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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 March, 2004, 10:57 GMT
Are citizenship ceremonies necessary?
New British citizens are to be officially sworn in as part of citizenship ceremonies, the first of which took place on Thursday.

Brent, North London, hosted the inaugural ceremony, which will now be compulsory for the estimated 100,000 people granted UK citizenship each year.

Prince Charles welcomed the new Britons formally at the first event.

The group of 19 people also sang the national anthem and swore allegiance to the Queen.

What do you think of the new citizenship ceremony? Would you be happy to take part? Do you know anyone who has taken part?

This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

Both of my father's parents emigrated to the United Kingdom in the 1950's (from Ireland and Poland), and both have assimilated into the British way of life (despite prejudice) whilst keeping their own heritage in tact. Why should they or any others swear allegiance to one country and denounce their place of birth and upbringing, can they not be a Polish or Irish-British citizen and have allegiance to both? Surely integration can occur without a silly archaic pledge to the Monarch.
Chris Tetzlaff, Liverpool, England

I am about to get married to an Englishman. We are both law abiding taxpayers and no fans of the Queen. I am not prepared to swear any allegiance to her, however, I would obviously be prepared to swear allegiance to Great Britain. What should I do?
Lenka, Prague/London

This is ludicrous! The state is meant to be there to better the lives of its citizens - immigrants should not be expected to bow to the state. Patriotism is nothing more than elite control and it sickens me as does this measure!
Ross McCartney, Londonderry

As a Republican, the bit that gets me is that new citizens have to swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen. I wouldn't swear one and wouldn't expect anyone else to. The Queen and the Royal Family represents a lot of what is wrong with our country. Oh yes, it is my country. The alternative would be to swear to uphold the laws of the land as enacted by Parliament, that's what we all really do anyway. When the 2nd Republic comes we will be changing the anthem so don't worry too much about the singing.
David, Qatar/UK

The idea that swearing an oath of allegiance to the Queen will somehow make her a better member of society seems rather strange to me
DG, Suffolk, Stowmarket, Suffolk
My wife is Finnish and has lived in this country for many years now. She has contributed to British society in a positive way and is a fully integrated, law abiding member of our society. But she is proud to be Finnish and would never want to become a British Citizen. The idea that swearing an oath of allegiance to the Queen will somehow make her a better member of society seems rather strange to me.
DG, Suffolk, Stowmarket, Suffolk

I think it is important. A public statement that you'll be faithful to the government, laws and people of your country. I'm also a dual citizen of the UK and Australia. Does allegiance to one mean I don't care about the other? No! I can do both. And I'm proud of both nations.
Jonathan Bensley, Melbourne, Australia

I have lived in the UK for over 20 years, my husband and children are British. I am a native English speaker, and for 14 years I have taught English as a Second Language, and so will probably be teaching citizenship elements in classes soon. I have toyed with the idea of applying for British citizenship at times over the years, since I have no intention of ever returning to my native USA to live. However, the thought of having to go through a ceremony (for which I would have to pay over and above the fee which has already put me off for all these years) is offensive!!! My husband and children never had to swear any oaths or affirmations to the Queen.
Magda, Oldham,UK

Another cynical, superficial, meaningless New Labour gimmick
Steve, UK
Swearing allegiance on becoming a new citizen of a country can and should be a fundamental part of a country's attitude to itself and its people. This is how it is in the US and Australia. In the UK the process is just another cynical, superficial, meaningless New Labour gimmick.
Steve, UK

If we're forcing new arrivals to swear allegiance to the UK then why not those who were born here? Or are we assuming that just because someone is born here they know about our history, culture, customs etc... and are loyal to the crown.
Adam, Stoke, England

Citizenship ceremonies are a good idea, but it is important to bear in mind that God Save the Queen only represents one of the British nations, and should not be the only anthem sung in these "British" citizenship classes.
Trystan Morris-Davies, Aberystwyth, Wales

Becoming a new citizen of a country is something that should be a celebration, not just a piece of paper in the post
Louise, Sydney, Australia
Becoming a new citizen of a country is something that should be a celebration, not just a piece of paper in the post. When people become citizens in a country they should swear allegiance to it, its laws, and those things the country deems important.
Louise, Sydney, Australia

What is needed is not a "citizenship ceremony", but a test of the rights and responsibilities of being a British subject. This test should be in English (or Welsh), and it should be administered part in writing and part orally, to make sure that new British subjects understand our country, and can talk to the rest of us. As for the bit about upholding our democratic values, I wonder how many of our senior politicians, or newspaper editors for that matter, could honestly swear to do this?
Simon Richardson, London, UK

I found out before getting my Canadian Citizenship that it would be in a ceremony with judges and officials to welcome us. It truly does help the immigrant looking for a better life to feel welcome and to actually want to contribute to society productively. It has worked wonders here in Canada. I'm amazed it just began in the UK! Catch up with us, you don't know what you're missing by just sending a notice to the new citizens. Although it is joyful news, being part of a ceremony gives the new citizen something to be proud of and to remember his/her place as a part of that country's community.
Ali Siddiqui, Windsor, Canada

Can we please give it the correct name? We are NOT citizens in this country. Republics have citizens. We are subjects of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.
Iain, Cambridge, UK

Yet another imported Americanism - we don't need any additional, unnecessary waste of taxpayers' money.
Gareth, Bermuda

Anyone who objects to taking part in a similar ceremony on gaining British nationality has obviously applied from the wrong motives
Sam Stoddard, Australia

New immigrants to Australia (of whom I am one) take part in a very moving citizenship ceremony, often taking place amid the celebrations on Australia day. The flag is flown, the National Anthem is sung, certificates are distributed and pictures of the event appear in the local newspapers. Anyone who objects to taking part in a similar ceremony on gaining British nationality has obviously applied from the wrong motives and will make a poor citizen.
Sam Stoddard, Australia

Brilliant idea as long as dual citizenship is abolished. You cannot swear an oath of allegiance to two countries.
Richard, Sweden

Are they necessary? No, of course not. Are they important? Absolutely. Many people take citizenship to countries like the USA and UK for granted because they were born with it. People who immigrate and seek citizenship by choice are a special breed of people and much should be made of this momentous occasion.
Kelly, Baltimore, MD, USA

All such tactics are nothing more than a mockery. It's a false propaganda that human rights are respected in UK. The true asylum seekers are being denied asylum even if they produce evidence which is affront for the people that have tall claims about human rights are being respected in England.
Sohail Wani, London

I think the idea of an ceremony of "initiation" into British Citizenship is sound and long overdue - but maybe some of the things included within the newly introduced ceremony are the wrong things to include? Certainly I don't think swearing allegiance to the queen is relevant! However, I do think the mention of upholding British democracy is relevant - in fact it's probably the most relevant inclusion. I am glad the ceremonies are to be compulsory and not optional, for if they were optional their whole validity would be undermined.
JeanGenie, Manchester UK

Citizenship ceremonies would have great merit if they were complemented by firmer immigration and asylum controls
Ray Burston, Halesowen, England
Citizenship ceremonies would have great merit if they were complemented by firmer immigration and asylum controls. After all, why should people go through all the rigmarole and expense of formally applying for the right to make Britain their home when others are able to sneak into the country illegally and defy all attempts to deport them?
Ray Burston, Halesowen, England

What exactly do the citizenship ceremonies prove? People who apply for and are granted British citizenship already have the right to live and work in the UK and have all the rights in the UK as all other British (and Dutch, Spanish, Italian, German, Irish, etc) citizens. So whether or not they take this oath won't affect their right to live here.
Mitesh Shah, Hemel Hempstead, England

I support the new citizenship ceremony. Prince Charles' presence at the first event gives the right emphasis to the welcoming aspect of it. Integration can only succeed if people are made to feel that they are welcome, and they belong. Singing our National Anthem will contribute to that feeling of belonging. If anyone does not want to be a loyal citizen of the UK, play a full part in our society and take on the responsibilities that this entails, they need not apply. I would like to see a lot more done to encourage those who are accepted as new citizens to value this highly.
Mike Clarke, London England

I would not take part - I am strongly anti-monarchist and find the national anthem inappropriate, old-fashioned and absurd. Why should I swear loyalty to an institution that I think should be discarded? We don't need these ceremonies, it is a waste of time and money. If people become citizens they accept various legal responsibilities - that should suffice. In court proceedings I fear that singing the national anthem at such a ceremony would count less than formal written affirmations of loyalty to the state.
Charles, Bolton UK

It's a bit like a university graduation ceremony. It's not that necessary because you can still achieve what you have without it. But it can be a great an memorable occasion. One that can be looked back on with pride! Perhaps, like graduation ceremonies, it should be optional.
Ettenuahs, Swindon, UK

To my mind these ceremonies are gimmicks
Stephen Glynn, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
I'm slightly confused about all this. Certainly my first wife, a Ugandan Asian, had to swear the Oath of Allegiance when she took British citizenship. It was a private affair - she had to swear it before a solicitor who then sent an affidavit to the Home Office that she had so done - but it was no less legally binding for that. Admittedly no one asked her to sing the National Anthem but I'm not quite sure what it would have achieved if she had sung it for the solicitor. To my mind these ceremonies are gimmicks.
Stephen Glynn, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire

I think the new citizenship ceremony is a good idea. After years of working for my citizenship, I was dismayed when all I needed to do was swear the oath of allegiance in front of a solicitor and paid 10. I take pride in my new citizenship and the ceremony would have made it more meaningful. I would have been happy to take part.
Jaime Lim, Dumfries, Scotland

I love my country. The emphasis is on country. I feel nothing for the royal family. So if I had to swear allegiance to the Queen, I'm afraid I wouldn't. I hate our so called national anthem. I want to sing about my wonderful country. Not sing about a person as if she's some kind of god. I agree that new citizens should have a ceremony, but the emphasis should be on becoming British and not loyalty to the Queen
Ian Burrill, Leeds

I find it remarkable that a lot of the comments posted on this board talk of a ceremony being "a bit American". As far as I know, most countries in the world have some sort of ceremony marking the taking of citizenship except Britain. Perhaps the lack of a ceremony should be referred to as "a bit British".
Andrew Wildes, Melbourne, Australia

I was granted French citizenship some years ago, and was personally very proud of the fact. One thing that did disappoint me though, was the lack of any sort of official ceremony - all I got was a confirmation by post. Go ahead with the ceremonies - you'll be surprised by the positive attitude of many immigrants who are only too pleased to be part of the nation.
Neville, France (ex- UK)

Citizenship ceremonies are absolutely essential
Cameron, Reading, UK
Citizenship ceremonies are absolutely essential. It's amazing they have taken so long to come about in the UK. Just as in the USA a new citizen will "pledge their allegiance" to the stars and stripes so new British citizens should "pledge their allegiance" to Queen and country. After all the pledge is you committing yourself to freedom, democracy and to treat every person in Britain with respect, equally and fairly. If we want our country to be successful and continue to move forward in the future then we cannot have "Part-time" citizens.
Cameron, Reading, UK

I always thought that there was no concept of British citizenship. Are we not subjects of Her Majesty (an obligation not a privilege)? Has the Tony Blair changed things without informing the rest of us?
Peter Wright, San Francisco

Complicated - what if they plan on living in Wales or Scotland? God Save the Queen has a verse about crushing rebellious Scots, and the Union Flag doesn't contain the cross of St David at all. Or is it just England any new citizens are meant to respect?
Anon, Wales

I would happily participate in such a ceremony and even more happily pay for it myself. To me it would be a deterministic event, of my "Britishness". I think it's an excellent idea!
RS, London, UK

Personally I would not swear allegiance to Liz Windsor, and I don't see why anyone else should. Replace that with an oath of allegiance to the country and democratic principles and it would be a good thing.
Chris Q, Bradford, England

I think it only right that new citizens be sworn in. It will emphasize their wish to live in this country. I have never understood the reluctance of many Britons to stand proud when the anthem is played. Here unlike many other countries seem almost ashamed to show their pride in their country. People wishing to live here have to realize that the indigenous population, love their country, forget the British reserve and stiff upper lip. Even if people do not want to swear allegiance to the Queen, and I do. I would say swearing allegiance to the flag of this country should be sufficient. In most other countries they have ceremonies as people become citizens, so why not here in this great country we live in.
Ian Peter, Southport, England

Most Britons would struggle to keep a straight face if any of us were forced to take it, a complete waste of time and tax-payers' money.

I think the idea of a ceremony is good since it celebrates a rather significant event. The problem will be the test. From the information available now it sounds smart since it tests the applicant on practical aspects of living in Britain. As long as it does not turn out like the American citizenship test it'll be ok. My mother is originally from England but got her U.S. citizenship in 1998. The American citizenship test is absurd with odd history questions that no one knows. Just make sure the test is practical and it'll be ok.
Liberty, USA

Yes, definitely. A formal recognition ceremony can be seen as a welcome by the state to each person and should foster a feeling of belonging and pride in each "new" citizen. It has to be better than swearing allegiance in front of an anonymous solicitor/civil servant.
Linda, Yeovil

I'm surprised there wasn't already a ceremony. We've always done a citizenship ceremony in the US. Most of my immigrant friends say it was a very emotional and meaningful experience. It should be just as meaningful for new Britons. If they do not feel pride at the ceremony, perhaps they should reconsider their decision to take citizenship.
Robert, Waukegan USA

There should be a sense of pride at belonging to a country by choice
Joe, London
It is a way to welcome new citizens. Some have waited years for this day. It is important to them and should be important to all existing citizens. There should be a sense of pride at belonging to a country by choice.
Joe, London

I am Dutch but moved with my English wife to the UK over six years ago. I was contemplating to get a UK passport, but with the new ceremony, feel less likely to do so. I want a UK passport, because I live and like to live here, but don't feel like joining a "club".
Ton Zwartjens, (Dutch) living in Surrey, UK

I think it is a excellent idea. This system works very well in the US. I think it can be seen as a welcome, after all we are an inclusive society, and if we are as welcoming and supportive as we appear, then these people should be encouraged to "swear allegiance" shame all UK citizens did not do it!
Andrew Jeffrey, Edinburgh

Sing the anthem! What is the point? Most people in the UK don't even know how many verses there are, let alone what the words are!
James, Dorset, UK

I feel it is probably a good idea overall (if a bit American) but swearing an oath of allegiance to the Queen (as in the military) would be something many current citizens would find difficult.
Paul, Colchester, UK

From what I can see Americans are proud to be American. I would like for us to be proud to be British. I would like the new people to Britain become fully fledged participants, joining in the already established cultures (for example our English language), and adding their own take on life... a citizenship ceremony could be a way of making us feel that we share a sense of Britishness, pride and a feeling that we are "all in this together".
Andy D, London

I will most probably become a British citizen next year though I have not decided yet. But I will have dual citizenship so I don't see the meaning of a ceremony. I will definitely not make an oath against my nationality. And where are in EU, everybody can live and benefit from any EU country. Will we have ceremonies all over Europe?
M G Irengun, Turkish, London UK

I am British through my family, but was born abroad and also considered myself as "English". What I learnt, and regard as British, are the values of: Trust, Respect and Dignity (not only of one's self but even of enemies'). I can say - from my distant point of view- that these values are observed nowadays only by the Monarchy, the BBC and the Foreign Office. As for the rest of Britain, I believe that these values are better observed in the ex colonies, and by expatriates.
George H, Medellin, Colombia, SA

If you want UK citizenship you must also own the responsibilities that come with it
Omar, Manchester, UK
I went through a US ceremony years ago, and I believe we need a citizenship ceremony in the UK. If you want UK citizenship you must also own the responsibilities that come with it, because no matter what your ethnic or national origin, citizenship means you are staking your fortune on the fortune of these isles.
Omar, Manchester, UK

I have just been informed that my application for British Citizenship has been successful! To be honest, I am delighted that there will be some kind of ceremony/celebration! It's been a five and a half year wait for this and why shouldn't I celebrate and do it with style. Style and custom fitting the country that has welcomed me. I'll be having a high tea party with scones, cream, jam and the works for family and friends when it's over!
Lisa, London

I am both Canadian and British. In Canada each new immigrant gets a pack with the relevant info on being a citizen; national anthems, how to contact your MP, how to vote etc and a ceremony. By and large, for the attendees it's as important a ceremony as having children baptised. When I got my British passport I was disappointed I was never even sent the words to God Save the Queen!
Teresa Nykilchuk, Reading, UK

Such ceremonies are good for the newspapers and politicians but the money and time used would be better spent on improved public services. I would feel embarrassed to be in such a ceremony because it would look like I was "graduating" to a superior way of life.
Tony, UK

I am a naturalised British citizen. I realise that citizenship confers rights as well as incurs duties. I shall not take the former but be selective on the latter. Let the citizenship ceremony be conducted - let what is felt inside be expressed on the outside.
Michael, Tokyo, Japan

Is it going to alienate anyone? I very much doubt it. Might it have a positive effect on some of the participants? Probably. Result? Net benefit. It may do nothing for many, but if it does something for some, it can't be a bad thing, and I can't honestly see a downside.
Mike Watkinson, London UK

Hopefully with a ceremony and an oath people with realise that they are joining a society, not just getting a passport
Will, London, UK
Too many people consider a British passport as an accessory and just something they should get to open doors for them. Hopefully with a ceremony and an oath people with realise that they are joining a society, not just getting a passport.
Will, London, UK

I'm a citizen and I've never had to do any such thing. Does this make these new Britons more "proper" citizens than the rest of us?
John, Fleet, Hants

Are the ceremonies necessary? Of course not. But in an age of increasing depersonalization, where the only time we hear the word "tradition" is around Christmas, I think such a ceremony would be welcomed. Becoming an ex-pat should have more to it than a handful of paperwork.
Elizabeth, St. Petersburg, US

No, people don't need a dark-ages oath of fealty. Being British is a matter of changing a passport, not culture or tradition or race. There's nothing special about it, EU citizenship is far more important.
Red Miller, Brussels

To Red Miller: I am an Englishman first, a British Citizen second. To say that loyalty to the EU is more important than to one's own country is deeply insulting and is a good indication of where the EU is heading.
Paul, England

One of those about to go through the ceremony says that is sounds 'a little American.' And no bad thing, either. There's much to criticise in American society and culture, but to give them their due, they've not been brainwashed by political correctness as we have over the years into being ashamed of patriotism and of being proud of their country and its achievements. Allegiance ceremonies for non-nationals by all means: but given the state of national pride and patriotism I can't help feeling that the majority of indigenous citizens ought to join in.
Steve Payne, Leicester, UK

I am a British citizen who has been living in the US since 1981. The main reason I have not taken dual citizenship is because during the ceremony one is required to pledge allegiance to the US and renounce prior loyalties, which is really hard unless you have immigrated from a dictatorship or something similar. Is the British ceremony modelled on the American version?
Brenda Brown, New York City

Can you be a citizen in a country without a written constitution? The citizenship ceremonies are of symbolic interest, but I would suggest not important. I am British, I am Welsh but more important for me is my European identity, and I would pledge allegiance to the European Flag and the European ideal, but not to the current UK flag as it does not even represent Wales or Northern Ireland!
Gareth Taylor, Wrexham, Wales

Citizenship has to mean more than possession of a passport
Nic Oatridge, Twickenham, UK
At first sight it might appear a bit naff, but as Britain becomes increasingly cosmopolitan and diverse it is more important for its citizens to identify with its traditions and values. It is one of the things that makes the USA work - that wherever people come from, when they seek citizenship the process makes them feel they are buying into a value system and a tradition, not just getting a passport. Citizenship has to mean more than possession of a passport.
Nic Oatridge, Twickenham, UK

If they become a citizen will they get the same care as the rest? If they do they may think twice about becoming a citizen!
Graham Lloyd, Tamworth, UK

A native Romanian, I became a British citizen in 1998. That was five years after my arrival in the UK, during which I completed my education, worked, never claimed or expected any benefits and did everything I could to integrate into British society. I had no objections taking an oath of allegiance to the Queen and to Britain - I wished I had a more formal ceremony at the time to mark the occasion, but it was not available. I am proud to be British and would take part now, if not too late! People who come to live in Britain do so by choice, therefore they should follow all the rules that come with it, including taking part in a citizenship ceremony.
Raluca, UK/USA

I would not be prepared to swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen because I do not support the monarchy. It seems wrong to force anyone who wants to become a British citizen to pledge their loyalty to an institution which increasing numbers of people born in the UK feel no loyalty to.
Andrew Tempest, London, England

Yes citizenship will mean that these folks can call themselves British, but as for "Britishness" that's a meaningless term. There is no single attribute that one could call British. When you think about the composition of "Britain" it covers a huge range of people so there really is no concept of "Britishness". When my friends in the USA refer to me as "British", I tell them that I am a citizen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but that I am English. This usually prompts a discussion of the differences between the UK, GB and England, the finer points of which most are unable to grasp.
Nigel Pond, UK/USA

Welcoming the new Britons
25 Feb 04  |  Magazine
First citizenship ceremony due
02 Feb 04  |  Politics
Citizenship classes US-style
04 Sep 03  |  Americas


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