More people become British in Brent than anywhere else in the country.

This could be down to migration patterns, a multicultural community or the champagne and scones on offer at the citizenship ceremony at Brent Civic Centre in Engineers Way, Wembley.

In the decade since citizenship ceremonies were introduced – the first held in Brent incidentally – the borough has welcomed 40,000 people who can now call themselves British. That is more than any other borough or district on a per-capita basis.

Last Wednesday was a special day for 16 people and their families as they completed the naturalisation process, but it also marked the 10th anniversary of the ceremonies in Britain.

Jose Torres Luis, 34, lives in Cedar Road, Willesden Green, with his wife, and came here from Colombia eight and a half years ago.  He came to study English for three months but has never left and has worked in cafes, restaurants, finished a Masters degree, started and sold his own business, and now works for the E-bookers travel agency.

He said: “I originally came here for three-and-a-half months and I had a job waiting for me back in Colombia. Every time I have had the chance to go back, there has been a reason to stay. This country has been very good to me. After my Masters degree, I applied for a highly skilled migrant visa and set up my own business. I am still proudly Colombian but I am integrated here now.

"It wasn’t easy here at the beginning and I have been through a lot, I started from scratch here. That’s what makes me feel proud: I have made it, and I made it the right way. Now my wife and I are thinking of buying a house here and starting a family."

His wife, Irina Alaya, plans to go through the process as well.

 

Mark Rimmer, head of the registry and nationality service in Brent, worked with the Home Office more than a decade ago to create the ceremonies. They are built on models in Canada and Australia.

Mr Rimmer said: “I did the first ceremony here and I was the local authority liaison with the Home Office when they were starting up the ceremonies. It used to be very impersonal and bureaucratic and you would just get everything through the post. I still enjoy doing the ceremonies, I don’t do them all but we have 150 ceremonies a year. I reckon I have made about 15,000 British and it does make me quite proud.

"To me it is quite a life-defining moment. It is a life-changing event for some people and it is quite humbling to see. People get choked up and you can see the joy in people’s faces.”

There have been people of 160 nationalities becoming British in the last 10 years at 1,560 ceremonies in the borough, he said.

The first ever ceremony was held in Brent by Prince Charles and then-Home Secretary David Blunkett on February 26, 2004.

People can apply for British citizenship by naturalisation if they are 18 years or over, of sound mind, plan on continuing to live in this country and have a certain level of knowledge of language and life in the UK and have lived in the UK for five years. The standard fee for naturalisation is £874.

One of those who paid the charge and became British at last Wednesday’s landmark presentation was Ramona Mirauta, 29, who lives in Tewkesbury Gardens, Kingsbury, with her husband Vasile and their two children. She has been here 10 years and worked as a dental nurse but has now set up her own training centre for others in the profession.

The former Romanian said: “I came here about 10 years ago and I have been thinking about doing this for a while. I have been travelling a lot to go and visit people and my children are the only ones with British passports so it is much easier for them. It feels good, I really enjoyed the ceremony. I came here as an au pair and I now have my own business.”

Councillor Muhammed Butt (Labour), leader of the council, said: “It has been a beautiful event commemorating 10 years of the ceremonies and it has made it really special for people receiving the certificates today. It all started in Brent as well and to have 40,000 people in 10 years here, it shows we must be doing something right and shows Brent’s cultural diversity.”

Wednesday’s ceremony saw nationals from Japan, Nigeria, Afghanistan, India, Iran and Columbia receiving certificates of naturalisation, a medal from Brent Council and had their pictures taken in front of a picture of The Queen.

In the true spirit of the day, the audience sang the national anthem accompanied by steel band the St Michael’s Youth Project, singing from the Brent staff choir and a troupe of Bollywood dancers.