For most British citizenship applications which may seem straightforward, we find that clients often get caught by the ‘Good Character’ requirement.
The good character requirement applies to anybody over the age of 10 who applies for Naturalisation or Registration as a British citizen. You can apply for British citizenship by Naturalisation if
- You are 18 or over
- You will continue to live in the UK
- You have met the knowledge of language and life in the UK requirements
- You meet the residency requirement
- You are of good character
What is the good character requirement?
The Secretary of State must be satisfied that an applicant is of good character on the balance of probabilities. For example, you do not have a serious or recent criminal record and you have not tried to deceive the Home Office or been involved in immigration offences in the last 10 years.
The Home Office AN Guide highlights the Good character requirement for naturalisation. This requirement is also known as the Good Character Test.
What type of offence must be disclosed?
You are required to declare all criminal convictions, both within and outside the United Kingdom. These include:
- Road traffic offences
- Fixed penalty notices (such as speeding or parking tickets) must be disclosed, although will not normally be taken into account unless:
- you have failed to pay and there were criminal proceedings as a result; or
- you have received numerous fixed penalty notices.
- Drink driving offences should be disclosed. A driving conviction may not be disregarded despite any penalty points being removed from your driving licence.
You are also required to give details of:
- Civil judgments which have resulted in a court order being made against you
- Civil penalties under the UK Immigration Acts
- Details of the bankruptcy proceedings if you have been declared bankrupt at any time.
You must disclose any:
- Cautions (simple or conditional)
- Warnings or reprimands received in the UK or any other country.
You are also expected to divulge if you have been subject to one of the following orders:
- Notification order
- Sexual offences prevention order
- Foreign travel order
- Risk of sexual harm order (or equivalent order made in a British overseas territory or any other country).
You must disclose if there is any offence for which you may go to court or which is awaiting a hearing in court.
There is also the standard declaration on whether you have had any involvement in terrorism or actions which may constitute genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. You should consider the full definitions of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide which can be found in Schedule 8 of the International Criminal Court Act 2001.
You must say whether you have been involved in anything which might indicate that you are not of good character, no matter how long ago it was. Checks will be made in all cases and your application may fail and your fee will not be fully refunded if you make an untruthful declaration.
Things to Consider for the British Citizenship Good Character Test
What if I Fail to Disclose Convictions?
Where the person has failed to disclose any (including minor) outstanding charges or convictions, the Home Office will usually refuse the application. Any subsequent application for citizenship would be weakened if it is made within 10 years from the date of the refusal on these grounds unless the failure to disclose was unintentional and concerned a one-off non-custodial sentence or out of court disposal.
What Counts as Deception?
You should declare any deception in your dealings with the Home Office or other government departments (for example, by providing false information or fraudulent documents). This will be taken in to account in considering whether you meet the good character requirement. If your application is refused, and there is clear evidence of the deception, any future application made within 10 years is unlikely to be successful.
If you have any children who have been convicted of an offence or who have received a court order, these must be disclosed. The Home Office will consider if you have been complicit in or negligent and whether this reflects on your ability to meet the good character requirement.
Abuse of the English Language and/or Knowledge of Life Test
The decision maker will usually refuse where there is evidence that you have ‘cheated’ in a Knowledge of Life, “Life in the UK” and/or English Language Test. For example, by allowing a person to take the test on their behalf, paying a person to take the test on their behalf or submitting false documents or otherwise making a dishonest statement with regards to either. An application may have a risk of refusal if there has been any deception in the 10 years before the application for citizenship.
What about periods of overstaying or negative immigration history?
Some undesirable behaviours have been added to the list of disqualifying behaviours, including illegal entry, assisting illegal migration and evasion of immigration control. It seems to affect people who may have committed minor or significant breaches of immigration law, from short periods of overstay or working without permission to significant deception, and who would not previously have encountered any issues with applying for naturalisation once their position was regularised. Previous histories which may affect a Naturalisation application may include:
- Failed to report
- Failed to comply with any conditions imposed under the Immigration Acts
- Been detected working in the UK without permission
It is essential for all applicants to check not only the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 for spent convictions but also the Citizenship Guidance (Guidance & Booklet AN). The law in this area is always changing so please make sure you seek the accurate advice from a regulated immigration lawyer. If you are looking for advice or representation on British Citizenship applications, please get in touch with us and arrange a consultation today.
**Disclaimer: the laws and guidance are subject to change. Please refer to up to date law when making an application, or contact QC Immigration for assistance on this matter.
Form AN: Naturalisation as British Citizen
Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974: