The story of getting my British citizenship and UK passport actually begins long before I began traveling the world. In a sense, it was the true catalyst which led me onto my path as a travel blogger and world traveler.
In June 2012, I was offered an opportunity to become the CEO of the London branch of my company. At the time I considered it the best day of my life. For years I had dreamed of getting a job or position overseas, and primarily in the UK.
I went into months of training to take over the leadership position from the failing incumbent. But fate was against me and the opportunity fell through due to unforeseen circumstances within the company. My world fell apart, and the pieces continued to shatter. Within a few days, I broke my knee and ended up spending a significant portion of 2013 in physical therapy.
In April of that year, it seemed things might take an upswing when I was offered a chance to be the CFO of the London branch, and I went into extensive finance training. At the same time, it came to the attention of my CEO that my father was British, and there was the possibility that I could get British citizenship through descent.
Once again, the position fell through when it was determined the company would close their London branch rather than send me to salvage it. It was another leap into the abyss for me. However, I was still interested in getting my British citizenship for future travels, and continued to research the potential application.
Finally, in December 2014 I decided to quit my job and pursue my dreams of travel as a blogger. By this point, after hours of research and talking to the British Consulate in the states, I had determined that there was definitely a chance I could get British citizenship, but the process was confusing. Additionally, there seemed to be the potential that my US passport could be held for several months while the application was being processed. I was unwilling to jeopardize my travels, so put it off.
Then in April 2015, I arrived in Edinburgh. For the first time in my life, I felt like I belonged. I announced my intentions to set up a home base in the city, but was still unable to get a clear picture of what it would take to get citizenship.
I left Edinburgh after five weeks and continued to explore the world, visiting another 27 countries before the end of the year. But I always pined to return to Edinburgh.
Finally on April 9th, 2016, I did so. When I got to the immigration officer at the airport, I told him I planned to get my British citizenship. The officer informed me that I was entering the country on a visitor visa, and sending in an application would not just violate the visa, but would also be illegal and jeopardize my chances to get citizenship at all. I didn’t want to argue with him that this was not what the website said, so I simply acknowledged him and moved on.
I got my new phone with a UK SIM Card the next day, and first thing Monday morning I called up the home office to give them all the data and find out what my options were.
Here are the facts. My dad was born in South Africa, which used to be part of the British Commonwealth. Three months after he was born, the law changed about whether he could pass on British citizenship to his kids. He then joined the Royal Air Force in 1962 and was naturalized. I was then born three months before they changed the law about whether I could receive citizenship through my dad, instead of my mom. But that law is really confusing, and is what had been holding me up for years.
I gave all this data to the lady on the phone, including what the immigration officer had told me at the airport. A moment later, the lady said the most wonderful thing I’ve ever heard in my life.
“Honey, you’re already a British citizen.”
I went into tears. Oh, and I just did again writing this and thinking about that moment.
She went on to say that all I needed to do was apply for my passport. As a note, the application for British citizenship costs around £1000, while the passport application (for extra pages too) is closer to £85!
I immediately put my application together, but ran into a small snag on finding someone to countersign. They had to be a UK citizen, in a specific profession, not connected to me through family or business, etc. The only person I could get to sign was a friend who worked on the Isle of Skye, but it turned out he was in Edinburgh the day I called him up. So I got the papers signed and into the mail the next morning along with my US passport and all the required evidence, per the woman on the phone. That was around the 25th of April.
For the next six weeks, I checked daily for news of my application on the website. After a few days, it said the form had been received and was being process. It continued to say that, day after day.
Finally on the 9th of June, I called up the Passport Office to find out what was happening. It was only a month before I planned to go to Sweden, and I was starting to get a little anxious. They told me that I hadn’t received either of the letters they had sent me, and I needed to respond to them before further action could happen.
The next morning went to the address on my application. I had originally stayed there when I arrived in Edinburgh, and received agreement to get my passport there. However, the resident didn’t tell me the letters arrived. When I opened the mail, the first letter was dated May 5th, and the second was from June 2nd. They said that more evidence was needed for my application. The only problem was that all the evidence, including my dad’s passport and photos of my life, were in the states. Additionally, the letter said that if the response wasn’t received by June 12th, the application would be cancelled. That was on June 10th!
I immediately called up the office begging them to give me more time. They said I had until the end of the month. I sent them a letter saying the rest of the evidence was on the way, and asked my dad to get it into the mail ASAP. Nearly two weeks later, they got my dad’s package. I talked to them later that day, and they said I still needed to get my interview. I found out later that the letter to schedule the interview had been sent to me too, but I wasn’t informed about that one either.
I got my interview on Monday morning, the 27th of June. That was the final step, and my passport would be received in 7-10 business days. My plan was to fly to Sweden in 9 business days. It would be tight.
But three days later on June 30th, the passport and all the evidence was delivered to the address, and the next day on July 1st, I was able to retrieve it. At long last, I had British citizenship officially with my passport.
I still retain my US passport as a dual citizen. Currently, these are two of the best passports in the world.
Ironically, the referendum just occurred wherein the UK voted to exit the European Union. However, it takes at least two years for that process to finalize after it’s initiated (which it hasn’t been yet), and the repercussions of that really aren’t currently known. As of now, I can work and live anywhere in the EU. That might change to just the UK, but I’m happy with that too. Edinburgh is my city. And I’m HAPPY! This is truly the start of a new life, and the next chapter in my travels.