Good Character for Naturalisation
jawad / 15.11.2023

Good Character Requirement changes for Naturalisation

The changes were introduced by Suella Braverman, aiming to fortify the Home Office's stance on the matter. She stated, "British citizenship is a privilege, not a right. Those who commit crimes should not be entitled to the full spectrum of benefits that citizenship offers, such as holding a British passport, voting rights, and access to free NHS healthcare. I am committed to curbing the misuse of the UK's immigration and nationality system by setting a more stringent threshold, preventing serious criminals from acquiring British citizenship. This is a fair and justifiable course of action for our country."

The new rules are designed to harmonise the handling of criminality in naturalisation applications with the approach to applications made under the Immigration Rules. While the previous system clearly outlined the 'good character' criteria, the new rules afford the Home Office greater discretion in deciding on an application. This necessitates meticulous preparation for applications involving an applicant with a criminal record.

For applications submitted before 31st July 2023, the old rules remain in force. These rules stipulated a specific waiting period based on the sentence received before one could apply for naturalisation.

Under the new system, the approach is distinct. The Home Office will typically reject an application if the applicant falls into any of the following categories: having a custodial sentence of 12 months or more in the UK or abroad, having consecutive sentences totalling at least 12 months, being a persistent offender, having committed an offence causing serious harm, having committed a sexual offence, or being listed on a police register.

However, if an individual has a custodial sentence of less than 12 months or a non-custodial sentence, the application will be rejected unless the Home Office is convinced, on the 'balance of probabilities', that they are of good character.

An 'exceptional grant' may be awarded in cases where the application would usually be rejected. This could apply, for instance, to someone sentenced to 12 months or more imprisonment. 

The guidance provides three examples of when an 'exceptional grant' may be given, offering an insight into how such applications will be assessed. The examples illustrate that the bar is set high for these cases. Nevertheless, the Home Office retains discretion in these matters and may approve an application under special or exceptional circumstances.

For less serious offences, where a person has a custodial sentence of less than 12 months or a non-custodial sentence, the Home Office will apply a 'balance of probabilities' test to determine if they are of good character. This involves weighing the individual circumstances of the case, taking into account factors such as time elapsed since the offences, the number of offences, the period over which the offences were committed, the seriousness and nature of the offences, the applicant's age at the time of conviction, any exceptional or other circumstances, and any other mitigating factors.

When preparing applications, it's crucial to provide evidence addressing these factors and arguing why an individual should be considered of good character