If you want your British citizenship application to be approved by the Home Office, you must satisfy their Good Character requirements. If you are not able to fulfil this Good Character test, your British citizenship application will be denied. It is very important that you keep this in mind when applying for British citizenship.
The UK government has a goal to issue no more than 100,000 British passports to previous non-citizens each year, and so has made it drastically harder to gain British citizenship. The number of foreigners gaining a British passport plummeted from 194,370 in 2012 to just 123,229 last year. The number of applications failing has doubled since 2012 because of the Good Character clause and it is now the most common reason that applications are denied.
This vague Good Character clause seems like an easy way to increase rejections. Citizenship officers can deny an application if they have unspecified “doubts about their character”. The reasons might be more obvious, such as criminal offences or terrorism, but you could also be rejected for minor breaches as well.
Immigration lawyers believe that the majority of rejections are due to the Home Office’s harder stance on minor breaches. There is even an increase in minors being denied their citizenship applications because of minor offences committed by their parents.
There is no specific definition for what constitutes a good character in the British Nationality Act 1981 and in the Home Office guidelines, but the following infringements may result in the rejection of your citizenship application (this list is non-exhaustive):
British citizenship application: criminal convictions
You will most likely not be considered of good character if you have been convicted of a crime in the UK or abroad. You could also be denied if there are “reasonable reasons” to presume you have been involved in a crime.
A police caution/warning/reprimand could also red-flag your application.
Assuming you were punished for a crime, depending on the length of your imprisonment, you will have to wait a certain number of years after the completion of your sentence before you can apply for citizenship. In this situation, your application will normally be refused if you don’t wait the required time before applying.
Traffic/environmental/civil offences and fines could also result in the rejection of your application. If you didn’t pay a fine and there were criminal proceedings as a result, you could be refused. Also, if you get multiple Fixed Penalty Notices, it shows a pattern of offending and assumes bad character.
British citizenship application: tax and financial affairs
You have to make sure that your financial and tax affairs are in order before you apply. Any unpaid Council Tax, bankruptcy or liquidation might jeopardize your British citizenship application.
If you deliberately and recklessly built up debts and there is no evidence of a serious intention to pay them off, the decision maker will normally refuse your application.
British citizenship application: immigration-related issues
If you have had any breaches of immigration law within the 10 years prior to your citizenship application, the Home Office will normally deny your application. This includes, for example, overstaying your visa, working illegally, evidence of a bogus marriage, cheating in the “Life in the UK” test or English Language test, assisting others in illegal migration, evasion of immigration control, hiring illegal workers and so on.
British citizenship application: public order
Your application will normally be refused if your activities have or are likely to give rise to a risk to public order, for example if you are a known football hooligan or you make speeches inciting discriminatory violence.
Your application will normally be denied if you are engaged in any actions considered “against the public good”.
British citizenship application: notoriety
If you have made yourself notorious (negatively known) to the local or wider community by the scale and persistence of your behavior, your application can be denied for the following reasons:
– Divorce/separation, or other marital or domestic problems
– Promiscuity or sexual preference within the law
– Drinking or gambling
– Eccentricity, including beliefs, appearance and lifestyle
– Unemployment/poor working habits/other legitimate means of support
British citizenship application: deception and dishonesty
The decision maker will normally refuse your application if you have been clearly dishonest in your dealings with another department of government (for example defrauding the benefits system or providing false details in order to obtain a driving licence).
If you have failed to disclose any outstanding charges or convictions (including minor infractions) that could result in refusal of the application, the decision maker will normally refuse the application.
British citizenship application: how the guidelines are interpreted by citizenship officers
The Home Office official guideline for Good Character requirements says, “There is no definition of good character in the British Nationality Act 1981 (the BNA 1981) and therefore, no statutory guidance as to how this should be interpreted or applied.”
According to the rules, citizenship officers can also deny an application if they have any unspecified “doubts about their character”, whether or not the applicant falls into any of the listed categories of the Home Office guideline, as this list is not exhaustive.
According to lawyers, applicants are rarely rejected because of their marital status or their clothing style, but even though the decision should be reasonable, it is up to the citizenship officer to judge and decide.
The Home Office may also request an interview in order to make an overall assessment.
British citizenship application: DO NOT LIE
During your British citizenship application, you must answer all the questions honestly and in full. The decision maker will normally refuse an application 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. This is the outcome no matter how small the lie is.
When you apply for citizenship, you authorize the Home Office to conduct verification checks on all responses, including credit checks, so you must declare any infringements no matter how small they are, not matter when and where in the world they happened. It is important to know that the Home Office also checks information with other government department and agencies, so they will most likely find out if you lied.
For the complete Home Office official guideline for Good Character requirements, please click here.
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