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Cancelled Ceremonies Cause British Citizenship Application Chaos

The cancellation of British Citizenship Ceremonies due to COVID-19 has left many applicants unable to complete the process and become fully naturalised, which in turn has led to a backlog of applications.

If you’re concerned about the status of your British citizenship application, our OISC-accredited lawyers are here to help. Get in contact today on 0333 305 9375 for more information. We’re here for you in person, over the phone and via Skype.

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.

british citizenship
Those affected have been unable to fully complete the British Citizenship application process, and are therefore unable to apply for British passports. [Image: Unsplash]

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.

We can help you if you need advice or assistance about how this change to the Immigration Rules affects you.

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