It is required for all applicants over the age of 10 (either registering or naturalising) to meet a good character requirement as stipulated in s.41 (A) of the British Nationality Act 1981
The Home Office introduced a guidance document in January 2019 relating to this good character requirement displaying how applications are currently being decided on. A majority of naturalisation applications that are refused are refused on grounds of not meeting the Good Character requirement.
Although, there is not set definition of good character, the Home Office have provided a guideline of activities that do not meet the good Character Agreement and are usually rejected.
- Activities against the public good (War crime, terrorism, etc..)
- Possessing criminal convictions and having undertaken imprisonment
- Breaches of Immigration law (overstaying, illegal entry, sham marriages, evasion of immigration control, hired illegal workers, etc… )
War Crimes, Crimes Against Peace Or Humanity, Henocide & Serious Human Rights Violations
Where there is direct evidence linking the applicant to international crimes and/or serious human rights violations the following must be considered before the Home Office caseworker decides to refuse the application:
- The role of the applicant
- Length of their membership
- Level of seniority in the group
The evidence must also be from a reputable source on war crimes and crimes against humanity in the country concerned. Where these sources provide sufficient evidence to support the view that the applicant’s activities or involvement constitute responsibility for close association with such crimes, the application must be refused.
Convictions, Sentences, Non-Custodial Sentences and Out of Court Disposals
With regards to imprisonment, if an applicant has served 4 years or more jail time, their Naturalisation application is likely to refused as per the guidance. For imprisonments between 1-4years, the applicants will need to have waited a further 15 years until the end of their sentence before they are eligible to meet the Good Character requirement. For imprisonments up to 12 months, applicants are advised to wait 10 years since the end of their sentence. The Home Office will consider the entire sentence imposed as well as the applicant’s behaviour since release. Periods of imprisonment overseas will normally be treated as if they had been imposed in the UK unless the behaviour that resulted in the conviction is considered legitimate in the UK.
Those that have criminal convictions but have not served any
jail time are advised to wait 3 years since receiving the conviction before
applying for Naturalisation. The Home Office also have the discretion to refuse
where the applicants have an out of court disposal in the past 3 years. These
include cautions, warnings, fines, etc..
The Home Office will take the following into consideration where the applicant has obtained a non-custodial sentence and/or out of court disposal:
- Number of offences occurred – higher the number more likely it will be refused.
- Period over which offences were committed – series of minor offences in a short period may indicate a pattern of sustained anti-social behaviour or disregard for the law.
- Nature of the offences
- Applicant’s age at the date of conviction
Immigration Breaches – Overstaying, Illegal Entry, Illegal Working
The Home Office are likely to refuse an application where the applicant has committed an immigration breach within the past 10 years.
Where an applicant has previously overstayed their visa at some point in the 10 years prior to an application for citizenship, The Home office can use their discretion to overlook this breach if it is the sole adverse factor weighing against the person’s good character; and
- The person’s application for leave to remain was made before 24 November 2016 and within 28 days of expiry of their visa; or
- The person’s application for leave to remain was made on or after 24 November 2016, and the application did not fall for refusal on the grounds of overstaying because the application was made within 14 days of the applicant’s visa expiring and the Secretary of State considers that there was a good reason beyond the control of the applicant or their representative; or
- The applicant was not at fault, i.e. it arose from a Home Office refusal which has been overturned through appeal in the courts.
An application is also likely to be refused if the applicant illegally entered the UK within the past 10 years of the application. If the date of entry is unknown, the 10 year period starts from the date the applicant brought themselves to or came to the attention of the Home Office.
Further to this, an application is likely to be refused if within the previous 10 years, the applicant has illegally worked. This includes conditions of leave where employment is completely restricted or set at a number of hours. If an applicant is found to be working more hours than permitted by their visa conditions, this constitutes towards illegal working.
Failure To Disclose Information
Failure to disclose any past offences can lead to the Naturalisation application being refused unless the caseworker is satisfied it was a genuine mistake not to disclose on the application form and there are no other adverse factors impacting on the applicant’s good character. Where an application is refused due to failure of disclosing information, the applicant must be refused for any further citizenship applications for the next 10 years.
If you have a query about your eligibility meeting the good character requirement, please fill out the enquiry form on the ‘Contact Us’ tab in order to obtain further advice.