28 September 2022

Changes to Good Character requirements in nationality applications

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Changes to Good Character requirements in nationality applications

The Home Office nationality guidance on the good character requirement has now been updated to reflect the provisions on lawful residence that took effect on June 28, 2022. The BNA 1981 does not define good character. However, this guidance sets out the particular types of conduct which must be taken into account when assessing whether a person has satisfied the requirement to be of good character. Section 9 and Schedule 1 of the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 introduced the provisions into the British Nationality Act 1981. (And by section 12 with additional regard to refugees).

Illegal entry, overstaying, and absconding are all examples of violations of the lawful residence requirement. These include but are not limited to the basic residence requirement in which applicants must have spent a certain period of time in the UK before they are eligible to apply for naturalisation:

  • Three years’ residence for spouses of British citizens
  • Five years’ residence for non-spouses

Previously, immigration violations committed within the 5-year period preceding the submission of a citizenship application could be grounds for refusal because the individual did not meet the lawful residence requirement. If the violation occurred within the 10-year period preceding the application, it could be grounds for refusal on the grounds that they did not meet the good character requirement.

The rules have been changed. Individuals with indefinite leave to remain can be treated as having met the lawful residence requirement during the 5-year qualifying period without further investigation.

In accordance with this change, illegal entry, overstaying, and absconding may also be disregarded when assessing good character requirements over the applicable 10-year period. But only if all the following conditions are met:

  • 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.

Some lawful residence violations will continue to be considered in certain applications, along with other good character factors. 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 violations that do not involve lawful residence (for example, work-related violations or failure to comply with reporting requirements) must still be considered.

Other modifications to the guidance

A section on travel bans has been added, presumably in response to shifting international tensions. A person who is the subject of a travel ban must be refused entry clearance under section 8B of the Immigration Act 1971, and if the individual is already in the country, any permission they have must be cancelled. A person who is subject to a travel ban is unlikely to be of good character.

According to the guidance, a fine imposed under the coronavirus regulations counts as a fixed penalty notice. Finally, it is clarified that pending prosecutions include situations in which a person is under investigation but has not yet been charged with an offence. Citizenship will not normally be granted to someone who is facing criminal charges, and the application will be put on hold.


The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Connaught Law and authors accept no responsibility for loss that may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Connaught Law. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Connaught 

About the Author

Awais has an extensive experience of advising high net-worth individuals on all types of immigration matters, ranging from investor and entrepreneur visa applications to appeals and judicial reviews in the Immigration Tribunal and the High Court.

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