Changes to criminality good character criteria for British Citizenship applications announced on 30th July 2023 will come in force on 31st July 2023. This is the most recent update to the UK immigration rules and policies out of many recent changes announced, including upcoming significant increase to NHS Surcharge and visa fees 13th July 2023, updates to Skilled Worker 17th July 2023, updates to student visas 17th July 2023 and updates to EU Settlement Scheme 17th July 2023.

According to UK government, tougher good character rules will make sure serious criminals cannot claim British citizenship regardless of when or where the crime took place.

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CURRENT RULES ON GOOD CHARACTER CRIMINALITY FOR BRITISH CITIZENSHIP UNTIL 30TH JULY 2023

An applicant for British Citizenship will normally be refused if they:

  • have a criminal conviction which falls within the sentence-based thresholds
  • are a persistent offender
  • have committed an offence which has caused serious harm
  • have committed a sexual offence or their details are recorded by the police on a register.

Current sentence-based thresholds applicable until 30th July 2023:

An applicant will normally be refused British Citizenship if they have received:

  • a custodial sentence of at least 4 years Page 12 of 54 Published for Home Office staff on 08 September 2022
  • a custodial sentence of at least 12 months but less than 4 years unless a period of 15 years has passed since the end of the sentence
  • a custodial sentence of less than 12 months unless a period of 10 years has passed since the end of the sentence
  • a non-custodial sentence or out-of-court disposal that is recorded on their criminal record which occurred in the 3 years prior to the date of application.

NEW CRIMINALITY GOOD CHARACTER CRITERIA FOR BRITISH CITIZENSHIP FROM 31ST JULY 2023

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.

According to the press release today 30th July 2023

  • 'The government crackdown will come into effect tomorrow (31 July 2023), with the strengthened rules applying to new applications from anyone who has received at least a 12-month prison sentence.'
  • 'The updated rules are stricter and more specific on so-called "good character" requirements, and look at whether an individual has observed UK law as well as shown respect for the rights and freedoms of British citizens. The requirements include factors such as criminal convictions, immigration offending and serious behaviour like war crimes, terrorism or genocide.

The updated Good Character guidance for British Citizenship applicants has not yet been published, however, assuming the rules for British Citizenship will be brought in line with the UK immigration rules General Grounds, the below are likely to apply to Citizenship applications:

Criminality grounds that give reason for discretionary refusal under current UK immigration rules:

Paragraph 9.4.3. of the Immigration Rules provides that entry clearance, permission to enter or permission to stay may be refused where the applicant: (a) has been convicted of a criminal offence in the UK or overseas for which they have received a custodial sentence of less than 12 months (b) has been convicted of a criminal offence in the UK or overseas for which they have received a non-custodial sentence, or received an out-of-court disposal that is recorded on their criminal record.

Criminality grounds that give reason for discretionary refusal under current UK immigration rules

Paragraph 9.4.2. of the Immigration Rules provides that entry clearance or permission held by a person must be cancelled where the person: (a) has been convicted of a criminal offence in the UK or overseas for which they have received a custodial sentence of 12 months or more (b) is a persistent offender who shows a particular disregard for the law (c) has committed a criminal offence, or offences, which caused serious harm.

WHAT THE 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.

There will be some exceptions to the new rules, which will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, for example if someone has mitigating circumstances that support an exceptional grant. Cases like this could include someone who committed a minor offence a long time ago but has made sufficient, positive changes that they are now considered to be of good character.'

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.