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What Is the Good Character Requirement for Naturalising as a British Citizen?

If you are applying to naturalise as a British Citizen, you may be required to meet the “good character” requirement. If you are not considered to be of “good character”, there is a risk that your citizenship application will be refused. The “good character” requirement applies to those who are aged 10 or over. Those under 10 years are not required to meet this requirement.

Being of “good character” means that you have observed the law in the UK and you have shown respect for the rights and freedoms of British citizens. In this article, we will take a closer look at how the Home Office makes a decision about whether you are of good character.

How does UK Home Office assess good character?

When assessing if you are of good character for British citizenship, the Home Office will consider whether any of the following apply to you:

  • Criminality
  • Bankruptcy and non-payment of public debts (referred to as “financial soundness”)
  • Deception/dishonesty
  • Notoriety, or
  • Breaches of the immigration rules

Criminality

If you have a criminal record, you may still be able to make a successful application for British naturalisation, depending on the level of criminality, when it occurred, and whether the conviction is now spent. Your application for British citizenship is likely to be refused if you:

  • Are a persistent offender – the Home Office will take into account how many offences you have committed, the seriousness of the offences and the period over which you committed the offences. They will also consider the impact of the offences on the public and whether the offences escalated in seriousness.
  • Caused serious harm – e.g. if the crime caused physical or psychological harm to those affected
  • Have committed a sexual offence

The Home Office are also likely to refuse your citizenship application on the grounds of criminality if you received:

  • A prison sentence of 4 or more years no matter how long ago this happened, or
  • A prison sentence of 12 months or more but less than 4 years, and less than 15 years have passed since the end of your sentence
  • A prison sentence of fewer than 12 months and less than 10 years have passed since the end of your sentence
  • A non-prison (non-custodial) sentence or “out-of-court” disposal that is recorded on your criminal record that happened in the 3 years before your citizenship application.

Note: in immigration terminology, a suspended sentence is the same as a non-custodial sentence.

Fixed penalty notices, penalty charge notices and penalty notices for disorder do not form part of a person’s criminal record and hence will not normally cause refusal of citizenship.

The Home Office will also take into account whether you have been involved in terrorism or international crimes – these include crimes in the course of armed conflict, crimes against humanity, war crimes or genocide, or if you are subject to an international travel ban. You must include these in your application.

Bankruptcy and non-payment of public debts (referred to as “financial soundness”)

When assessing your good character, the Home Office will take into account whether you have:

  • Been made bankrupt (if this was 10 or more years ago, your citizenship may be granted)
  • Been involved in a company that was liquidated/wound up (e.g. in the form of an informal arrangement, CVA, or administration)
  • Not repaid public debts (e.g. debts owing to the NHS of over £500)
  • Been involved in fraud relating to public funds (i.e. if you claimed benefits you were not entitled to)

Deception/dishonesty

Your citizenship application is likely to be refused if you attempted to deceive the Home Office or another government department. This includes fraudulently claiming benefits, accessing services you are not entitled to (e.g. housing), and providing false information to a government department. Your citizenship application is also likely to be refused due to the lack of good character if you were deceptive in your citizenship application or any other immigration application in the last 10 years.

Notoriety

Your application for British citizenship may be refused by the Home Office if you are considered “notorious” for any of the following:

  • expressing unsavoury views on race, religion, or sexuality in public
  • persistent anti-social behaviour
  • polluting the environment, or
  • persistently and deliberately flouting the law

Breaches of the immigration rules

If the Home Office believe that you have breached their rules, they may refuse your citizenship application. This may happen, for example, if you worked when you were not supposed to, you did not comply with the conditions of your visa, you hired illegal workers, or you overstayed your visa.

Please note, the factors that the Home Office take into account when assessing good character above are not exhaustive. If you’d like to discuss your case, please call us on 020 3744 2797 or email info@reissedwards.co.uk

What if you don’t meet the good character requirement?

If you do not meet the good character requirement for naturalisation, your application is likely to be refused. This is not always the case, however. For example, you have one non-custodial sentence which did not occur in the last year, and you are of good character in all other regards. Everyone’s circumstance is different. It is advisable to seek the advice of an immigration solicitor if you are unsure if you meet the good character requirement or if your naturalisation application has been refused. Our immigration solicitors will be able to advise if there are mitigating factors which the Home Office should have taken into account, which may mean they can use their discretion to grant your citizenship.

Speak to one of our friendly and approachable immigration solicitors in complete confidence at 020 3744 2797 or email info@reissedwards.co.uk

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