How criminal convictions in the UK can affect the good character requirement?
An applicant will normally be refused if they:
- have a criminal conviction which falls within the sentence-based thresholds
- are a persistent offender
- have committed an offence which has caused serious harm
- have committed a sexual offence or their details are recorded by the police on a register
What is setnence based threshold for good character requirement for naturalisation as a British Citizen?
An applicant will normally be refused if they have received:
- a custodial sentence of at least 4 years
- a custodial sentence of at least 12 months but less than 4 years unless a period of 15 years has passed since the end of the sentence
- a custodial sentence of less than 12 months unless a period of 10 years has passed since the end of the sentence
- a non-custodial sentence or other out-of-court disposal that is recorded on their criminal record which occurred in the 3 years prior to the date of application
It is pertinent to note that the whole sentence imposed by the court that counts, not the time served by the applicant. The Rehabilitation of Offenders (Northern Ireland) Order 1978 still applies to applicants who reside in Northern Ireland. This means that the fact a conviction is spent will be relevant to these applications.
Do convictions and sentences imposed outside the UK affect naturalisation application?
Yes, overseas convictions and sentences can result in refusal of a naturalisation application on good character grounds. Any overseas conviction or non-custodial sentence will be treated by the Home Office in the same way as one imposed in the UK. The starting point will always be the sentence imposed.
Does being a persistent offender affect the naturalisation application?
According to Home Office Guidance, the overall pattern of behaviour may justify refusing an application, even if the individual sentences imposed would not normally in themselves be a reason for refusal. When considering whether the applicant falls to be refused because they are a persistent offender, the Home Office will consider:
- the number of offences committed, the seriousness of those offences and the timescale over which they were committed
- the impact of the offences on the public
- whether the offences have escalated in seriousness
Can my naturalisation application be refused on the grounds of committing an offence which has caused serious harm?
It is at the discretion of the Secretary of State whether he/she considers an offence to have caused serious harm. When considering whether the applicant falls to be refused because they have committed an offence which has caused serious harm, the Home Office will take into account any offender management reports and any sentencing remarks made by the judge relating to the impact on the victim. Where a person has been convicted of one or more violent, drugs or sex offences, or hate crime or racially/religiously motivated offences, they will usually be considered to have been convicted of an offence that has caused serious harm. However, the Home Office must balance these considerations with the length of time passed since the offence occurred.
Will my naturalisation application be refused if I am on register of sex offenders?
The Sexual Offences Act 2003 requires a person to notify their local police force of their name, address and other details, including any changes to those details, if, in respect of certain sexual offences. Details are recorded by the police on a register (commonly known as the Sex Offenders Register).
Any application for British Citizenship from a person who is subject to reporting notifications or to one of the orders for sexual offences will normally be refused for as long as the order remains in force. This is regardless of whether their conviction or convictions still come within the sentence-based thresholds. A person’s inclusion on the register will cease after a set period of time. This depends on how long they were sentenced to be on the register.
How would non-custodial sentences and other out of court disposals affect my naturalisation application?
Various types of non-custodial sentences and penalties a person may receive can reflect negatively on a person’s character. A person's application for naturalisation as a British may not succeed if he has received non-custodian sentence or has had other out of court disposal within last 3 years before decision on the application.
Absolute and conditional discharges
Absolute and conditional discharges are considered as non-custodial offences or other out of court disposals, recorded on a person’s criminal record. The exception to this is where the person is given a conditional discharge but commits a further offence during the period of conditional discharge and is re-sentenced. In such a case the order conditionally discharging the person will be considered as a conviction when assessing the good character requirement.
A fine counts as a criminal conviction and forms part of someone’s criminal record. Fines must be declared and may result in refusal if received within the last three years.
Fixed Penalty Notices
A fixed penalty notice will not normally result in refusal unless the person has failed to pay or has unsuccessfully challenged the notice and there were subsequent criminal proceedings resulting in a conviction. In such instances, they would be treated in line with the sentence imposed by the court. However, multiple fixed penalty notices over a short period of time could demonstrate a disregard for the law and therefore demonstrate that someone is not of good character.
Cautions, Warnings And Reprimands
A caution (simple or conditional), youth caution, warning or reprimand, are all examples of an ‘out of court disposal’ which are recorded on a person’s criminal record. Youth cautions are a formal out of court disposal that can be used as an alternative to prosecution for young offenders (aged 10 to 17) in certain circumstances.
A reprimand is issued for a minor first offence and where there is sufficient evidence for prosecution. A final warning is issued by the police for a second offence, no matter how minor. It is also possible to get a final warning for a serious first offence.
A reprimand and a final warning are non-custodial sentences and would be treated in the same way as a caution when considering whether an applicant meets the good character requirement. Even where a person does not have a caution, warning or reprimand within the last 3 years, an application may still be refused if the person has received multiple disposals of this kind that show a pattern of offending.
A community resolution is used for less serious offences or anti-social behaviour. It is a tool which enables the police to make decisions about how to deal more proportionately with lower level crime and is primarily aimed at first time offenders where genuine remorse has been expressed and where the victim has agreed that they do not want the police to take more formal action. In establishing whether the good character requirement is met, Home Office would consider the seriousness of the offence and whether it was a first-time offence.
Where a person is convicted of a crime by a court they may receive a variety of sentences other than custody. These are often referred to as community sentences.
They are designed to allow offenders to follow programmes to rehabilitate them, or to do work for the community.
Having one or more of the community sentences is a non-custodial sentence or other out of court disposal that is recorded on a person’s criminal record. Even where a person does not have a community sentence within the last 3 years, Home Office may still conclude that a person is not of good character, and therefore refuse an application, if they have received multiple disposals of this kind that show a pattern of offending.
Detention And Training Orders
A detention or training order (DTO) applies to young people aged between 12 and 17 who have been given a sentence of between four months and two years. The first half of the sentence is spent in custody and the second half in the community. The seriousness of the offence is always taken into account when a young person is sentenced to a DTO.
Confiscation And Forfeiture Orders
A confiscation order is made after conviction to deprive a person of the financial benefit or benefits they have obtained from criminal conduct. This is similar to a fine, with the person against whom the order has been made having to pay the amount within a set period. However, it is not treated as a fine for the purposes of a conviction and it does not count as a non-custodial sentence.
Instead, where a person has had a confiscation or forfeiture order made against them, Home Office would consider whether that indicates a person is not of good character (either on its own or in combination with other factors) even if the sentence they received alongside the order would not in itself lead to a refusal.
The criminal and civil courts have numerous powers to make orders relating to a person’s conduct, and whilst the making of such an order does not result in a conviction being recorded against the individual concerned, this will have a bearing on any assessment of that person’s character. Some orders follow automatically on conviction. For example, a restraining order may follow on from a conviction for assault. Others may be applied for by the police, the CPS or the alleged victim.
An order may contain conditions prohibiting an individual from carrying out specific anti-social acts or, for example, entering defined areas. A civil order will not normally result in refusal unless the person has:
- violated or broken the civil order and there were criminal proceedings as a result, or
- received an order or orders which would suggest a pattern of behaviour that calls into question their character, or
- there are other factors to suggest the individual is not of good character.
In cases where a person has violated or broken the civil order and there were criminal proceedings as a result, you must consider this as a conviction and assess it in line with the new sentence imposed.
Hospital Orders And Restriction Orders
Hospital orders are different to civil orders. A crown court or magistrate’s court in England or Wales may authorise detention in a hospital for treatment where a person has committed an offence (for example, a hospital order under section 37 of the Mental Health Act 1983). To do this the court should be satisfied that the offender is suffering from mental illness, psychopathic disorder, or some degree of mental impairment.
In addition to a hospital order, the court may impose a restriction order under section 41 of the 1983 Act. The court will take into account the nature of the offence, the person’s history, and the risk of the person offending in the future. Where a person is the subject of a hospital order, it is important to find out whether there is a restriction order too.
A hospital order will usually cease to have effect on the date the person is discharged from hospital. This will happen unless the person has been recalled to hospital. In these cases, the order remains in effect until fully discharged.
Being subject to a hospital order is a non-custodial offence or other out of court disposal that is recorded on a person’s criminal record. However, if the hospital order or restricted hospital order has not been fully discharged, Home Office would normally refuse the application irrespective of when the person was subject to the order.
How would Home Office UKVI consider cumulative non-custodial sentences in my application for naturalisation as a British Citizen?
Home Office, UKVI 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. This will be a case specific consideration, taking account of the following factors:
- Number of non-custodial sentences: Home Office will consider the number of non-custodial sentences or other out of court disposals on the applicant’s record. There is no set number of non-custodial sentences or other out of court disposals that would lead to an application being refused; however, the higher the number the more likely it is the application will be refused.
- Period over which offences were committed: Home Office will consider the period over which offences were committed or other disposals occurred. For example, a series of minor offences or disposals in a short space of time may indicate a pattern of sustained anti-social behaviour or disregard for the law which will be relevant to the assessment of the person’s character.
- Older non-custodial sentences or out of court disposals may be relevant if there are other serious factors.
- Nature of the offences: Home Office will consider the nature of the offences or the behaviour that led to other disposals. For example, anti-social behaviour, drug use, or violence may indicate that a person’s character is such that their application should be refused (particularly if there is a pattern of such behaviour)
- Applicant’s age at the date of conviction: Home Office will consider the applicant’s age at the time older non-custodial sentences were imposed or other out of court disposals took place. Isolated youthful indiscretions will not generally indicate a person is of bad character if that individual has clearly been of good character since that time.
- Exceptional or other circumstances: Home Office will consider the relevance of particular circumstances in someone’s life when they received the non-custodial sentence or the other out of court disposal.
The list of factors above is not exhaustive.
Do pending prosecutions affect application for naturalisation as a British?
Pending prosecutions may be discovered through criminality checks or because they are self-declared by the person. British Citizenship will not normally be granted to a person who has a pending prosecution and the Home Office will normally place the application on hold until the outcome of judicial proceedings.
What be the effect of international crimes, terrorism and other non-condusive activities on a person's naturalisation application?
A person's application for naturalisation as a British Citizen may be refused by the Home Office UKVI if the person has been involved in activity or behaviour that are not conducive to the public good and where the person poses or has posed a threat to the public, or particular sections of society, whether in the UK or elsewhere.
Also, if there is information to suggest that the person has been involved in international crimes or serious human rights violations, they will not normally be considered to be of good character and the application for naturalisation as a British Citizen will fall to be refused.
Can a person's financial soundness have any effect on meeting the good character requirement for naturalisation as a British Citizen?
The financial situations of a person can affect his good character when deciding an application for naturalisation as a British Citizen.
Bankruptcy And Liquidation
The Home Office UKVI will consider whether the person was reckless or irresponsible in their financial affairs leading to their bankruptcy or their company’s liquidation. If so, it is likely to be reflected by a disqualification order which prevents a person from being a Director or taking part in the management of a limited company for a period of up to 15 years. Details of all disqualifications will be on the Companies House website. Where a person has a disqualification order, an application for British Citizenship will normally be refused.
An application will also normally be refused where the person has deliberately relied on a recession to avoid payment of taxes or payment to creditors. However, where the person was made bankrupt or their company went into liquidation through little or no fault of their own, the application will not normally be refused. For example, they may have simply been a victim of the poor business decisions of others or their business has been severely affected by an economic downturn.
An application will not normally be refused simply because the person is in debt, especially if loan repayments have been made as agreed or if acceptable efforts are being made to pay off accumulated debts. However, where a person deliberately and recklessly builds up debts and there is no evidence of a serious intention to pay them off, the application will normally be refused.
A person will not normally be considered to be of good character if they have outstanding debts to the NHS in accordance with the relevant NHS regulations on charges to overseas visitors. The Home Office will write to the applicant in all cases where checks have identified there is an outstanding NHS debt and ask them to demonstrate they have paid their debt. Once an NHS debt has been cleared, Home Office UKVI will not count it when assessing whether an applicant is of good character.
Fraud in relation to public funds
An application will not be refused simply because the person is reliant on public funds. However, an applicant may be knowingly drawing or has knowingly drawn public funds to which they are not entitled. Where this is the case, the application for citizenship will normally be refused.
Non-payment of council tax
An application will not normally be refused where the person has been unable to pay council tax because of their financial position, particularly if an arrangement is being, or has been, negotiated with the relevant authority. However, payment of council tax is a legal requirement and non-compliance is a punishable offence. Therefore, an application will normally be refused where a person has either:
- unreasonably failed to pay
- provided a false statement or statements, including failing to declare their full circumstances, to avoid paying the correct rate
Can I be refused naturalisation as a British Citizen based on allegations of deception and dishonesty?
Concealment of information or lack of frankness will raise doubt about, and therefore reflect poorly on, the applicant’s character. An application will normally be refused only where the person has attempted to lie or conceal the truth about an aspect of their application, whether on the application form or in the course of enquiries, including where they have knowingly provided false personal details, for example date of birth, name or nationality.
Deceitful or dishonest dealings with Her Majesty’s Government
An application will normally be refused where the person has attempted to deceive or otherwise been clearly dishonest in their dealings with another government department. Where false or deliberately misleading information was provided in an earlier immigration application, Home Office will consider whether it is also appropriate to refuse on grounds of deception. The extent to which false information was provided would be be assessed and what, if anything, was intended or actually gained as a result.
The Home Office UKVI should not refuse an application if they are satisfied that the person made a genuine mistake on an application form or claimed something to which they reasonably believed or were advised they were entitled to and there are no other adverse factors impacting on the applicant’s good character.
Failure to disclose information required in a nationality application
Where the applicant fails to disclose information that would result in the application being refused on good character grounds, the application will be refused and any further application for citizenship will normally be refused for the next 10 years. This applies unless it is accepted that the failure to disclose was unintentional and a genuine error.
Deception in previous applications
An application will normally be refused where there is evidence that a person has employed deception either:
- during the citizenship application process
- in a previous immigration application in the previous 10 years
An application will normally be refused if there has been any deception in the 10 years prior to the application for citizenship. For these purposes, the deception is regarded as continuing until the date on which it is discovered or admitted. For example, if a person used deception in an application in 2008, but that was discovered or admitted to in 2010, the 10-year period would start in 2010.
Can immigration related issues affect good character requirement for naturalisation as a British Citizen?
The immigration abuses by a person can be relevant when assessing the good character requirement in citizenship applications.
If the applicant is the subject of an extant deportation order, they will normally fall to be refused. If a decision is made to revoke the deportation order Home Office will proceed to consider the application in the usual manner.
Sham marriages or civil partnerships and marriages or civil partnerships of convenience
An application will normally be refused where there is evidence that a person has entered or attempted to enter into a sham marriage or civil partnership or a marriage or civil partnership of convenience in the 10 years prior to the application. For these purposes, the 10-year period starts from the point the deception is discovered or admitted.
Abuse of the English language or Knowledge of Life tests
An application will normally be refused where there is evidence that a person has practised deception in a Knowledge of Life, Life in the UK or English language test in the 10 years prior to the application.
Prosecution for false statements (applications for citizenship)
Under section 46(1) of the British Nationality Act 1981 (BNA 1981), a person who knowingly or recklessly makes a false statement, either in the application or during an interview, is liable to prosecution. In cases where a false statement is made, Home Office will consider referring the evidence to the police. If the CPS decides to prosecute a person, a decision on the application will be deferred until the outcome of the proceedings is known. Any subsequent application for citizenship will also normally be refused if it is made within 10 years from the date of the refusal on these grounds.
False statements by referees
Referees may also be liable to prosecution under section 46(1) where they have been involved in attempts to deceive, for example, by deliberately making false statements about the length and nature of their acquaintance with the person. An application will normally be refused if there has been any deception by a referee in the 10 years prior to the application for citizenship. For these purposes, the deception is regarded as continuing until the date on which it is discovered or admitted.
Failing to pay litigation costs
Litigation debt is a debt owed to the Home Office where the court or Tribunal has ordered another party to pay Home Office legal costs. Failing to pay litigation costs owed to the Home Office may demonstrate that a person is not of good character.
Non-compliance with immigration requirements
An application will normally be refused if, within the previous 10 years (before the date of decision), the person has not complied with immigration requirements, including having:
- failed to comply with (breached) conditions imposed under the Immigration Acts, for example:
- accessed public funds when prohibited from doing so
- worked in the UK without permission to do so
- studied in the UK in contravention of any restrictions on studying
- failed, without reasonable excuse, to report when required to do so
- remained in the UK after their leave, including when leave extended by virtue of section 3C or 3D of the Immigration Act 1971 has expired.
Abuse of immigration requirements may also occur if a person enters or remains in the UK for a purpose other than that for which they were given leave to enter or remain. For example, where a person is found to be working full time in the UK having entered the UK as a Tier 4 student and having failed to undertake or complete the course of study for which the leave was given.
Where a person overstayed at some point in the 10 years prior to an application for citizenship, discretion to overlook this breach will normally only be considered if it is the sole adverse factor weighing against the person’s good character; and
- the person’s application for leave to remain was made before 24 November 2016 and within 28 days of the expiry of their previous leave, or
- the person’s application for leave to remain was made on or after 24 November 2016, and the application did not fall for refusal on the grounds of overstaying because an exception under paragraph 39E of the Immigration Rules applied, or
- the period without leave was not the fault of the applicant, for example where it arose from a Home Office decision to refuse which is subsequently withdrawn or quashed or which the courts have required the Home Office to reconsider.
If an applicant entered the UK illegally, an application for citizenship will normally be refused if the illegal entry is confirmed as having occurred during the preceding 10 years. However, Article 31 states that refugees should not have any penalties imposed upon them as a consequence of illegally entering or being present in the country of refuge illegally in order to seek sanctuary, provided that they:
- travelled to the country of refuge directly from the territory where they fear persecution
- presented themselves to the domestic authorities without delay
- showed good cause for their illegal entry or presence
An applicant who, having entered illegally, delayed claiming asylum beyond this period will normally be refused citizenship unless there is a reasonable explanation for the delay.
A person given temporary admission, temporary release, bail or release on a restriction order may be required to report at stipulated intervals to a port of entry or to an immigration reporting centre. A person who fails to comply with any reporting restrictions, thus no longer maintaining contact with the Home Office so that their whereabouts are unknown, may become subject to absconder action. A person who has previously absconded will normally be refused citizenship for a period of 10 years from the date they last brought themselves or came to the attention of the Home Office after having absconded.
Assisting illegal migration
An application for citizenship will normally be refused if there are grounds for believing that the person is currently, or has previously been, involved in an attempt to assist someone in the evasion of immigration control. This includes a person who has assisted another person to enter or attempt to enter into a sham marriage or civil partnership. In such cases refusal will normally be indefinite.
An application will normally be refused if, within the previous 10 years (before the date of decision), the person has worked in the UK when their conditions of leave prohibited employment.
Hiring illegal workers
Where there is reliable evidence to suggest that a person has employed illegal workers, their application for citizenship will normally be refused. In such cases refusal will normally be indefinite.
Deprivation of citizenship
In cases where the deprivation was based on fraud, false representation or the concealment of material fact under section 40(3) of the BNA 1981, any further application made within a period of 10 years from the date the deprivation order was issued will normally be refused. For cases where the deprivation decision was made on ‘conducive to the public good’ grounds under section 40(2) of the BNA 1981, any further application will normally be refused. For example, deprivation on the grounds that someone has committed a serious criminal offence may also involve a conviction that will mean a person would never normally be eligible to re-acquire citizenship. If a person re-applies for citizenship after having been deprived and asks for discretion to be exercised in their favour, applications should be referred to the Chief Caseworker.
How does the Home Office UKVI apply the good character requirement to young persons?
The good character requirement applies to a person who is aged 10 or over at the date of application. When assessing whether a child is of good character, the Home Office caseworker must take account of any mitigation relevant to the child’s particular circumstances. Consideration must also be given by Home Office caseworkers to any subsequent mitigation put forward by the applicant that was not taken into account at the time of sentencing.
The Home Office caseworker may exercise discretion where a child’s criminality would result in a lifetime refusal of any citizenship application (i.e. over 4 years in prison). In these cases the amount of time passed since the crime should be weighed up against any evidence of rehabilitation.