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Good Character Requirements for British Citizenship (19 April 2018)

Date: 19/04/2018
Duncan Lewis, Business Immigration Solicitors, Good Character Requirements for British Citizenship

When a person applies for British citizenship, the Home Office must be satisfied that the applicant is of good character. This requirement applies to any person, ten years or older, who puts through an application for naturalisation or registration as a British citizen.

Should an applicant not fulfil this criterion, the application will be denied. The Home Office requires a person to answer all questions during the application process, honestly and in full. It is also expected that the applicant informs the Home Office of any significant event.

In an almost unpublicised move, the Home Office made amendments to its guidance for assessing good character in nationality applications. The guidance applies to all decisions taken on or after 11 December 2014. A new list for assessing good character was added as follows:-

  1. Illegal entry
  2. Evasion from Immigration control
  3. Working illegally
  4. Failed to report
  5. Failed to comply with Immigration Laws
  6. Assisting illegal migration

The previous guidance specifically stated that an application would not normally be refused where the person had a history of evading immigration control themselves, particularly where there was no other evidence to cast doubt on their character. This has been changed in the new guidance, which adds the following criteria for refusing applications on good character grounds:

9.5 Illegal Entry:
In circumstances where an applicant entered the UK illegally, an application for citizenship should normally be refused for a period of 10 years from the date of entry, if it is known. If it is not known, the period of 10 years starts from the date on which the person first brought themselves to or came to the attention of the Home Office.

It seems to affect people who may have committed minor or major 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 applying for naturalisation once their position was regularised.

The rules have become tighter and the Home Office currently looks at the last 10 years of records when assessing good character. 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 an immigration offence. It should be noted that 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 any untruthful declarations in the last 10 years.

It is therefore necessary to provide 10 years records if you have lived in the UK in the past 10 years. You must have an explanation for any period of overstaying in the UK and cover it by providing further evidence. If your application is refused because you have not given truthful account to the Home Office any future application made within 10 years is unlikely to be successful.

It is important for all applicants to check not only the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 for spent convictions, but also the Citizenship Guidance (Guidance & Booklet AN).

This area of law is always changing so please make sure you seek the accurate advice from a regulated immigration lawyer.

Author, Tamana Aziz is a Director of Immigration specialising in Business Immigration law under the Points Based System. Recommended in Legal 500 2017 as ‘a great communicator’ and a ‘very committed’ individual in her field, Tamana has developed an expertise in dealing with complex appeals (including deportation appeals and country guidance cases) in the Immigration Tribunals, High Court, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.

Tamana advises employers and provides bespoke training on subjects such as compliance with the Home Office’s Prevention of Illegal Working regime and how to use the online sponsorship management system. In addition, Tamana advises high net worth and skilled individuals on extending Tier 2 (General) visas, spousal applications, applications for settlement and British Citizenship. She also has significant experience assisting clients with immigration applications under EU law.

For expert advice contact Tamana on 020 3114 1130 and tamanaa@duncanlewis.com.

Duncan Lewis Immigration Solicitors

Duncan Lewis Immigration Solicitors are one of the UK’s leading practice of immigration specialists and are able to advise on business immigration and right to work in the UK, Tier-2 visa applications and appeals, student and graduate visas, spousal visas and visa overstays. Our Business Immigration team is recognised by Legal 500 2017 for our "strong track record representing SME clients".

Our specialist business immigration solicitors are adept at advising businesses and individuals on any changes to UK immigration law during Brexit negotiations and post-Brexit, after 29 March 2019.

For expert legal advice call Duncan Lewis Business Immigration Director Vicash Ramkissoon on 020 3114 1105 or email him at vicashr@duncanlewis.com.

You can also contact our switchboard on 0333 772 0409.

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