A Southend MP has called for the town to get city status as part of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012.
To mark the jubilee, the government announced one town would be turned into a city ahead of the celebrations.
The winning town will find out if its bid is successful early next year.
Speaking in the House of Commons, David Amess, MP for Southend West, said it would have a "significant impact on the morale" of the town.
"It would give the local economy a major boost during a very difficult time for business and individuals alike," he said.
"I was surprised to discover there are only 66 cities in the United Kingdom and, shock horror, none are in Essex.
"I say to the House, how is it that the biggest county can not have a city?"
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Cabinet Office, Mark Harper, explained there were no specific guidelines as to how a town would qualify for consideration.
"If you look at a list of existing cities, any attempt to draw up a list of criteria would run into difficulties immediately," he said.
"Some cities in the UK are large, some are small, some have conspicuously laid out and attractive city centres, others are less so.
'Vibrant cultural life'
"Some have wonderful Cathedrals, universities, airports, underground systems or trams.
"Some may lack those physical features, but they may boast a vibrant cultural life."
Southend applied for City Status in 2000 for the Millennium and in 2002 for the Queen's Golden Jubilee.
The deadline for entries is 27 May 2011.
Stockport, Blackpool and Reading are among the towns already in the running for city status.