4 October 2021

British Citizenship Application Refused - What Now?

Richmond Chambers Immigration Barristers


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The requirements to become a British citizen are set out in British Nationality Law; the relevant law is mainly in the British Nationality Act 1981.
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The requirements to become a British citizen are set out in British Nationality Law; the relevant law is mainly in the British Nationality Act 1981.

Some children and adult applicants may be entitled to register as British citizens, provided they meet the relevant requirements.

Other applicants will rely on the Secretary of State's discretion to either be registered (children) or be naturalised (adults) as a British citizen.

Before You Make A British Citizenship Application

British Citizenship law is complex and you may wish to seek legal advice before submitting an application.  It is for you to establish that the requirements are met and all relevant evidence provided. 

What If My British Citizenship Application Is Refused?

The reasons for refusing a British citizenship application should be set out in the notice of decision.

There is not a statutory right of appeal against the refusal of a citizenship (registration or naturalisation application). The only judicial remedy is that of judicial review.

Nonetheless, you can request the  reconsideration of the decision by the Home Office, by using the form NR. 

Currently the fee for reconsideration is £372. If the decision is reversed and the application approved, this will be refunded. The citizenship fee may be deducted where appropriate, e.g. if it had been refunded following the refusal and it is payable again. 

What Should I Consider Before Seeking a Reconsideration?

The Home Office will carry out checks to ensure the relevant requirements are met. 

Most applications will  involve  the good character requirement and form NR guidance October 2018 reads:

We carry out enquiries in all cases to ensure that the requirements are met. Where the character requirement applies, we make checks with relevant government agencies who we share information with about applicants.

Checks are made in respect of documents:  

We also carry out checks to ensure that the supporting evidence has not been forged or fraudulently obtained. Where false documents have been produced the application will be refused and we will refer the matter for possible prosecution. If documents cannot be verified or the applicant cannot prove their entitlement then the application will be refused. There must be no doubt that a proper legal entitlement exists. 

For discretionary applications, such as naturalisation and registration of minors under s.3(1), the guidance states:

Following any enquiries applications are considered on the basis of the following questions:

Are the statutory requirements set out in the British Nationality Act 1981 met? If not 

  1. Is there discretion not to apply the requirement or to vary the extent to which it is applied? If so 
  2. Are the additional criteria set out in the Home Secretary's policy on the exercise of discretion met? If not 
  3. Has the Home Secretary previously granted citizenship to someone outside of the policy in the same circumstances? If not 
  4. Are the circumstances sufficiently compelling and different from others that have been refused to justify consideration to grant and create a further precedent?

When Will British Citizenship Applications Be Reopened?

The guidance states as follows:

We may reopen applications where: 

  • we have not used the correct requirements or criteria to decide the application 
  • we refused your application for lack of a response to enquiries when a response had been received but not linked with the application 
  • we decided your application without allowing sufficient time for a response or completion of enquiries 
  • we refused your application on character grounds due to a criminal conviction which was either later quashed on appeal or involved a case of mistaken identity (i.e. you were not the person convicted of the offence) 
  • we have failed to take account of relevant documents or information in our possession

This is not an exhaustive list, but the grounds for reconsideration as set out in the Secretary of State's policy resemble public law errors such as those considered in the context of judicial (or administrative) review.

You may wish to seek legal advice to consider what arguments could be advanced and the prospects of success. 

What If My Application For A Reconsideration Is Refused? What Action Can I Take?

In addition, or alternatively, you can consider applying for judicial review of the decision, if upheld on reconsideration. 

Before commencing proceedings, it will be important to follow a pre-action protocol process. This provides an opportunity for the position to be considered before you commence proceedings and will preserve your position as to costs.  

Judicial review proceedings can be legally complex, costly and time-consuming. You may consider seeking legal advice before commencing any proceedings.

Fresh Application For British Citizenship

If your challenge is unsuccessful or you decide not to challenge the decision to refuse, you may wish to seek advice as to whether a fresh application for British citizenship is likely to be successful and whether you may need to wait before doing so or an application is unlikely to ever be successful.  

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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