British Nationality Update: How Overstayers may struggle to meet the Good Character Requirement

A recent Home Office update to the Good Character Requirement for British Nationality applications will now have serious implications for Applicants who have previously overstayed a UK visa within the last 10 years. Whilst there is no substantial definition for “good character” in the British Nationality Act 1981, an updated Home Office policy guidance has now been released which gives further insight into what it means to have “good character” if one wishes to get a British passport. It is important to seek guidance and assistance from our expert immigration lawyers in order to make a successful British Nationality Application.

What is the Good Character Requirement for British Nationality applications?

The Good Character Requirement one of the mandatory requirements set out in the British Nationality Act 1981 which needs to be satisfied by any Applicant over the age of 10 who applies to register or naturalise as a British citizen. Whilst there is no comprehensive definition of what constitutes “good character” in the British Nationality Act 1981, the Home Office policy guidance should be read alongside the British Nationality Act 1981 for examples of what is indicative of bad character. Some of the main examples of what constitutes bad character are criminality, financial soundness, evidence of deception or dishonesty and breaches of immigration law such as overstaying, illegal entry or illegal working.

What does the updated policy guidance say about the Good Character Requirement for British Nationality applications?

The updated Home Office Policy Guidance makes absolutely clear that where someone has overstayed at any point in the 10 years before the application for British citizenship, they will likely be refused.

Prior to 24 November 2016, migrants were permitted a grace period of 28 days after the expiry of any leave during which they could make a further application to renew their leave without being classed as an overstayer. Changes to the Immigration Rules on 24 November 2016 abolished this 28-day grace period and now provide for current overstaying to be disregarded only in a very limited number of scenarios. Otherwise, it is a ground for refusal. Discretion to overlook this breach will only be considered if it is the “sole adverse factor” weighing against the Applicant’s good character and if the Applicant either:

  1. Made an application for leave to remain before 24 November 2016 and within 28 days of the expiry of their previous leave; or
  2. Made an application for leave to remain on or after 24 November 2016, and the application did not fall for refusal on the grounds of overstaying because an exception under paragraph 39E of the Immigration Rules applied; or
  3. The period without leave was not the fault of the Applicant, for example where it arose from a Home Office decision to refuse which is subsequently withdrawn or quashed or which the courts have required the Home Office to reconsider.

Therefore it is clear from the recent guidance update that if an Applicant has a period of overstaying in the UK, it will be extremely difficult for them to be granted British Nationality unless they fall into one of the above 3 categories.

What are the other main requirements for British Nationality applications?

There are a number of other requirements that need to be met in order to successfully apply for British citizenship, such as:

  • Meeting the age requirement depending on which citizenship application is being made in accordance with the British Nationality Act 1981 and relevant Immigration Rules;
  • Intention to make the UK your primary home;
  • Sufficient knowledge of English Language;
  • Sufficient knowledge of Life in the UK;
  • Being of sound mind;
  • Residence requirements; and
  • References.

Understanding the British Nationality Act 1981 and Immigration Rules can be a daunting task, therefore anyone wishing to apply for British citizenship should contact our specialist immigration team so our solicitors can fully explain the Good Character Requirement along with all of the other conditions for applying for Naturalisation or registering as a British citizen during an initial consultation meeting.

Using Legal Representation to submit a British Nationality Application

Legal representatives, such as our specialist immigration and visa law firm, are qualified to advise you on the law and your immigration matter. You can instruct one of our immigration and visa legal representatives to successfully assist you with making a British Nationality Application to the UK Home Office. Our solicitors and Barristers will help you comply with the UK Home Office requirements and meet the UK Immigration Rules.

Caseworkers at the UK Home Office are trained to reject applications which are improperly prepared, for example by failing to provide the correct supporting evidence. In order to ensure your Immigration & Visa application succeeds, our solicitors and barristers will ensure all specified documents must be provided. The UK Immigration Rules are complex and a legal representative can help ensure that your application meets the Immigration Rules.

Successfully meet the Good Character Requirement for a British Nationality Application

Our team of solicitors and barristers are specialist immigration lawyers who act in your best interest. We offer a client-tailored approach from the outset. From the very first meeting, we will be able to advise you in respect of your prospects of submitting a British Nationality Application before your application even reaches the UK Home Office Visa & Immigration department. We can assist you with the preparation and submission of a British Nationality Application and ensure that you meet all the Good Character Requirement and all of the other relevant rules.

Our offices are based in the legal epicentre of London, just across the road from the Royal Courts of Justice in order to ensure we get the best results for our clients.  We are minutes away from the Immigration and Asylum Tribunal, the Royal Courts of Justice and other central London courts.

Preparation is the key to a successful British Nationality Application. Our UK immigration and visa solicitors are here to guide you through the complex immigration rules and requirements. If you wish to meet one of our lawyers, please call our Immigration Team so we can assess your case and arrange your legal consultation to discuss a British Nationality Application.

Contact our London immigration solicitors on 02030110276 or complete our contact form.

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