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Can I Apply for British Citizenship if I have Criminal Records?

Having a criminal record of any kind can be a serious barrier to applying for citizenship. Around 37% of citizenship refusals are due to the applicant being found to be of ‘bad character’. All criminal and military convictions or arrests must be disclosed on application. These include police cautions, and offences both in Britain and overseas. This is because foreign nationals are not included in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (1974).

Despite this, it is not impossible to gain British Citizenship with a criminal record. The Home Office requires you to be of ‘good character’ to grant citizenship, and criminal records are only part of the procedure. However, you will have to wait varying periods of time after an offence before your application is considered.

How Long Must I Wait after a Conviction Before Applying for Citizenship?

The amount of time you must wait after a conviction to apply for citizenship is proportional to the severity of the crime and the sentence. For police cautions, or non-custodial sentences, you must wait 3 years. Suspended prison sentences are classed as non-custodial as non-custodial refers to any sentence that does not lead to actual time in prison. For prison sentences up to 12 months, you must wait 10 years from the end of your sentence before your application will be accepted. If you have a longer sentence of 12 months to 4 years, you must wait 15 years from the end of your sentence before your application will be accepted. For sentences of longer than 4 years it is unlikely that your application will be accepted regardless of any displays of good character. Even if you have waited the correct amount of time you are by no means guaranteed to receive citizenship, and your application fee will not be refunded.

Under What Circumstances Can my Application Still be Refused if I Have Waited the Allotted Time?

The British state requires its citizens to be of a ‘good character’ and some crimes are determined to reflect a permanently bad character. If your crime is deemed to have such a blot on your character, you will have your application refused. This is regardless of how long ago the offence occurred. The most common instances of this occurring is for repeat offenders, offenders who have caused serious harm to one or more victims, and finally sex offenders. If you have any sexual offences prevention orders, foreign travel orders, or sexual harm orders it is highly unlikely your application will be accepted.

What Offences will I have to Wait Less Time before Applying for Citizenship?

Despite usually having to wait a long time after a conviction before you may apply for citizenship, there are some offences that will not have an impact on your application. ‘Minor offences’ are often disregarded by the Home Office and the UK Border Agency. You will be able to apply for citizenship despite them.

‘Minor offences’ are defined to be an offence resulting in a conditional discharge or a small fine. This is most often the case for minor driving offences such as speeding. Drink driving or driving while on a phone, uninsured driving, and driving while disqualified are not classed as minor. It is also common for a non-custodial sentence to be disregarded so long as you do not have more than one, and it did not occur in the last year of your qualification period. Even if it is likely your offence will be disregarded, you must still declare it in your application.

The Importance of Declaring all Offences.

It is vital that you declare all criminal offences as it is a criminal offence itself to knowingly make a false declaration of a clean criminal record. This includes criminal offences committed as a child. Not only will your citizenship application be rejected if you are found to have lied about past criminal offences, you may also face criminal prosecution. Furthermore, if any offences are discovered after you have gained citizenship, you can have British citizenship revoked. With all applications in UK Immigration, honesty is vital for success.

What Documentation is Required for British Citizenship Applications?

On top of your criminal record quite a number documents are required to prove your eligibility for British citizenship. Firstly, you must provide documentation proving your identity. For most individuals this will take the form of a passport and you will be required to provide other documentation as proof. Documents such as ;

  1. A residence permit, national identity card, or a Home Office entitlement card will be accepted.
  2. You must also prove that you have adequate knowledge of the English language, and also proof that you are aware of the British culture and ways of life. To prove these, you will need a progression certification in an English for Speakers of Other Languages course. A certificate proving you have passed the citizenship test will also be required.
  3. Proof is also required that you have lawfully resided in the country for enough time, and that you are currently lawfully able to reside in the country.
  4. You must provide documentation proving that you have been in the country for the time period such as bank statements and letters of confirmation from your employer.
  5. If you have the right to permanently reside in Britain you must provide a passport showing this to be the case, or a letter from the Home Office confirming this.

How Long will my Application Take to be Processed?

Getting your visa application processed is always a lengthy process, and will be made even lengthier if any of your documentation is not in order. Even for properly completed applications there is a large range of time scales and there is no official processing time. While most applications can be expected to take 4 months, there have been cases of it taking as little as 2 months, or as much as a year. This application process can be quite a tedious one which is why we advise you contact immigration solicitors for legal advice or assistance

If your application is taking unusually long there are ways you can speed it up. For example, you can send a letter to your local MP asking for assistance. They will often oblige in pushing your application along. Alternatively, arbitrary delays in the system have been found to be unlawful, so you may wish to consider employing a lawyer to lodge a ‘pre-action protocol letter’. This letter will show that you are prepared to take legal action.

Related article

British citizenship application refused on the basis of failure to meet the good character requirement?

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