THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
Today, July 20, the UK's first virtual citizenship ceremony took place. The event, which was led by Southwark Council, London, marks the introduction of new rules allowing Councils across Britain to host ceremonies for individuals and households virtually.
As a result of the ongoing pandemic, and associated social distancing rules, group citizenship ceremonies have been suspended. However, a change in guidance now means that those awaiting a formal citizenship ceremony will be able to take part via video conferencing technology.
Kevin Foster MP, a Minister in the Home Office, attended the very first virtual ceremony to mark the occasion. Describing the event, Mr Foster said "This ceremony is a moment in history as it is the first to be undertaken virtually. It is good to see how the process has been adapted by local Councils to allow ceremonies to still take place during these difficult times. Citizenship ceremonies are important as they recognise the commitment the new citizen has made to the UK, in establishing their home here, contributing to the economy, and having learned about life in the United Kingdom, its culture, laws and history."
During the ceremony, which is an essential component of the citizenship process for those aged 18 and over, individuals make an oath or pledge. The new virtual ceremonies are expected to be temporary, with group ceremonies taking place in official venues when guidance means it is safe to do so.
Discussing Southwark's role in this first of a kind event, Council leader Peter John OBE said "Southwark Council’s registration service helps about 3,000 people become British citizens every year. Our cultural diversity is one of the many great things about Southwark, and citizenship ceremonies help us to encourage new citizens to play an active part in the community. The current epidemic means that in Southwark, like across the country, we’re working hard to find new and innovative ways to deliver services I’m delighted that we can now offer virtual citizenship ceremonies too."
As part of the current circumstances, the usual 3 month time limit for successsful applicants for British citizens to have attended a ceremony has been extended to 6 months.
To find out more about UK Citizenship, go to www.gov.uk/browse/citizenship/citizenship. If you have already been successful in an application to become a British citizen, contact your local Council to see if they are hosting virtual Citizenship ceremonies.