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Guidance update: good character in nationality applications


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The Home Office nationality guidance on the good character requirement has now been updated in line with the provisions on lawful residence that came into force on 28 June 2022. The provisions were introduced into the British Nationality Act 1981 by section 9 and Schedule 1 of the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 (and by section 12 with additional regard to refugees).

Breaches of the lawful residence requirement include illegal entry to the United Kingdom, overstaying, and absconding.

Previously, immigration breaches made in the 5-year period before the submission of a citizenship application may have been grounds for refusal on the basis that the individual did not meet the lawful residence requirement. If the breach was made in the 10-year period before the application was submitted, it could become grounds for refusal on the basis that they did not meet the good character requirement.

The rules have now been amended. Where an individual holds indefinite leave to remain, they can be treated as meeting the lawful residence requirement during the 5-year qualifying period, without further enquiry.

To align with this change, illegal entry, overstaying and absconding may also be disregarded when assessing good character requirements during the relevant 10-year period. But only where all of the following factors apply:

  • The individual is applying for naturalisation as a British citizen, or registration under s.4(2), 6(1) or 6(2) of the British Nationality Act 1981 after 28 June 2022;
  • The person holds indefinite leave to enter or remain; and
  • No concerns (for example relating to their character) have arisen since the grant of indefinite leave that might cast doubt on the decision.

It will remain appropriate for some lawful residence breaches to be cosnidered, alongside other good character factors, in certain applications. These may include, but are not limited to: 

  • Where historic information has come to light which, had it been known at the grant of settlement, may have led to refusal
  • Where something occurred after the grant of settlement to indicate revocation of the status may be appropriate
  • Applications to naturalise as a British overseas territory citizen

Immigration breaches that do not relate to lawful residence (for example work-related breaches, or failure to observe reporting requirements) must still be considered.

Other changes to the guidance

A section on travel bans has been introduced, presumably in light of ever-changing international tension. Under section 8B of the Immigration Act 1971 a person who is the subject of a travel ban must be refused entry clearance and if the individual is already in the country, any permission they have must be cancelled. A person who is the subject of a travel ban will not normally be of good character.

The guidance states that a fine imposed under the coronavirus regulations counts as a fixed penalty notice.  

And finally, there is clarification that “pending prosecutions” includes where a person is under investigation but has not yet been charged with an offence. Citizenship will not normally be granted to a person who has a pending prosecution, and the application will remain on hold (unless there are other grounds to refuse the application straight away).

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