UK Naturalisation application – disclosure of previous criminal convictions

We have previously written about harsh penalties for innocent mistakes in UK visa immigration applications. Non-disclosure or previous criminal convictions would most likely result in a refusal of the Naturalisation application. We have received numerous enquiries concerning disclosure of previous convictions in Naturalisation applications. In recent months, we have seen an increase in Naturalisation applications refusals on the grounds that the applicants did not meet the good character requirement. In some cases, the Home Office refused applications where applicants’ convictions were spent or minor.

Criminal convictions will affect your Naturalisation application.

The good character requirement for UK Naturalisation Application

One of the main requirements to apply to become a British citizen is being of good character. That would mean that you do not have a serious or recent criminal record and have not tried to deceive the Home Office or been involved in immigration offences in the last 10 years. The British Nationality Act 1981 does not define ‘a good character’ and there is no statutory guidance as to how this should be interpreted.

The Secretary of State will need to be satisfied that the applicant is of good character on the balance of probabilities. The applicant will need to inform the Home Office about any significant events such as previous criminal convictions or a pending prosecution. When considering the application the decision maker will not normally consider a person to be of good character if there is information to suggest:

  • The applicant has not respected and is not prepared to abide by the law (i.e. has been convicted of a crime)
  • The applicant has been involved or associated with war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide, terrorism or other actions that are considered not to be conducive to the public good
  • The applicant’s financial affairs were not in appropriate order (e.g. they have failed to pay taxes)
  • The applicant’s activities were notorious or cast serious doubt on their standing in their local community
  • The applicant had been deliberately dishonest or deceptive in their dealings with the UK government
  • The applicant has assisted in the evasion of immigration control
  • The applicant has previously been deprived of citizenship

Failure to disclosure previous convictions in the Naturalisation Application

The fact of having previous convictions does not necessarily mean that the applicant’s application will be refused. However the applicant will need to be suitable for citizenship in all other respects and it is more likely that the application will be successful if the offence was very minor. The decision maker will consider all aspects of the applicant’s convictions, such as the length of sentence, when it was imposed and type of crime.

The Home Office guidance indicates the impact of previous convictions on the Naturalisation application:

  • A sentence of 4 years’ or more imprisonment – the application will normally be refused, regardless of the conviction occurred
  • A sentence between 12 months’ and 4 years’ imprisonment – the application will normally be refused unless 15 years have passed since the end of the sentence
  • A sentence up to 12 months’ imprisonment – the application will normally be refused unless 10 years have passed since the end of the sentence
  • A non-custodial sentence or other out of court disposal that is recorded on a person’s criminal record – the application will normally be refused if the conviction occurred in the last 3 years

The applicants will need to make sure that they are familiar with the above requirements and that they understand the importance of providing the Home Office with accurate information. The Home Office will normally refuse all applications where the Good Character Requirement has not been met and will only exercise a discretion where convictions arise and are not disclosed in the most exceptional circumstances.

A certain amount of time will need to have passed since the end of sentence in order to make a successful application. As stated in the Home Office guidance the “end of sentence” means the entire sentence imposed, not just the time the person spent in prison. Numerous cases have gone through lengthy appeal process because of the errors made in the applications; this is both time consuming and costly when you take into account all the court fees and litigation fees.  Applicants should seek legal advice before submitting application to avoid the disappointment and harsh after effects of a refusal.

Contact us for a successful UK Naturalisation application

Our team of experienced and professionally qualified solicitors and barristers will be able to guide you through the process step by step and limit the possibility of failure by complying with the strict letter of the law. Please always call us for a telephone case assessment even if you wish to consider other advisers.

Our Immigration Experts are able to give specialist legal information and advice in this area of law. To contact one of our Immigration Solicitors or Immigration Barristers please complete our legal case assessment form and we will get in touch or call us now on 0845 8622 529 for a free telephone assessment and free case assessment.

If you wish to consider your options, please call our Immigration Team so we can assess your matter and if necessary advise you of the next steps you should take in a consultation.

We 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.

If you need professional legal advice about applying for Naturalisation please contact us for a case assessment on 02071830570. You can also reach us via our contact form


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