The Good Character requirement for naturalisation is without question one of the more complex criteria that British citizenship applicants have to meet.
Under the test, applicants are assessed on all aspects of criminal history (cautions through to custodial sentences) and immigration-related issues.
Guidance on the requirement was most recently updated at the start of 2019, and applies to all applications made after 14 January 2019.
We examine the key factors determining the good character requirement and what applicants need to know when considering their eligibility for British citizenship.
What is the good character requirement?
Anybody over the age of 10 applying to naturalise (or register) as a British citizen will be subject to the good character requirement.
In general terms, to meet the threshold you will not have a serious or recent criminal record and you have not committed any immigration offences or tried to deceive the Home Office in the last 10 years.
The guidance refers to a list of behaviours, but this is non-exhaustive and applicants should take advice about any issues that may be cause for concern.
Naturalisation and criminal records
Strict guidelines apply where applicants have a criminal record. In basic terms, the rules are as follows, although cases will be assessed on an individual basis:
- ‘Persistent offenders’ who have committed offences causing serious harm or are recorded on the sex offenders register: applications will generally be refused.
- Custodial sentences of four or more years: applications will generally be refused.
- Custodial sentences of one to four years: applications will generally be refused within 15 years of the sentence.
- Custodial sentences of less than one year: applications will generally be refused within 10 years of the sentence.
- Specific non-custodial convictions: applications will generally be refused within three years of the conviction.
- Criminal offences committed overseas that are not recognised in the UK eg relating to political affiliation, sexuality: under the latest guidance, will generally be disregarded.
Mandatory full disclosure of criminal convictions
Naturalisation applications require you to make full disclosure of all criminal convictions, both in the UK and overseas. Pending hearings where you are waiting to go to court must also be included.
Applications are subject to stringent checks. Failure to mention any relevant detail (however minor) or making an untruthful declaration will see your application refused and your application fee lost. This will also impact future Home Office applications.
All types of offences should be disclosed, including but not limited to:
- Cautions and warnings
- Road traffic offences
- Fixed penalty notices such as speeding or parking tickets – although not normally 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 including where penalty points have been removed from your licence
- Civil judgments resulting in court orders against you
- Civil penalties for illegal working
- Bankruptcy rulings
- Any specific orders e.g. sexual offences prevention order
You will also have to sign a declaration that have had no involvement in terrorism or actions which may constitute genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
In addition to criminal convictions, the good character requirement also assesses applicants’ immigration history. Specifically, ‘disqualifying behaviours’ refer to breaches of the immigration rules including overstaying, working without permission, illegal entry, assisting illegal migration and evasion of immigration control.
Good character requirement and child applicants
The latest guidance also provided further details how on the good character test applies to child applicants for naturalisation.
While children born in the UK to British national or settled persons automatically attain British citizenship, the same does not apply to children born in the UK to parents who were not legally settled in the UK at the time of their birth.
These children must instead go through the citizenship application process, and pay the fee.
Those over the age of 10 will be subject to the good character requirement.
As above, the application would require full disclosure of any involvement with the police, including any youth cautions.
A further consideration is that parents of children with convictions must also disclose this information within their own citizenship application, as the Home Office will assess whether the parent has been complicit or negligent in and whether this reflects on their own ability to meet the good character requirement.
Do you have a question about the Good Character Requirement?
DavidsonMorris specialise in naturalisation applications. We support individuals through the application process for British citizenship, including guidance on the good character requirement, particularly where issues such past criminal records or immigration history may be problematic.
The guidance in this area is complex and subject to frequent change. Taking professional advice can help ensure you are working to current requirements and avoid issues that could impact your prospects of making a successful application.
For advice on your circumstances, contact us.