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What are the most recent changes to the Good Character assessment in nationality applications?

As part of a British nationality application the Home Office will assess an applicant’s good character. One aspect of the good character requirement is the need to satisfy a lawful residence requirement.

The Nationality and Borders Act 2022 included amendments to how an individual can meet the lawful residence requirement during the qualifying period without further enquiry where they hold indefinite leave to enter or remain in the UK.

The Home Office then changed its practice in relation to immigration breaches when assessing good character during the 10-year period prior to the application.

Lawful residence may be breached by entering the UK illegally, overstaying or absconding, or failing to comply with conditions attached to a visa, e.g. restrictions on working or accessing public funds.

Historically, breaches of lawful residence in the 5-year period before the application would lead to a refusal. The guidance now states that where an individual holds indefinite leave to remain (ILR), the applicant will be considered to meet the 5-year lawful residence requirement without the need for the Home Office to investigate further. This will mostly affect European nationals who holds EU Settled Status (ILR) but who may have previously been in the UK as students or economically self-sufficient people without private health insurance.

The most significant change comes in the way the Home Office considers breaches of lawful residence in the 10-year period prior to the application. Prior to June 2022, a breach of the lawful residence requirements in the 10-year period prior to a citizenship application was normally grounds for refusal. However, in a relaxation of the rules, an applicant for naturalisation as a British citizen who within 10 years prior to the date of application has committed an immigration breach of:

  • illegal entry;
  • absconding; or
  • overstaying

should still satisfy the good character requirement, where all of the following factors apply:

1)    the person is applying for naturalisation as a British citizen under the 3 s.6(2) or 5 s.6(1) year rules after 28 June 2022;

2)    the person holds indefinite leave to remain in the UK; and

3)    nothing else has come to light which may bring the person’s character since the grant of indefinite leave into doubt.

The relaxation of the consideration of breaches of lawful residence during the 10-year period, whilst only for applications submitted after 28 June 2022, is a very welcome, common sense decision. Please contact us if your proposed application for British citizenship falls into this category.

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