Tougher 'good character'
requirements for British
citizenship applications

The Home Office has imposed new rules which will make it more difficult for those with a criminal record to obtain British citizenship.

The change came into effect on 31 July 2023, with the new stricter rules applying to new applications from anyone who has received at least a 12-month prison sentence. The crackdown re-affirms the government’s commitment to protecting the UK borders and ensuring no one with a criminal record can abuse the British immigration and nationality system.

The tougher rules will be stricter and more specific on so-called “good character” requirements, making sure serious criminals cannot claim British citizenship regardless of when or where the crime took place.

Good character requirements are a key condition to be granted British citizenship and look at whether an applicant has observed UK law as well as shown respect for the rights and freedoms of British citizens. The good character requirements consider factors such as criminal convictions, immigration offending and serious offences like war crimes, terrorism or genocide.

The changes remove the previous rules where some criminals could be granted British citizenship after a prescribed number of years had passed since the end of their sentence, regardless of the type of crime or where it was committed.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman 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.”

As is often the case with the Immigration Rules, there will be some exceptions and citizenship may still be granted to some individuals where there are mitigating circumstances to support a grant. For example, an individual who committed a minor offence and a long time has passed since the offence, and the individual has made sufficient, positive changes to show that they are now considered to be of ‘good character’. Cases like this will be assessed by the Home Office on a case-by-case basis.

Smith Stone Walters advises any applicants with a criminal record to seek advice from a qualified immigration advisor before submitting a citizenship application.

To discuss your application for British citizenship with a qualified immigration advisor, please contact us today.

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