O Citizen

Today it has finally happened. No longer am I the husband of an East European immigrant. Instead my beloved wife and I are both British citizens together, holders of the same type of passport and free to roam the world under the flag of Her Majesty (or something).

This has of course been a long time coming, a five year journey in fact that has led to us having to penetrate more layers of bureaucracy than any human should be required to in their lifetimes. Not to mention the small fortune that has been paid out along the way and the bizarre way each stage of the process involved the submission of the same set of documents which were then scrutinised by an office drone in the same building, over and over again.

First there was the initial student visa that brought her here (£80)
Then the police registration fee, a compulsory certificate for residents of a small number of nationalities, Ukraine bizarrely being one of them (£35)
Then the second student visa to replace the expired first one (£120)
Then the register office paperwork to get married with (£60)
Then the residence permit to permit my wife to live here for the first two years of our marriage (£350)
Then the indefinite leave to remain after that two year period (£850)
Finally the citizenship application fee (£700)

Apologies to all friends and family who didn’t get very large Christmas presents from us during this period, but you can appreciate we had other drains on the family finances.

The final stage of the process was the rather twee “citizenship ceremony” which everyone being welcomed into the family of Britishness has to submit themselves to, the inclusion of the cost of this in the application fee, the only bit of common sense I’ve encountered during five years of Home Office forms. The ceremony itself saw us and about 15 other parties cram themselves into the East Ham registry office where we were addressed in warm tones by the county registrar who then handed over to the designated local councillor for an address. He spoke about the United Kingdom and about the local area, complained that the government doesn’t think Newham is an inner-city borough and so won’t give them enough funding and spoke proudly of the arrival of the Olympics in 2012, during which time he said, we are to tell people it is being staged in Newham and not London at all.

After this it was time for the pledge and whilst a CD of singing children played on an endless loop, each applicant was called forward to sign the register and be presented with their certificate and ceremonial medal, with an official photographer there to preserve the moment for posterity.

Arriving home however we did discover one final bit of red tape to wade through – the passport application form (another £72 fee). If you are due to fill one of these out any time soon, take a look at Section 4 which requires all first time applicants to fill in their parents details, including town and country of birth and date of marriage to each other. Then a note at the bottom reads: “If both parents named above were born after 31 December 1982 OR were born abroad, we will also need the full name, town, country, date of birth and date of marriage of your grandparents. Write these details in section 8, or on a separate sheet of paper.

One quick call to the helpline established that not having this incredibly relevant and so easily referenced information to hand was unlikely to delay the application, but I don’t mind admitting we had visions at one point of having to take a trip to a tiny Russian village to pore over their parish records in the name of full disclosure.

Welcome to Britain Mila, enjoy the form filling.

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