Does the UK ‘citizenship process’ lead immigrants to reject British identity? A panel data analysis

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

October 6, 2020


In societies where solidarity and cohesion are experienced primarily via shared national identity, immigration raises questions regarding how non-nationals can gain social membership, so that they are not perceived as undermining solidarity and cohesion. A key aspect of immigrants’ experiences is thus whether they embrace the national identity of the destination country. Governments in many destination countries increasingly seek to ensure that they do, via policy initiatives that impose specific requirements for gaining legal citizenship: applicants for naturalization are commonly required to pass a test (ensuring sufficient knowledge of e.g. ‘life in the UK’) and attend a ceremony that includes a pledge of loyalty. This paper considers whether the British version of these requirements is effective in leading immigrants to embrace British national identity. It uses data drawn from the UK household panel survey (‘Understanding Society’) to facilitate a comparison between those immigrants who become citizens and those who do not. The main finding is that those who become citizens significantly increase their attachment to British identity. Whether they do so specifically because of the policy requirements (the test and ceremony) is debatable, but it seems clear that these requirements do not inhibit development of a sense of Britishness among the immigrants who meet them.

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Open Access article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (

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