The Road to Jerusalem: part one
Thu 13 Apr 2017
After living and working in the UK for 26 years, MiP national officer Corrado Valle faces an exhausting quest for the right to stay in his adopted homeland after Brexit. In this first episode, he explains why he decided to apply for British citizenship.
As I was standing in the chapel at Sandhurst in 2014, on the day my son was starting his officer training in the British Army, it dawned on me that my resistance to Britishness was futile. The notes of Jerusalem echoed in the chapel and, suddenly, they had a new meaning:
...Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land...”
The sword that we will eventually buy for my son on his passing out will not sleep in his hand, and I did build my Jerusalem in England’s green and pleasant (if rainy) land. My last bastion of resistance to British citizenship came down that afternoon.
Since moving to the UK in 1991, I had resisted calls from many quarters to take British citizenship. My reasons were varied, but included still feeling attached to Italy and the apparent pointlessness of the exercise: I was (still am, I think) an EU citizen and I remembered from law school that all the rights of my existence in the UK stemmed from EU law. I didn’t need to do anything else to protect my rights to stay in the UK – or any other EU country for that matter.
As I was standing in the chapel, looking at the faces of the proud parents and the equally proud, if slightly worried, cadets, my gaze fell the words inscribed on an arch: “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori”. Recalling the Latin from my early school days in Italy, I translated this as: “It is sweet and proper to die for your country". Possibly still mildly concussed from a fall down the stairs earlier that morning, I felt a bit like Abraham offering his son to God. In effect, I was offering my own son to Queen and Country. Was there anything more patriotic I could do?
No, there was not. On the way home that evening, I started to consider seriously becoming a British citizen – and I felt good about it. I’ve lived here most of my adult life, my wife is British, so is my ‘officer-to-be’ son. I studied here and I work here. I have more friends here than I have in Italy.
But I’ve always had a very marked dislike for filling in forms – or at least that is one of my excuses for not starting my citizenship application the day after my epiphany in the Sandhurst chapel. To be honest, I had a better excuse: in the aforementioned fall, I managed to dislocate one little finger and break the other. So the day after Sandhurst was spent in A&E (the care was excellent, by the way). I did download the citizenship form from the Home Office website and it looked scary. The form itself, called “FORM AN, Application for naturalisation as a British citizen” didn’t look to0 bad on its own, at just 18 pages. But the accompanying documents looked less than user-friendly:
- Guide AN Naturalisation as a British citizen – a guide for applicants. To be read in conjunction with Booklet AN. (26 pages and no pictures)
- BOOKLET AN Naturalisation Booklet – The Requirements. To be read in conjunction with Guide AN. (21 pages and no pictures)
There were also several references to various other documents and guidance contained therein. It dawned on me that the Home Office must be staffed by particularly sadistic bureaucrats.
The ridiculousness of some of the questions, the evidence I was required to provide, and the (unlawful, in my opinion) requirement to be fingerprinted, provide a retina scan and a DNA swab for the biometric part of the application, not to mention the considerable sum of money (around £1,500) required to process the application, really put me off the whole idea. After all, in 2014, nobody recognised the term “Brexit”.
And, I really, really believed that the Home Office was acting ultra vires and unlawfully by imposing biometric data collection on citizenship applicants, especially those from the EEA area. I knew from my EU law exams that the EC Treaty prohibited discrimination based on nationality. The last time I looked, Britons were not required to provide fingerprints, retinal scans or DNA swabs in order to obtain a passport, driving licence or any other ordinary document. But, in my case they wanted that and I had to pay for it! If that’s not discrimination on the basis of nationality, I don’t know what is. As far as I’m concerned, the Home Office was breaching Art 220 ECT. I thought I should write to tell them, but then again, I thought that might not help my application.
Moreover, they wanted me to take the “life in the UK test” – a ridiculous proposition after a quarter of a century of living in the UK. My stubbornness and sense of injustice kicked in and I put the whole citizenship thing on the back burner and nearly forgot about it.
- In part two next week, Corrado tackles the Home Office’s Life in the UK Test only to see the goalposts move as the UK votes for Brexit.