How we became British citizens (2015)

It took us over 7 years to become British citizens. The 1 or 2-year delay is partly due to the many changes in our life that we had in the last couple of years, but also because this is a long and assiduous process.

Moreover, if you are pedantic like I am, it may take longer to put everything together. For those of you who know me, I don’t need to mention that I needed a contingency plan as well.

Getting the British Citizenship is more than a document

We finally got our confirmation letters about our citizenship and, I must say, it feels damn good. The citizenship certificate is a document I’ve been longing for a while.

This document means a lot to me – it’s not just a piece of paper, but much more than that. It shows our efforts we’ve made in the last 7 years; shows our ability to adapt and settle in new environments; it shows the many feelings we’ve been through and the new experiences we have added to our portfolio; shows how strong we are, but weak at the same time; shows how everything is possible when you really want it.

I’m now officially a Romanian who lives abroad. I know I will never be British (although yes, I am a British citizen), but I also know I’m not as Romanian as I used to be. Life here has changed me so much in the last few years. I’m a cross-breed now. I speak two languages in the same sentence, I eat both English and Romanian dishes, I moan about the bad weather and I blame the weatherman for it. I don’t allow foreigners to moan about the British weather though. Just because.

What’s interesting is that I find the English so much like us and so different at the same time.

Tests are easy if you prep yourself beforehand

Life in the UK test. One could argue that studying for exams is boring. Not if you like to be challenged. We had fun in spite of the fact that there was a lot of information to digest: history, geography, attractions, traditions, politics, environment, laws/rules and regulations, humour etc – all of these can be quite interesting when you see it as a game. The most challenging thing was to learn all about British inventors and their inventions.

We have decided to set targets and compete against each other. We needed some self-discipline to be able to memorise dates, names, facts in a decent period of time. We went to the exam well-prepared I’d say. We have managed to find 5,000 test questions available online and we’ve been through them all (note some of them are repetitive). The test lasted 45 mins (out of 24 questions, we needed to get a minimum of 18 answers right to pass the test), but we finished in only 5 mins (Florin and I were competing against each other, remember?). We have both passed our tests, but Florin won the competition. Oh, well, what can I say – he was just luckier than me!

You can find some online tests here (note there’s also an official book of tests you can buy online):

Side note: an English colleague of mine said these questions should be more about the kind of real things people living here need to know, such as:

1) Do most people go to cricket games to:

  • watch the cricket?
  • get drunk?

2) If someone bumps into you on the street do you:

  • get angry
  • cry
  • apologise to them for getting in their way?

There’s also the language test. Luckily enough, because we’ve both had our masters in UK, we didn’t have to sit the English test. (sadly, if you have been working in UK for some time doesn’t count towards your proof of language)

A quarter of the paperwork is probably trust

We then started building the documentation which eventually resulted in a big folder. Though not as big as you’d think it needs to be. They trust whatever you declare in your application and do not question it unless you give them a reason to.

These are the documents we have submitted or are needed (may be more, depending on your circumstances):

  • Life in the UK test certificate (you need to book your test well in advance)
  • Proof of language (IELTS is accepted) or NARIC statement of comparability which confirms the recognition of an overseas qualification and its comparable level in the UK, or higher education in the UK (diploma + transcript)
  • Payslips or P60s (last 5 years)
  • Medical insurance to cover the period you didn’t work in the last 5 years; sometimes they ask for bank statements as well
  • Marriage certificate if the case
  • IDs (driving licence, passport, personal ID, birth certificate for a child)
  • Fee/payment
  • Application (different for children)

*All documents should be original. Copies will be made by the local council officer and originals returned to you.

Notes:

  • Fees at the moment of application: Citizenship test: £50; Nationality Checking Service: £60/adult, £30/child; Subject Access Request: £10; NARIC: £55; Application: £906/adult, £669/child.
  • For each application you need two referees to sign and guarantee you are who you are.
  • There’s a section in the application where you need to provide the dates you went abroad in the last 5 years; if you can’t remember, there’s a service you can consult: Subject Access Request (Freedom of Information), to see what they know about you.
  • The nationality checking service. A local authority can accept and forward your application to UK Visas and Immigration. The local authority will ensure that your form is correctly completed, and they will copy your documents and return them to you. They will ensure that your application is validly submitted and the requirements for citizenship are met. You need to choose the local authority you want to help you with your application and book a session with them well in advance. I highly recommend this service.

You can find everything you need to know here. Don’t forget that every application is different depending on your circumstances.

Attending a citizenship ceremony is the final stage in the process of becoming a British Citizen. You should wait to get your letter from UK Visas and Immigration before you can attend the ceremony. The group ceremony fee is included in your application to UK Visas and Immigration. The Nationalisation Certificate is the certificate given to you at your Citizenship Ceremony and you can use this to apply for the British passport.

The passport application is separate and you can only apply for it once you get your British citizenship. Fees here. Info if you want to get your passport urgently. You may be asked to go to an interview.

Have I told you I’ve even built a spreadsheet with all this information listed out? Nope? Good, because I’d never do this.

Best of luck!

2 Responses to “How we became British citizens (2015)”

  1. Daniela Pantica

    Irina and Florin, congratulations! Enjoy your new citizenship! Thank you for listing all the information – it is priceless – I may become a Briton soon.

    Have a long life as Britons as well as Romanians!