May 19, 2017
2 minutes read

Good character requirements for British citizenship

British Citizenship

For most British citizenship applications which may seem straightforward, we find that applicants often get caught by the ‘Good Character' requirement.

The good character requirement applies to anybody over the age of 10 who applies for Naturalisation or Registration as a British citizen.

You can apply for British citizenship by Naturalisation if the below apply:

  • You are 18 or over
  • You will continue to live in the UK
  • You have met the knowledge of language and life in the UK requirements
  • You meet the residency requirement
  • You are of good character.

What is the good character requirement?

The Secretary of State must be satisfied that an applicant has a good character on the balance of probabilities. For example, you do not have a serious or recent criminal record and you have not tried to deceive the Home Office or been involved in immigration offences in the last 10 years. If any of these situations have occurred, you will fail the good character requirement and not be granted your British Citizenship.

The Home Office AN Guide highlights the Good character requirement for naturalisation. This requirement is also known as the Good Character Test.

What type of offence must be disclosed?

It is a mandatory requirement that you as an applicant declare all your criminal record convictions, both within and outside the United Kingdom. These include (but are not limited to):

  • Road traffic offences.
  • Any immigration breaches.
  • If you were involved in illegal working, and if you were working illegally at any point.
  • If you were not under lawful residence previously.
  • Fixed penalty notices (such as speeding or parking tickets) must be disclosed, although will not normally be taken into account unless you have failed to pay and there were criminal proceedings as a result; or you have received numerous fixed penalty notices.
  • If, while working, you hired illegal workers.
  • If you have entered, or helped others to enter, the UK illegally.
  • If you've caused harm to a person of a young age, or to a person's character.
  • If you have partaken or been involved in a sham marriage, particularly if this was designed to help your immigration status/ British citizenship application.
  • If you have been given a non-custodial sentence for any crime/ criminal offence.
  • Drink-driving offences should be disclosed. A driving conviction may not be disregarded despite any penalty points being removed from your driving licence.

You are also required to give details of:

  • Civil judgments which have resulted in a court order being made against you
  • You are a persistent offender
  • Civil penalties under the UK Immigration Acts
  • Details of the bankruptcy proceedings if you have been declared bankrupt at any time.

You must disclose any:

  • Cautions (simple or conditional)
  • Warnings or reprimands received in the UK or any other country.

You are also expected to divulge if you have been subject to one of the following orders:

  • Notification order
  • Sexual offences prevention order
  • Foreign travel order
  • International travel ban
  • Risk of sexual harm order (or equivalent order made in a British overseas territory or any other country).

You must disclose if there is any offence for which you may go to court or criminal offence which is awaiting a hearing in court.

There is also the standard declaration on whether you have had any involvement in terrorism international crimes or actions which may constitute genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. You should consider the full definitions of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide which can be found in Schedule 8 of the International Criminal Court Act 2001

You must say whether you have been involved in criminal conduct or anything which might indicate that you are not of good character, no matter how long ago it was.

When assessing good character, checks will be on bad character, the main indication of this being seen as criminal activity, and this will be made in all cases. Your application may fail and your fee will not be fully refunded if you make an untruthful declaration, or fail to declare any criminal behaviour in your history. It will also potentially have a detrimental effect on your British nationality applications.

Things to Consider for the British Citizenship Good Character Test

What if I fail to disclose convictions?

If the applicant has failed to disclose any (including minor) outstanding charges pending prosecutions or convictions, the Home Office will usually refuse the British nationality application.

Any subsequent application for citizenship would be weakened if it is made within 10 years from the date of the refusal on these grounds unless the failure to disclose was unintentional and concerned a one-off non-custodial or an out-of-court disposal prison sentence.

What counts as deception?

You should declare any deception in your dealings with the Home Office or other government departments (for example, by providing false information or fraudulent documents). This will be a fact taken into account in considering taking your application further and whether you meet the good character requirement.

If your naturalisation application is refused, and there is clear evidence of deception or of the applicant's character not matching up to the Home Office guidance, any future application made within 10 years is unlikely to be successful.

If you have any children who have been convicted of an offence or who have received a court order, these must be disclosed. The Home Office will consider if you have been complicit in or negligent of criminal history and whether this reflects on your ability to pass the good character assessment.

Abuse of the English Language and/or Knowledge of Life Test

The individual who will be the decision maker on whether you will reach the requirements for the good character requirement test usually refuses your application when there is evidence that you have ‘cheated' in a Knowledge of Life, “Life in the UK” and/or English Language Test in a previous immigration application.

For example, by allowing a person to take the test on their behalf, paying a person to take the test on their behalf, or submitting false documents, or otherwise making a false representation is a dishonest statement.

An application for British Citizenship may have a risk of refusal if there has been any deception in any circumstances in the 10 years beforehand.

What about periods of overstaying or negative immigration history?

Some undesirable behaviours have been added to the list of disqualifying behaviours, including illegal entry, assisting illegal migration and evasion of immigration control.

It seems to affect people who may have committed minor or significant breaches of immigration law. This can vary from short periods of overstay or working without permission to significant deception of illegal workers, and who would not previously have encountered any issues with applying for naturalisation once their position was regularised.

Previous histories which may affect a Naturalisation application may include the following factors:

  • Failed to report
  • Failed to comply with any conditions imposed under the Immigration Acts
  • Been detected working in the UK without permission


It is essential for all naturalisation applicants to check not only the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 for spent convictions but also the Citizenship Guidance (Guidance & Booklet AN).

The law in this area is always changing, so for the highest chances of a successful application please make sure you seek accurate advice from the expert consultants and regulated immigration lawyers at QC Immigration.

If you are looking for expert advice, solutions or representation on immigration-related matters or British Citizenship applications, please get in touch with our immigration specialists at QC Immigration and arrange a consultation today.

**Disclaimer: the laws, immigration rules and guidance are subject to change. Factors apply; please refer to an up-to-date law when referring to immigration rules or making an application, or contact QC Immigration for assistance on this matter.

Useful Links

Check if you can become a British Citizen

Guide AN:

Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974:

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