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Naturalisation & Criminal Convictions

We’ve received a number of queries concerning applications for naturalisation which have been refused because of a persons failure to disclose a criminal conviction or some other matter which is relevant when a decision for British citizenship is made.

The guidance issued by the UK Border Agency is voluminous and very detailed and at the outset states “If you are not honest about the information you provide and you are naturalised on the basis of incorrect or fraudulent information you will be liable to have British citizenship taken away (deprivation) and be prosecuted. It is a criminal offence to make a false declaration knowing it is untrue”.

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So far so good…………..pretty unequivocal advice however where the problems are occurring is when an applicant fails to disclose an incident which they believe is minor or incorrectly believes a conviction is spent.

So what if you think that your offence was minor and the Home Office doesn’t?

Their guidance states that they will normally disregard a single conviction for a minor offence resulting in a bind over, conditional discharge or relatively small fine or compensation order, if a person is suitable for citizenship in all other respects. By “minor offence” we mean minor speeding offence or other ‘regulatory’ offences.

We had a query where the applicant has 12 “minor” offences over a period of years. Query is this enough to bar him from applying? Offences involving dishonesty (e.g. theft), violence or sexual offences or drugs are not classed as minor offences. Drink-driving offences, driving while uninsured or disqualified or driving whilst using a mobile phone are not minor offences.

With respect to spent convictions; the guidance states “You do not have to give details of any offences which are “spent” under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. Under that Act certain convictions may be regarded as “spent” in the United Kingdom after certain periods of time from the date of conviction if you have not been convicted of other offences during that time. “Spent” means that it will be ignored.

Our advice to all applicants is if in doubt to make full disclosure as there is no point in paying the substantial application fee only to be refused because you failed to disclose something minor or you simply failed to understand if your conviction was spent.

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