Knowledge and approval - When is a will suspicious?
Getting a second nationality is like losing your virginity.
What? Bear with me.
For some people, applying for naturalisation is an emotional decision. They think hard about it and wonder if maybe they're giving away a bit of themselves. For some it's a sign of commitment.
Other people can't apply fast enough - they want it over with and are willing to invest time and money getting it out of the way as fast as possible.
And others are pretty cool about the whole thing - they'll do it if it feels like the right thing at the time but they're not particularly fussed.
What these people have in common is that once they've done it they get used to their new status pretty quickly. They don't usually feel that it has changed who they are or what they're about. And afterwards they tend to be a lot more relaxed about doing it again. Some people collect multiple nationalities as they move around the place.
Where am I going with this? The point is that people have different reasons for wanting to take up another nationality and different feelings about it.
For people who have only ever had one nationality it can seem as if their nationality is a core part of their identity. They don't want to feel pushed into taking another one without a powerful reason. In some cases there's a kind of purity element which makes them hesitate.
For others there are practical reasons for acquiring another nationality. One of the most obvious reasons is travel. Having a nationality which forces you to get a visa when you go anywhere is a serious nuisance - sometimes it can ruin your life - and it can be a relief to get a passport which lets you travel freely. This is one of the reasons why people from developing countries who have moved to places like the US or the UK often apply for naturalisation as soon as they can. And some people find that it's easier to get a job if they get a passport of the country they're living in. Overall it's just less hassle.
Practical considerations also explain why not many EU citizens living in the UK bothered applying for British citizenship before the Brexit referendum in 2016, and why more have since decided to take the plunge. In most cases these people haven't suddenly fallen in love with the UK - sometimes it's quite the opposite. They just want a guarantee that they will be able to stay in the place they've made their home.
It's easy to turn up your nose at people who apply for naturalisation for practical reasons if you haven't experienced the visa nightmares faced by people with the wrong kind of passport, or months of worry about whether you'll be able to stay in the country you've been living in for years. But practical reasons for naturalisation are just as important as emotional ones. And in fact the emotional ones are sometimes illusions which disappear when you look at them properly.
Yes, shared identities are important to many people, and nationality is one version of a shared identity. Culture, language, belief, ethnicity, football club affiliation, postcode - all of these things can be matters of life and death - but does it really matter to you at a deep emotional level what it says on your passport? Let alone what colour your passport is, while we're on the subject? Of course it matters hugely to some people, but surely they're in the minority. Most of us want to get on with our lives and spend time on the things that really matter to us – family, friends, work, helping other people, creating things, having fun, or whatever.
One important benefit of naturalisation which is often overlooked is the fact that in many cases it's the only route to being able to vote. Irish and Commonwealth citizens living in the UK are allowed to vote in general elections, but on the whole you have to be British. That's an excellent reason for going ahead with naturalisation. If you live somewhere you should have a say in how the place is run.
Some people can't apply because they don't qualify or can't afford it - naturalisation is now extremely expensive in the UK - or in a few cases because they would have to give up their existing nationality and they have good reasons for wanting to keep it. (Fewer countries restrict dual nationality these days - especially within the EU - but if you're not sure about yours you should check first.) If you're not in that situation, don't agonise about becoming British. It won't change who you are. It might make your life easier. You'll get to vote. And if you find you don't like it you can always renounce it. OK, so it isn't quite like losing your virginity.
Skip to content Home About Us Insights Services Contact Accessibility