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The “Good character” requirement for British Citizenship
When a person submits a British Citizenship application, the UK Home Office carry out certain checks and investigations relating to the ‘good character’ requirement that a person is required to fulfil in order to qualify for British citizenship.
The checks that are carried out inter alia include checks pertaining to the person’s tax affairs, criminal convictions, judgements and immigration history.
The UK Home Office recently made some changes to the citizenship application guidance, by including immigration related issues in the good character guidance. A citizenship application may be refused if the applicant was involved in any immigration offences in the past ten years. Such abuses might include; entering the UK illegally, over-staying on one’s visa, evading immigration control, assisting someone else to abuse the immigration laws etc.
Should a person for instance have over-stayed in the UK in the past, the UK Home Office might request information on why the person over-stayed, an explanation on why it happened and how costs were covered during this period etc.
It is thus very important not to transgress immigration rules in the first instance, as it might also end up in a refusal of one’s British citizenship application.
Applicants also have to ensure that their tax affairs are up to date, as the obligation to pay income tax and National Insurance contributions are one of the checks for the good character requirement of British citizenship. By signing one’s application form for the British citizenship application, you are giving consent to the UK Home Office to check with H.M. Revenue & Customs to confirm that your tax affairs are in order.
If a person has unsolved tax issues, there is a substantial risk that the application will be rejected. If citizenship is refused, the UK Home Office will not cancel the Indefinite Leave to Remain, but may well confirm that a further application for citizenship can only be submitted after the tax issues has been resolved.
A person has to provide full details of all criminal convictions inside and outside the UK. Such convictions include; road traffic offences (fixed penalty notices will not normally be taken into account) and endorsements on one’s driving licence.
The applicant will have to provide details of all civil judgements which have resulted in a court order, as well as any civil penalties under the UK Immigration Act. Details of family law proceedings are not required. Details of bankruptcy charges must also be provided, and where an applicant is an undischarged bankrupt, it is unlikely that the application will succeed.
Other issues that an applicant will inter alia have to declare include;
•Particulars of any cautions, warning or reprimands that have been received in the UK and elsewhere,
•Details of any sexual offences,
•Whether there is any offence for which he/she may go to court or which is awaiting a hearing in court,
•Any involvement in terrorism,
•Any deceptions made in your dealings with any of the government departments, including the UK home Office; and
•Whether any of your children have been convicted of an offence or have received a court order (ASBO).
It is thus clear from the above that the applicant will need to declare almost anything that might indicate that he/she is not of a good character, and details have to be provided in all cases. The UK Home Office does make these checks in all cases and an application may fail and the application fee not refunded where a false declaration is made.
BIC thus recommend that clients always contact their BIC consultant from their application for their first UK visa, in order to be fully informed about what is expected from a person and what not, in order to ensure the route to British citizenship is a smooth one!