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UNITED KINGDOM: Applying to Naturalize as a British Citizen – Are You of Good Character?

Those applying to naturalize as British citizens need to be aware that criminal convictions and non-custodial offences can be taken into account when their applications are assessed. On December 13, 2012, the Home Office announced changes to the way it assesses criminal convictions, affecting how it will assess the "good character" requirement for naturalization applications. Criminal convictions will no longer be considered "spent" but instead will be evaluated according to a "sentence-based threshold."

Where an individual has been convicted of an offense, the length of time he or she must wait before applying to naturalize as a British citizen is now dictated under the "sentence-based threshold" approach, as follows:

  • A sentence of 4 years or more of imprisonment: the application will be refused, regardless of when the conviction occurred
  • A sentence between 12 months and 4 years of imprisonment: the application will be refused unless 15 years have passed since the end of the sentence
  • A sentence of up to 12 months of imprisonment in the last 7 years: the application will be refused unless 7 years have passed since the end of the sentence
  • A non-custodial offense: the application will be refused if the conviction occurred in the last 3 years

The majority of people affected by this change likely will fall under the non-custodial offense category.

Most commonly, unpaid fines and notices that have been referred to a court due to non-payment, where the court orders the fine to be paid, can be treated as a non-custodial offense. Similarly, where an individual has been issued a police caution (warning), this too can be assessed against the non-custodial sentencing threshold.

These changes make it mandatory for individuals to declare any offenses or convictions ever received either in the United Kingdom or abroad. Where an offense occurred abroad, it will be considered in line with the equivalent UK offense and the relevant sentencing threshold applied.

If you are concerned about a future application to naturalize as a British citizen, speak to your ABIL Global legal representative.

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