UKBA announces new rules on 'good character' and naturalisation

On December 13th 2012, The UK Border Agency (UKBA) announced a change to the rules affecting the eligibility of those with criminal convictions and those who owe money to HMRC to become UK citizens. The UKBA now has tougher rules for assessing who meets the 'good character' requirement for naturalisation. There is no actual definition of 'good character' in law but the new rules say that anyone who has served a lengthy prison sentence will now be considered not to be of good character for the rest of their life.

In detail the main rules are:

• It is now mandatory for UKBA assessors to refuse a naturalisation application from anyone who has been sentenced to 4 years or more in prison anywhere in the world. There is no rehabilitation period and convictions never become 'spent'. If you have been sentenced to four years in prison, you can now never become a UK citizen.

• If you have been sentenced to a prison sentence of between twelve months and four years in length anywhere in the world, then your naturalisation application will be refused unless it is made at least 15 years after the end of your sentence.

• If you have been sentenced to a prison sentence up to one year in length anywhere in the world, then your naturalisation application will be refused unless it is made over seven years after the end of your sentence.

• If you have been convicted of any other criminal offence for which you received a non-custodial punishment, including fines, anywhere in the world, then your application will be refused if it is made within three years of the date of your conviction. Please note that, for the purposes of UKBA assessments, a police caution will be treated as if it is a criminal conviction so any application for naturalisation made within three years of receiving a police caution will be refused.

Please note that an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) will not be treated as a criminal conviction. An ASBO is a court order made by courts in the UK requiring people who create a nuisance to others, say by making too much noise in their flat, to stop doing so. An ASBO is not a criminal offence. However, if you are made the subject of an ASBO and then breach it, you may be taken to court and tried for breaching your ASBO. If found guilty, that is a criminal conviction and, depending on your sentence, you will fall into one of the categories above.

Parking tickets

In order to decide whether any applicant is of good character generally, the UKBA will also bear in mind other factors. For example, if you had a great many parking tickets, this too might prove fatal to your application though one or two probably would not.

The UKBA will also ask Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, the UK tax authority, to check to ensure that your tax payments are up-to-date. If you are behind with payments, this too might prove fatal to your application as might council tax arrears.

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