

Receiving My British Citizenship Certificate From Deputy Lord-Lieutenant, Peter Davies

A simple way to take measure of a country is to look at how many want in. And how many want out. ~ Tony Blair

Three days ago I joined a group of fifteen immigrants standing in a half circle as we pledged allegiance to our new country. Even though I was fairly giddy with excitement over the ceremony, I was aware of several things. It was obvious at a glance that we were a diverse group, but it was not until I heard each of them read some variation of the words below that I realized how different we all really were.

British Citizenship Ceremony - Elizabeth Harper, (Far Left)

Only six of the sixteen appeared to have English as a first language and it was almost painful to watch as four or five of those becoming British citizens struggled to read the Oath of  Allegiance.

Listening to a few of them mumble words that bore little resemblance to what they were supposed to be, I was astonished that they were there as I thought we’d all had to pass written tests to get to this final step. As I was writing this post I did a bit of research and it looks as if there are times when people may exempt from some parts of the testing process.

Elizabeth Harper, British Citizenship Ceremony

Cadare, is from Jamaica and we had an interesting chat about the misconceptions many folks have about people from both Jamaica and the US.

I wondered as I watched them about the difficulties they might have faced in the country of their birth and thought about the opportunities  they now have in the UK that they may not have had in their respective countries.

My desire to become a British citizen was not a difficult decision as I was allowed to keep my US citizenship, but after seeing the list of countries that do and don’t, I feel sure some of the people who took the oath with me were from countries that don’t allow them to retain their original citizenship when taking on a new one.

I think like many people I tend to take a lot for granted. Basic human rights for one, and a sureness that every American grows up with knowing that hard work and a bit a luck will carry them far. We are a nation of bold believers in our ability to overcome adversity, an idea made easier by the knowledge that there are laws in place to protect us from governments gone mad. I’m not sure the same is true for some of the people I was with on Wednesday.

British Citizenship Ceremony - Cornwall

Elizabeth Harper Receiving A Gift Badge/Pin Made Of Cornish Tin From Cornwall County Council Chairman, Mrs. Pat Harvey

Immigration for some requires closing a door behind them before stepping through the newly opened one of their adopted homeland. I’m grateful to have two doors that open at will for me and feel fortunate that unlike many brave immigrants, I can go home again.

British Citizenship Ceremony - Cornwall

My Interview With Cornwall Council Chairman, Mrs Pat Harvey, ‘ A Day In The Life Of Cornwall Council Chairman.’ Filmed by Cornwall Channel

I was interviewed by Cornwall Council Chairman, Mrs Pat Harvey, for ‘A Day In The Life Of Cornwall Council Chairman.’ It was filmed by Cornwall Channel and will be on FREESAT  found on channel, 401 or SKY on channel 212. It should air this Monday or the next at 9:00 PM.

Cornwall Council ChamberThe ceremony took place in the council chamber. You can see me talking with an American woman in a hat who also became a Brit and my friend,  Armella Jenkins who happened to be in the UK and came down from Devon to share the experience. She’s the woman to my right.

Me standing in the queue with Armella waiting for a coffee and scone after the ceremony. I’m happy and clapping, saying, ‘ Yay! ‘

Most of the photos are video screen grabs from a video John made. Thanks also to Armella Jenkins who took some additional images of the day. I may post an edited video version of the event later if any of you are interested in seeing it.

So ends a long journey that began more than four and a half years ago when I came back to the UK on a fiancé visa. I didn’t know then that I would apply for British citizenship and I’m happy that the only paperwork that remains now is that which is needed for my British passport.

This photo of a Celtic Knotwork lapel pin made from Cornish Tin is like one I received from Cornwall Council to mark the occasion. It’s made by Blue Hills Tin ,which is where I snagged the image.

40 thoughts on “UK Immigration & My British Citizenship Ceremony – One American’s Experience

  1. Congratulations, Elizabeth! I am very happy for you. Good job with telling the story of y our big day. Cheers at the pub? Carol

    • Thanks, Carol. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. John and I had a drink that evening at our local pub before going out to dinner to celebrate. I had a Gin & Tonic as it seemed like an appropriate choice for a new Brit.

  2. Well done Elizabeth , you are the ONLY person I know that has done this …. how tough it was, but I still don’t understand the rules .. I thought you had to do the written test .. too, .. and as for saying the Oath .. do they have to learn English now … very confusing this country .. I think the USA are a lot stricter than us .. !! and Australia.

  3. Congratulations! Great Britain is my favourite country to visit and I have to say I am a little envious that you get to live there, you and all other Brits! And I so admire that pin.

  4. It wouldn’t be British if there weren’t hats, would it? Will you be getting one, now that you’ve joined up?
    My U.S, citizenship ceremony in San Francisco was a huge polyglot of 3,000 people. Each country was named alphabetically, with corresponding levels of response, depending on the number of applicants from each one. I think Chinese and Mexican were the biggest groups that day.
    There are rules regarding the language but also allowances for people over a certain age. My husband was aided in answering his interview questions by an examiner who even drew a picture to help him get it right.
    My daughter became a citizen in North Carolina, in a much smaller ceremony, before a bow-tie wearing, retired judge. Members of The Daughters of The American Revolution welcomed new citizens there. I love that each occasion is tailored to fit.

    • Thanks for sharing your citizenship ceremony story, English Rider. Yours was massive compared to the one I had. I was happy to have a chance to get mine in before the end of the year. They’ve had so many folks they’ve had to have more than the one ceremony they usually have a month. I don’t know about the hat though, I look terrible in them.

      Interesting what you said about the Daughters of The American Revolution, I have the paperwork that would allow me to be a member of the DAR. It’s kind of funny having an ancestor fight in the American Revolution only to have me go back.

  5. Congratulations, Elizabeth! I love following your blog. I have been to Cornwall and love seeing all your pictures and adventures from there. I’m curious to why you wanted citizenship in England. I, too, have dual citizenship (US and Canadian). My father was born in Canada so I was entitled to citizenship there. I did work hard for it last year but didn’t have to take a test, just had to prove his birth there and that he wasn’t a naturalized citizen in the US after moving here. I did it mainly because it entitles me to live in any Commonwealth country and I do love England and thought I might want to move there one day. I talked with a lady in The Cotswolds while visiting last year who lived there and kept her US status for healthcare. I thought that interesting.
    My son-in-law became a US citizen several years ago. There were people from 16 different countries being awarded US citizenship that day — a very touching day for all. Again, congratulations.

    • Aww … thanks, Cheryl. I’m glad you like the blog.To answer your question, having a dual citizenship makes a couple of things easier for me. Travel with John for one thing and the ability to stay out of the country for more than two years if I needed to and not lose my right to live here. A big plus too is the right to vote. I couldn’t even serve on the parish council without having a British citizenship and I didn’t like feeling restricted.

    • Thanks, Denise … it was very interesting to see the transition after it was all over. Most of the faces were dead serious before hand except mine. I couldn’t stop smiling. Afterwards, everyone looked happy and relieved to have it done.

  6. Congratulations Elizabeth. We became Australian Citizens after emigrating here. It gave us a real feeling of security knowing that we now belong in our new country but we have not had to renounce our Irish and Welsh identities. I’m glad you have your dual citizenship now. It cements your right to always be in the Uk.

    • Thanks, Gina. I agree with you on the feeling of security. It’s been a bit of a struggle to develop my own identity such as work life, banking,(no UK credit history) and other a few other areas, so it does make my life here feel as if I’m planting roots. I like what you’ve said about cementing my right to be here. 🙂

  7. Congratulations Elizabeth. Maybe one day, I’ll do it the other way around. My father and half sisters were/are American Citizens living in Georgia my mother was English living in the UK.

      • A couple of years ago when I was visiting Georgia, I managed to obtain a ‘Senior Pass’ (in good faith) that allowed me access to places such as Yosemite free of charge. Unfortunately, they discovered I wasn’t an American citizen last year when I was there, and cancelled it! Having an American citizenship could have its advantages.

  8. I appreciate that you were thinking about others even as you passed this huge personal milestone. It’s great that you get to have dual citizenship. I think it would be hard to have to choose (as so many do).

    Slightly off-topic, but why didn’t you wear a hat!? What’s the point of British citizenship if you don’t get to start sporting some brilliant hats?

  9. Congratulations on your dual citizenship and my apologies for not getting to this post sooner. I’m with OTR girl on the hat – we will find something that suits you, for the occasion of your choice. 🙂 If you can make pasties for sure we can find you a flattering and stylish hat.

    You had quite a crowd there, and a lovely venue. It’s a big deal to take on the history and so much more of another country; quite solemn and I am glad you were able to do this relatively quickly. Your comment about becoming one of the former enemy made me smile. This is life!

    “Cheers!” xxx

  10. Congratulations, Elizabeth! It’s a big commitment when one takes on the citizenship of a new land. I did the same thing in the US 28 years ago this coming May. I remember the feeling well.

  11. I became a US citizen down in San Antonio 30 some years ago. Love that I can vote now! I was a Canadian and thought I had to give that up. I will have to check into that. I was the only Canadian in the crowd, most were Mexicans or Vietnamese. I grew up in this country but I was still excited to become a citizen. I studied my history and got ready for the test. My tester said I didn’t need to take a test since I grew up here and I protested telling him I had studied! So he asked me what was the capital of Texas. I almost said Houston instead of Austin! Anyway, it was a special moment when we all said the words that made us citizens!

  12. Congratulations, Elizabeth! I’ve missed reading your blog – life gets so busy sometimes – but it’s great to stop by and find this wonderful post! As always, thanks for sharing the gifts of your journey!

  13. How exciting, Elizabeth. Congratulations! Yes, we who are fortunate to live in places like the U.S. and U.K. are indeed fortunate. I think it’s wonderful that you went the extra mile in your adoptive new country to become a citizen. Someday, I still hope to visit you there.

  14. Great post but I’m jealous that they let you take photos during the ceremony 😉 Most of the people in the ceremony I attended were from Commonwealth countries too. All in all, I think a citizenship ceremony is a nice ending to the long process of obtaining citizenship. I’m very late but congratulations! 🙂

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