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The good character requirement: Minor offences that could cost you your British citizenship

by John Dunn | Jun 26, 2018
  • Regardless of the route taken to British citizenship, every applicant will have to satisfy the good character requirement. As the name suggests, it is used by British officials to assess your character and determine whether you could be conducive to the public good in the UK. While there are some obvious reasons for applications being refused, there are also minor breaches that could result in an application being red flagged and possibly denied. It is the latter that you need to be more concerned with.
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    What is the good character test?

    The good character test is a mandatory requirement that anyone over the age of 10 who is applying for naturalisation or registration as a British citizen needs to meet. If you fail to meet the requirements of the test, your application for citizenship will be refused.

    All applicants are assessed based on criteria set out in the UK government’s national policy guidance. Home Office officials use this guidance to assess each nationality application and determine whether the individual meets the good character requirement.

    The importance of disclosure

    A major requirement is that you answer all questions in the application process honestly and in full. You will also have to declare any involvement in anything which might indicate that you are not of good character. All criminal convictions both within and outside of the UK must be declared, no matter how long ago it was and however minor they may be.

    Officials will conduct verification checks on your responses. Concealment of information or lack of honesty is classified as deception and is grounds for the refusal of an application. This is true no matter how minor the infraction you have tried to conceal is.

    What type of offence must be disclosed?

    The good character requirement goes beyond the scope of simply being free from criminal convictions. These are some of the most likely categories that could put your application at risk:

    • Traffic offences
    • Financial soundness
    • Immigration-related issues
    • Public order

    Traffic offences

    Fines and notices that have been referred to a court due to non-payment will be treated as conviction. So be sure to settle any fines you receive before you are summoned to pay them.

    Even where a person has not received a fine within the last three years, the decision maker may still conclude that a person is not of good character. Reason to refuse an application is quite strong in cases where a person has committed multiple offenses of this kind, as it shows a pattern of offending.

    Financial soundness

    You need to ensure all of your financial affairs (in the UK and abroad) are in order before you begin the application process. This includes any tax or financial issues such as bankruptcy, liquidation or debt.

    As part of your application for citizenship, you authorise the Home Office to conduct verification checks which include credit checks, should the Home Office deem it necessary. It is therefore vital that you disclose all infringements, regardless of when they occurred.

    An application will not normally be refused 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, Home Office will normally refuse the application.

    Similarly, Home Office will determine 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 being obtained.

    Should you be affected by any of the above, you should seek professional advice before attempting an application. If you’re worried about your personal tax situation, get in touch with a UK-based accounting firm.

    Immigration-related issues

    This includes minor or major breaches of immigration law, such as overstaying your visa (even by a short period) or working when your visa did not permit you to. If within the 10 years preceding the application, an individual has not been compliant with immigration requirements, the Home Office will normally refuse that person’s application.

    Public order

    An application will normally be refused if there is evidence that suggests a person has made themselves notorious in the local or wider community. This will be determined on the scale and persistence of their behaviour. This does not need to be politically-related. A person that is a known football hooligan could also be regarded as a public order risk.

    When in doubt, ask the experts

    While it’s important to familiarise yourself with the requirements of the good character test prior to your application, the laws and requirements often change. If you’re unsure about anything in your application it is much, much, safer to check with a UK citizenship expert first, before you apply. Often, if you take steps before you apply, you will be able to sail through the good character requirement with ease. However, if you apply and you fail you may find yourself unable to be granted citizenship ever.


    Should you have any questions or need assistance with any part of your British citizenship application, send us an email on citizenship@sableinternational.com or call us on +44 (0) 20 7759 7581 and one of our citizenship experts will be in touch with you.

    We are a professional services company that specialises in cross-border financial and immigration advice and solutions.

    Our teams in the UK, South Africa and Australia can ensure that when you decide to move overseas, invest offshore or expand your business internationally, you’ll do so with the backing of experienced local experts.

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