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Good character and British nationality

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You may be questioning what good character has got to do with British nationality. Immigration solicitors would say that it is a good question because if you are born British your subsequent ‘character’ is rarely relevant to your status as a British national. However, if you want to apply for British nationality and you are over the age of ten, then you have to satisfy the Home Office that you are of ‘good character’ as part of your naturalisation application.

British nationality solicitors

London based OTS Solicitors specialise in British nationality law and have substantial experience in making successful British Citizenship applications. If you are concerned about whether you will meet the good character test or want advice on a British Citizenship application then OTS Solicitors can help you.
To speak to an immigration solicitor at OTS Solicitors about your British citizenship questions and application call us on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online form.

Who has to be of good character?

If you are applying for naturalisation or for registration for those age ten or over at the date of the application then you have to be of ‘good character’. Those age under ten escape the requirement to be of good character. However, if an adult is refused British Citizenship due to failing the good character requirement, that can affect their child’s application to register as a British citizen.

What does good character mean?

To many people being of ‘good character’ means that you don’t have any criminal convictions, save perhaps for minor motoring offences. However, when you are making an application for British Citizenship the Home Office definition of being of good character is far more wide sweeping and includes:

 Your Immigration history;

 Any outstanding tax liabilities;

 Any National Health Service treatment debt;

 Your criminal record.

The type of good character concern that raises a red flag on your British Citizenship application may be a matter that you are not even aware of.

Good character and criminal convictions

In the UK a criminal conviction is either classed as ‘spent’ or ‘unspent’. A spent conviction is a conviction that has reached an age when it can be removed from your criminal record. An unspent criminal conviction is one where the conviction remains on your record and therefore appears on a criminal record check.
Most people think that a spent conviction means it is not relevant to your British nationality application. However, when you are contemplating making a naturalisation application it is best to take legal advice if you have any worries about the Home Office good character requirement or any convictions. That is because when you are applying for naturalisation, criminal convictions that would otherwise be deemed ‘spent’ for other official purposes are considered by UK Visas and Immigration.

Good character and the impact of criminal sentencing

If you are convicted of an offence then whether you are successful in your application for British nationality and the timing of your application will be influenced by the criminal sentence you received.

The Home Office guidance on the impact of a criminal sentence is set out below:

Criminal sentence and impact on naturalisation application:
- Criminal sentence of four years or more in prison- Any application for British Citizenship will usually be refused
- Criminal sentence of between one year and four years in prison- Any application for British Citizenship will normally be refused unless 10 years have elapsed from the end of your sentence of imprisonment
- Criminal sentence of up to one year in prison- Any application for British Citizenship will normally be refused unless 10 years have elapsed from the end of your sentence of imprisonment
- Non-custodial sentence – such as probation or a fine- Any application for British Citizenship will normally be refused unless three years have elapsed from date of conviction.

Good character and overseas convictions

If you received a conviction overseas you might think that UK Visas and Immigration might treat the conviction differently to a conviction and sentence in the UK. After all, many overseas countries impose far harsher custodial sentences than the UK so you may think Immigration officials should look at applications based on the nature of the offence rather than the sentence received. However, UK Visas and Immigration treat an overseas criminal conviction in the same way as if it was received in the UK.

Good character and cautions

Immigration solicitors are often told by applicants for British Citizenship that they accepted a caution from the police as a way to avoid a lengthy or embarrassing criminal prosecution. Although it is best that everyone arrested for an offence takes legal advice, not everyone does or considers the impact of accepting a caution on their future Immigration and settlement plans or Employment prospects.
A caution is recorded on your criminal record and is an out-of-court disposal for the purposes of assessing the good character requirement in a nationality application.

Good character and minor offences

Most of us think that you should be able to keep your ‘good character’ record if all you have done wrong is receive a fixed penalty fine for say speeding or not paid your council tax or television licence. However, if you do not pay up and there is a court case and a court order then the matter is treated as a non-custodial disposition. That is why if you are thinking that you would like to apply for naturalisation it is best to take legal advice and not let what started out as a minor matter impede and delay your application for British Citizenship.

Good character and the UKVI assessment

When you think of someone unknown Home Office official assessing your good character it can feel a bit like being back at school. In the case of an application for British Citizenship the Home Office is not just looking at your criminal record, if any.

When assessing your naturalisation application the Home Office officials can check:

 Whether you have paid your tax and whether HMRC have any questions about your tax returns. What you thought of as a minor hiccup with HMRC can suddenly become a potential obstacle to British nationality;

 Are there any concerns over non-payment of council tax or council tax claims, such as an investigation into a claim for single person discount;

 Within the last ten years has there been any record of non-compliance with Immigration Rules, for example non-compliance with visa conditions, overstaying on a visa.

Good character and next steps

When it comes to your good character you cannot be too careful with it. As the rules on good character are complicated and many people who thought they had led fairly blameless lives can nonetheless be deemed to not be of good character, it is best to take legal advice on the good character requirement before submitting your application for British Citizenship.

British nationality solicitors

If you are considering applying to naturalise as a British citizen it is best to take expert Immigration law advice on your Immigration, the good character requirement and citizenship options before making the decision to apply for naturalisation as a British citizen.
OTS Solicitors are specialist in Immigration law and British nationality. The firm is recommended for Immigration law in the leading law directories, Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession and the Legal 500. OTS Solicitors also have Law Society accredited solicitor status as trusted specialists in Immigration law.
For information on naturalisation as a British citizen and for help with applying to become a British citizen call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form.

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