It’s been a while since I’ve posted, primarily because I have been extraordinarily busy, and also because I haven’t felt like I’ve had much interesting to say lately. I’ll have some more science-related posts soon (I hope), but for now, I wanted to talk about something that’s been bugging me a lot lately: my reasoning for getting British citizenship.
As some of you know, I recently became a British citizen. I applied in November, received my approval letter in early January, and had my ceremony (yes, I had to pledge allegiance to the Queen and all that fun stuff) in February. Each citizenship ceremony is done by the county you live in, and they do it their own way. In Bristol, this meant meeting the Lord Mayor (with her awesome outfit), and receiving a special coin from the City of Bristol, welcoming you to the city. It was a nice ending to a long (and expensive) saga. A week later, I received my passport, making me a bona fide dual-national, passport wielding Briton.
Now since embarking on this journey, I’ve had a lot of people, especially Brits, ask me why I decided to do it. British people are not known for their positive outlook on life, and especially for their nationalism, patriotism, and positive outlook on their own country. For this reason, generally the response I get when I say I’ve just got citizenship is “Why would you want that?”. Now there are a few things that irritate me about this question, but I’ll get to that later on. For now, here are some reasons I chose to go through with citizenship.
- Two nationalities! How many times in your life do you have the chance to gain the nationality of another country? Not that many. You have to live somewhere for a while, or have access through descent, which isn’t always possible. Some countries don’t allow dual citizenship, and some make it tough. If I had to give up my Canadian citizenship, I absolutely would not have done it. But since I can keep them both, why not? There are some countries that it is easier to travel on a Canadian passport (namely the US), and some it’s easier on a British (for the next month, Europe, but also countries like Japan have special rules if you’re British). It’s also helpful to have 2 passports if you are travelling to some countries in the Middle East, then to the US, where they don’t like you having stamps from certain places. Plus, it kind of makes me feel like a spy…
- I don’t trust the UK government. With the whole “hostile environment” in the UK right now against immigration, many people don’t understand why foreigners would want to stay here. While I do understand that thought, and sometimes I feel unwelcome, it’s not as simple as just picking up and leaving. I have a life here. My husband is doing a post doc and hopefully will have something more permanent or long term afterwards, and we own a company together based here in the UK. We have a good set of friends, and we love the city. It’s not so easy to just leave. But I don’t trust the government not to make it more difficult in the future. Sure I had “Indefinite Leave to Remain” (ILR – the UK equivalent of permanent residency), but much like in the past when they have said to people they can stay, I don’t trust that to be the case in the future. A passport legitimises it much more strongly. I am now a citizen, and it is much harder to kick me out, regardless of policy changes.
- Flexibility, and not just in terms of 2 passports. In the UK, that ILR is not actually permanent. It is not permanent residency, like in other countries. If you leave the UK for 2 years, you lose your ILR. I am a scientist, and although I do not plan on moving out of the country, who knows what my future holds. If I or my husband decide to take a post doc somewhere, it will reset my immigration status with ILR. Perhaps in 5 years we decide to move back to Canada, and then in 10 years we don’t like it and want to come back to the UK. With ILR, these are not possible, but with citizenship, they are. It just makes things a bit more flexible without having to worry about more immigration. And on that note…
- Never having to deal with the Home Office again… I cannot tell you how much of a relief it is knowing that I never again have to submit an application, be fingerprinted coming into the country, explain my entire life story when I go through an airport… The anxiety I would get each time I spoke to a border official was extremely unpleasant. And every time I put in an application, had an appointment, any of these things. Now, all I have to do is renew my passport every 10 years. Easy peasy.
So these are some of my reasons for applying for citizenship. Ultimately, I can’t think of a good enough reason not to, other than the money involved (though on top of all the other costs, it wasn’t that much in the end relatively speaking). I know some people don’t want to on principal, and I understand that, but to me it wasn’t that big of a deal.
Yes, the UK may be in for a rough future with Brexit and everything going on, but currently, my plans are to stick around. To be honest, with everything happening and the potential of a no-deal Brexit looming, I think citizenship is even more useful. If shit really hits the fan in the next few years, maybe it’s bad enough we move back to Canada and wait it out. This is possible with citizenship.
And finally, I implore any Brits who have made it this far in this post to keep your negative comments about getting British citizenship to yourself. I know this is difficult for the cynics around, but for those of us who are actually happy about getting citizenship, it’s extremely disheartening. In my ceremony there were about 40 people from 23 different countries, all around the world. I can’t help but wonder what some of them may have gone through to get to that ceremony. The smiles and elatedness shown by some truly show how much it means to people. The UK isn’t perfect, but then what country is? I love my homeland, but Canada isn’t perfect either. Nowhere is.
And on that note, I look forward to using my newly minted RED passport when I go to Spain in 2 weeks, probably for the only time as an EU citizen… Huzzah!