Applying for British Citizenship: Common and Avoidable Reasons for Refusal

If you have been settled in the United Kingdom now for some time, you may be preparing to apply for naturalisation as a British Citizen.  This is an area of immigration fraught with obstacles, which are surmountable if one knows what the Home Office are looking for. This article is written with the intention of setting out the most common reasons for, and how to avoid, refusal.

  1. Not meeting the ‘good character’ requirement

This requirement applies to any applicant over ten years of age and, frustratingly, there is no definition for good character within the British Nationality Act 1981. The absence of statutory clarity may be part of the reason why many applicants find themselves faced with a refusal on the grounds of not satisfying the “good character” requirement.

There is however guidance in Annex D to Chapter 18 of the Nationality Guidance, which delineates upon why a decision maker will consider an applicant to not be of good character, these are:

  • Criminal convictions, non-custodial sentences, and other out of court disposals;
  • War crimes, crimes against humanity, or terrorism;
  • Inappropriate financial affairs, notably a failure to pay taxes
  • Notoriety, chiefly a persistence of bad behaviour in a local or wider community
  • Dishonesty or deception when submitting an application to the UK Government;
  • Evasion of immigration control; and
  • They have previously been deprived of citizenship
  1. Not meeting the English Language requirement

If you are a national of a country not listed by the Home Office as English speaking, you may have to sit and pass an English language test, which will expire after two years. It is worth remarking that an applicant may use their degree certificate as evidence, if their subject was taught to them in English.

This requirement may appear not appear burdensome if you are well versed with the language, nonetheless it should be dealt with due care as it is not uncommon for an applicant to provide an invalid English language certificate. It is practical to ensure you have booked the right test, otherwise you may be looking at a refusal.

  1. Not meeting the residence requirement

To meet the residence requirements set out in section 6(1) of The British Nationality Act 1981 an applicant must be resident in the United Kingdom for a period of five years ending with the date of application. During this time the applicant must have had no more than 450 days outside of the United Kingdom, with a maximum of 90 days in the final 12 months prior to application.

Exceeding your allowed absences is very common, however it is not terminal to your application provided you are able to provide an explanation supported by evidence. The Home Office are permitted a modicum of discretion in cases where an applicant has spent more than 450 days outside of the UK, but only if the applicant meets the remaining requirements and the period of days is not excessive.

Source: McGill & Co,

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