The UK Home Office published new guidance in relation to the good character requirement for Naturalisation applications. This new guidance took immediate effect and was published with the government first giving notice of the changes on the 30th July 2023.
The new guidance represents a significant departure on how the Home Office will deal with an application where a person has a criminal record. The rules were introduced by Suella Braverman with a view to toughening up the Home Office’s approach. She said:
“British citizenship is a privilege. Those who commit crimes shouldn’t be able to enjoy the breadth of rights citizenship brings, including holding a British passport, voting and accessing free medical care from the NHS.
I am cracking down on abuse of the UK’s immigration and nationality system, by introducing a tougher threshold so that serious criminals cannot gain British citizenship. This is the fair and right thing to do for our country.”
The new rules are intended to align the approach to criminality in naturalisation applications with the approach to applications that are made under the Immigration Rules. Whilst the old system was very clear about when someone would be considered to be of good character, the new rules provide the Home Office a greater deal of discretion in how they are going to decide an application. This will make it doubly important to ensure that any applications involving an Applicant with a criminal record are well prepared.
Balance of probabilities they are now of good character
It can be seen from the examples provided, that the threshold is a high one to meet. However, the Home Office will always have a discretion in these types of cases and, where there are special or exceptional circumstances, then it may be that an application can succeed.
Balance of Probabilities Test for less serious offences
Where a person has a custodial sentence of less than 12 months, or a non-custodial sentence, then the Home Office will apply a ‘balance of probabilities’ test to determine whether they are considered to be of good character. This, in summary, will involve balancing the individual circumstances of the matter. In particular, consideration will be given to the following factors:
Length of time since the offences occurred
The number of offences
Period over which the offences were committed
The seriousness of the offence
Any escalation in the seriousness of the offences
The nature of the offences
The Applicant’s age at the date of the conviction
Whether there are exception or other circumstances
Any other mitigating factors
The Home Office will also take into account other factors that may be relevant to a person’s good character.
Barrister Shuvagata Dey Co-founder of Lexpert Solicitors from London told Daily Dazzling Dawn, ‘It will be important when preparing applications to provide evidence that addresses these factors, and puts forward the reasons why a person should be considered of good character.’