Applications for British naturalisation can quickly become complicated if the applicant has a criminal conviction, since past offences can impact your eligibility to meet the good character requirement. While the guidance in this area tends to be very clear on some aspects, it is slightly grey in other areas. Drink driving convictions is arguably a mixture of the two.
Driving convictions & naturalisation eligibility
You must declare all criminal offences, from both within and outside the UK, as part of your naturalisation application, however minor they may have been.
Road traffic offences are included in this requirement. However, Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) are not generally considered unless a person has:
- failed to pay and there were criminal proceedings as a result; or
- received numerous fixed penalty notices which would suggest a pattern of behaviour that calls into question their character.
This raises the question; how many FPNs suggest a pattern of behaviour?
After jumping those hurdles; what if you have driving convictions resulting in a certain amount of points on your licence?
This is where the review of ‘cumulative non-custodial sentences’ is considered.
The guidance states that decision makers may still refuse an application where a person’s record shows a ‘non-custodial offence or other out of court disposal’ older than 3 years, if the circumstances of the conviction or disposal call the person’s character into question.
If you have been disqualified from driving, your application will normally be refused until your period of disqualification comes to an end.
What about drink driving offences?
Will my naturalisation application be refused because of a drink driving offence?
Under the guidance, drink driving offences must also be declared on the Form AN application.
Caseworkers generally have wide discretion to consider all of the facts in relation to your application when determining if you meet the good character requirement.
In deciding your application, they will consider:
- The number of offences
- The period over which the offences were committed
- The nature of the offence e.g. driving without insurance, drink driving, violence or drug use
- Other historical or recent convictions
- Your age
- Any other factors relevant to your character
The following caseworker guidance will be used to determine if your drink driving offence should be disregarded:
Sentence imposed for conviction
|Four years’ or more imprisonment||Naturalisation application will usually be refused, regardless of when the conviction occurred.|
|Between 12 months’ and four years’ imprisonment||Naturalisation application will usually be refused unless 15 years have passed since the end of the sentence.|
|Up to 12 months’ imprisonment||Naturalisation application will usually be refused unless 10 years have passed since the end of the sentence.|
|A non-custodial sentence or other out of court disposal that is recorded on a person’s criminal record||Naturalisation application will usually be refused if the conviction occurred in the last three years.|
What if the offence was a long time ago?
The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, which exempts some offences from being disclosed in certain circumstances, does not apply to immigration applications.
Under the guidance, all criminal convictions, including driving offences, must be declared in the application, whether they are spent or unspent. This includes driving convictions, which may not be disregarded despite any penalty points being removed from your driving licence.
In some cases, it may make practical sense to postpone the naturalisation application until the drink driving offence sentence passes the Home Office time threshold.
Even in such cases, you should always disclose all past convictions in your application. Naturalisation applicants must give full disclosure in relation to all current and past convictions. The Home Office conducts background checks, and if you are found to have failed to disclose information relating to a criminal offence, the Home Office will normally refuse your application and any future applications made by you for a period of 10 years from the date of your first refusal will be automatically refused.
If you are concerned about a past conviction, contact our immigration specialists for advice before starting your application to ensure you are providing full and relevant disclosure while including any relevant and supporting information.
Last updated: 1 February 2021