Flash back to 6 years ago and I was a girl with a dream of going to England and a 10 year plan to make it happen. I needed that time to save up for the fabulous, extravagant, dream vacation in London that I’d always fantasized about.
Now skip forward to present day and I am officially a BRITISH CITIZEN!! What? Someone pinch me, that surely can’t be real. Okay, don’t pinch me, it’s real. I have the certificate to prove it!
Officially, I am a dual citizen of the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Unofficially, I am a very lucky girl! One country was my home for 23 years, it’s where I was born, where my family lives, all of my childhood and teenage memories belong to that country, it’s the place I can always call home, where I love to visit and am happy to claim as my heritage. The other country is the place where I found my first and true love, my new and future home, where I was married, where I gave birth to my beautiful babies, and where I learned things about myself, both good and bad, that I hadn’t known before.
I’ve had a very love/hate relationship with England. I’ve learned from my newly found fellow expat friends that my experience is a fairly common one. I started out with a very romantic and fanciful love of England; it felt like a permanent vacation. That love quickly turned into despair and bitterness that unfortunately lasted for quite awhile as I was missing home and all the things familiar to me. There was this moment of awakening for me where I realized that I had been living as a visitor the whole time I’d been here, rather than a resident. Changing that behavior was the key to happiness for me. And I’m pleased to now be at a place in my heart where I once again love this country, but this time it’s a realistic love. I love it for all of its beauty and its grit. I’m in the unique position of calling two countries home. For the rest of my life, no matter where I live or where I call home, I will always be missing another place. How blessed am I to have such a problem as that!
Fiancee visa: $860
Visa extension FLR (Stands for Further Leave to Remain): $952
Life in the UK test: $82
Visa extension ILR (Stands for Indefinite Leave to Remain): $1,769
2 Consular reports of births abroad: $200
2 UK minor passports: $151
2 US minor passports: $210
Citizenship application: $1,440
British adult passport: $120
Total: $5,784 (£3,510)
Security of knowing you won’t be separated from your spouse and forced to leave the country: PRICELESS!
In my entire journey to dual nationality, the final step of obtaining citizenship (not counting the cost) was probably the easiest one. In order to qualify for citizenship, I needed to be legally living in the country for 3 years (they have since changed that to 5 years) and I had to take a Life in the UK test, which I had previously completed as part of my ILR. After then it was just a matter of filling out some paperwork and making a (very large) payment.
I got a letter about a month after my application to say that it had been approved. Next step was my citizenship ceremony! There was quite a large group of people obtaining citizenship at the ceremony. We all had to either swear an oath or make an affirmation of allegiance (difference being that an oath is swearing by God and an affirmation isn’t) and also say a pledge of loyalty. Then we were presented with our certificates of citizenship. Afterward they had cake and drinks for us and we had the opportunity to take photos.
The oath of allegiance I swore:
“I, Ashley Nicole Rayford, swear by almighty God that on becoming a British citizen, I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, her heirs and successors, according to law.
The pledge of loyalty:
“I will give my loyalty to the United Kingdom and respect its rights and freedoms. I will uphold its democratic values. I will observe its laws faithfully and fulfill my duties and obligations as a British citizen.”
I’ve been asked why it was important to me to become a British citizen. Honestly, it’s important to me because it’s the closest I can get to a guarantee that I won’t be separated from my husband. That’s the number one reason. Another reason is because my children are dual citizens of the US and the UK. None of us have any idea what the future holds, this whole experience has been great proof of that, and I want to have options and be able to live where my children settle if that’s my desire. The final reason? Because it’s awesome and I love this country!
This feels a bit like I’m accepting an award, but I feel like I need to give thanks to some people here. Thank you to fellow Three Ladies author, Stephany, for coming to take care of our kids while we attended the ceremony and also getting a cake to celebrate with us when we got home!
Thank you to my parents, not only for all the financial assistance you’ve provided in this journey and for spending so much time and money to come see us since I’ve moved so far away, but also for being amazingly supportive and essentially being the ones to make this dream of meeting my “friend,” Chris, a reality. If it weren’t for you two, I fear we’d still be Skyping each day for hours on end, and instead we’ve got a wonderful life together!
And finally, thank you to Chris. He has dealt with more tears and heartache from me than any person should ever have to deal with. He has had to hear me say awful things about his home country when I’ve been down in the dumps. He had to fill out all the visa paperwork with the exception of the first fiancee visa because it was just too much of a headache for me. And he has never showed the slightest bit of annoyance at any of that and has always been my number one source of comfort when I’ve been down. You are amazingly supportive, loving, and caring and I’m so glad to be a British citizen and spend my life with you, wherever it may be! Love you baby! 🙂