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"Good character" issues on the way to naturalising as a British citizen

Written by
Oxana Macovsca, Master Legal Services
Date of Publication:
22 July 2019

You have been living in the UK for a sufficient period of time, working, developing a business, studying, paying all your taxes. You are currently in the UK possessing one of the following: permanent residence, indefinite leave to remain, settled status. You are eligible to apply for British citizenship.

All these factors are definitely important, but one cannot be confident about the successful outcome of the application if any doubts regarding good character arise. The "good character" section may sometimes be more important than any other group of questions.

There is no exhaustive list of good character requirements and the application could be rejected due to even minor breaches, leading to one's failure in being granted citizenship. The Home Office Guidance on Good Character Requirements dated 14 January 2019 focuses on the following new sections: good character requirement to minors, absolute and conditional discharges, detention and training orders, extremism, deportation orders, NHS debt, failing to pay litigation costs, as well as adds details regarding overseas convictions, fixed penalty notices, non-compliance with immigration requirements, notably overstaying, absconders and illegal working, humanitarian protection, genuine mistakes.

According to the Migration Observatory's data, up to 40% of refusals in granting UK citizenship are related to the fact that the applicant does not meet good character requirements.

When we speak about the so-called "obvious reasons" like terrorism or other categories of international crimes, financial affairs or violating immigration rules, the situation is clear – do not wait for positive decisions! But it sometimes happens that a person receives a rejection unexpectedly. The decision whether the breach is minor or serious depends upon the caseworker considering the application.

It is necessary to keep in mind that all criminal convictions are taken into consideration, those committed in the UK and abroad. Even if a sentence is completed, a person will have to wait the established period of time in each particular case before applying for citizenship with no guarantee of citizenship being granted.

Non-payment of a fine, multiple fixed penalty notices, unpaid council tax, bankruptcy or liquidation assume bad character as well as any breaching of immigration law within 10 years prior to your citizenship application. This includes overstaying, working illegally, sham marriage, cheating in the "Life in the UK" or English language tests. The application will also be under threat if your behaviour puts public order at risk.

Providing any false details, deception, dishonesty or an attempt to conceal the truth will ultimately lead to refusal.

As mentioned before, there is no distinctly and precisely formulated list of good character requirements. Nevertheless, these criteria remain very important while considering the application; almost half of citizenship applications in the UK are refused as the good character requirements are not met, even if all other points seem to be satisfactory.