Rule Britannia?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Here's a dilemma I've been struggling with: Due to the fact my mother had the foresight to be born in England (thanks, Mom!), I'm actually eligible to claim British citizenship. This would mean I'd be a dual citizen of Canada and Britain, and I'd be able to hold a British passport along with my Canadian one. Because Britain is part of the European Union, having a British passport would make traveling into and out of E.U. countries a complete breeze. In fact, as far as I know I could even live or work in an E.U. country if I felt like it. This all sounds like a very good thing for someone in my position.

So what's the dilemma? Well, there are two:

1. The Cost: Applying for British citizenship currently costs £459.00, and that's just for the actual application itself. That doesn't include the cost of gathering all the properly certified paperwork that's required to accompany the application. It also doesn't include the cost of the passport itself (another $237 USD), or the courier costs, or the passport photos to be taken, or even possible costs associated with getting to a swearing-in ceremony, which is apparently mandatory. (I guess you can't just sign on the dotted line while humming a few bars of "God Save the Queen".) I estimate the whole affair would probably add up to about $1,500.00.

2. The Gut Reaction: I'm not sure why, but the thought of being a citizen of somewhere other than Canada gives me pause. Part of me worries because having citizenship in a country doesn't just mean having rights in that country, it also means having responsibilities. What obligations - legal, moral or otherwise - would I have to Britain if I went down this path? Deeper still, it just feels funny to think about being a citizen of anywhere other than Canada - it feels like a betrayal of the country of my birth.

I don't want to imply that I have anything against Britain - I strongly identify with all things English. I'm not just a WASP by default - I grew up with grand and great-grandparents speaking in an accent, and steak-and-kidney pudding for Sunday dinner (Mmmm!) (No, really!), and Beatrix Potter books. I still have family there. If any country other than Canada could really be home to me, I think it would be England. In a very real sense, they are my people. (This is not to lessen the contribution of the prairie farming stock that make up my Dad's side of the family. I'm also a big fan of Saskatoon pie and have been known to cheer for the Roughriders.)

Friends I've asked about this idea tend to take a purely pragmatic stance - Shorter line-ups! Legal short-term work if you need it! They might change the rules again - do it now while you still can! On a more philosophical level, they've pointed out that we live in an increasingly global society, and being a citizen of an E.U. country might have great benefits for me down the road quite apart from the advantage it would be on this trip.

So what do you think? I'd be interested to hear other opinions on the subject. Leave me a comment and give me something to think about.


Ian Timshel said...

I would jump on this in a heartbeat. Now you've got me thinking that I should check on my own status.

Phonella said...

Here's my take as someone who has done quite a bit of travelling within the E.U. (several trips in and out of France, Germany and Spain) on a Canadian passport.

There seems to be two sets of lines everywhere: one for E.U. passport holders and one for all others. The E.U. passport holders breeze through their lines while us "others" have to wait and wait and wait.

The waiting was, ... well just waiting. I mean I didn't miss a plane or anything because of it but it did add to travelling frustration.

So to spend $1500 to alleviate a bit of frustration doesn't make a lot of sense. OTOH, to have a British passport that could open doors to subsequent European employment seems well worth the cost.

So if working in Europe seems appealing to you (and if there are jobs there that suit you, unemployment is high there, btw) then I would certainly proceed. And if that wasn't the case -- well then, I wouldn't.

(Ask not what you can do for Britain but rather what Britain can do for you :-)

Mitch said...

In the same vain as wanting to raise two children bi-lingually, I would vote for the 1500$ booklet. I can only see positive things coming from this, the ability to work afield being first and formost. 1500$ to get into a quicker line doesn't make much sense to me, but 150O$ to have the opportunity to work and have citizenship somewhere completely (or maybe slightly) exotic, is something I would jump on. The reason I equate this to raising my kids bi-lingually is purely about setting up opportunities, as I think this would too.

Just my 2 cents

FLF said...

Once you have entered the EU and are traveling by land, I don't think it is a big deal. We did the "wait in line" thing at the airport, but once in a vehicle (and I assume train/bus the same) we saw no evidence really of borders in Spain, Portugal, etc. Just drove across where the old border used to be...
I was born in Britain, but use a Canadian passport...

Anonymous said...

Wait until you have a European offer and let them assist with paperwork and fees.

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