British Citizenship ceremonies that were cancelled due to COVID-19 have prevented scores of successful applicants from taking up their citizenship rights, and caused a severe backlog within the application process.
Under normal circumstances, applicants over the age of 18 must attend what’s known as a ‘British citizenship ceremony’ to complete the application process and become formally recognised as a British citizen.
The ceremony is attended in the applicant’s local authority and administered by a registrar, and necessitates making an oath or pledge of allegiance to the UK. The oath is essentially a declaration which states that the applicant will always honour the nation’s rights and freedoms.
Face-to-face citizenship ceremonies were cancelled back in March due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Although in recent weeks they have been able to restart, this has done little to avert both the growing backlog and the scores of applicants unable to access their citizenship rights.
To solve these problems, the Home Office has been urged by campaigners to temporarily suspend the need for the ceremony to be attended prior to the granting of citizenship- this would ensure that thousands of people are not left in limbo.
In one instance, a care leaver applied for British citizenship at the age of 17 after social services failed to do so on her behalf. Despite having her application approved earlier in the year, she has been unable to attend a citizenship ceremony due to the COVID-19 cancellations. As a result, she has been unable to work, study or open a bank account, leaving the local council as her only means of support.
On Monday, a joint letter from Amnesty International UK and the Project for the Registration of Children as British Citizens (PRCBC) was sent to the Home Office, calling on the Home Secretary to “immediately” introduce a temporary suspension of the requirement to attend a citizenship ceremony, before stating that the move should have been taken long before now.
The letter also points out that citizenship not only provides an individual’s right of abode and full voting rights, but is of “particular significance” to a person’s sense of security, identity and belonging in the UK. It warns that the delay may mean that children born to affected applicants are born without British citizenship, and expresses concern about how it will affect victims of the Windrush Scandal who have been offered citizenship by the Home Office but are now unable to access their rights.
Solange Valdez-Symonds, director and solicitor at the PRCBC, had this to say:
‘People – many of whom have already waited an unconscionable length of time for recognition as British citizens – have been delayed in that recognition because the Home Office has insisted on them attending ceremonies while the pandemic has meant these could not go ahead.
Now people are stuck in backlogs even while the resumption of ceremonies is not back to normal.
The Home Office could have prevented this and can now resolve it by exercising its power not to insist on a ceremony. But instead it is choosing not to act and leaving many people still excluded from their citizenship rights with all the insecurity that goes with that.’
Jessica, an 18-year-old from South London, had her British citizenship application approved back in August, but due to the suspension of ceremonies, is still not deemed a citizen in the eyes of the law. She told The Independent how not having a British passport made things hugely difficult when attempting to find part-time work and enrol on college courses.
How we can help
If you’re concerned about the status of your British citizenship application, our OISC-accredited lawyers are here to help.
We are extremely proficient in all areas of immigration law, from Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) applications to applications for EU Settled Status, and have a proud track record of securing approved applications for our clients.
Get in contact today on 0333 305 9375 for immediate assistance.
Comprehensive immigration advice tailored to your circumstances and goals.
Designed to make your visa application as smooth and stress-free as possible.
Fast Track Package
Premium application service that ensures your visa application is submitted to meet your deadline.
Ensure you have the greatest chance of a successful appeal. We will represent you in any case.
The Advice Package
With our untimed Advice Session, our professional immigration lawyers will review your case and provide you with comprehensive advice, completely tailored to your needs and your situation.
The Application Package
With our Application Package, your dedicated caseworker will advise you on your application process and eligibility. Your legal advisor will then complete and submit your forms to the Home Office on your behalf.
The Fast Track Package
Our Fast-Track Application Package is a premium service for those who need to submit their application in time with their deadlines. Your case will become a top priority for our lawyers and you will benefit from our highest-quality services.
The Appeal Package
By choosing our Appeal Package, you can rely on our lawyers’ legal knowledge and experience to ensure you have the highest chance of a successful appeal. We will also fully represent you in any hearings/tribunals.