Who is a person of good character?

The British Nationality Act 1981 (BNA 1981) sets out the requirement for applicants aged 10 or over to be of good character to successfully naturalise or register as a British citizen.

Although the criminal sentence thresholds for refusal and non-custodial sentencing guidelines for adults apply to a child who has been convicted of a criminal offense, the caseworker will still take account of any mitigation relevant to the child’s particular circumstances.

  1. Criminality

A person who has not shown respect for or is not prepared to abide by the law will not be considered of good character.

A nationality application will be refused if the applicant has:

  • a custodial sentence of at least 4 years
  • 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


An application will likely be reused even in the case of a non-custodial sentence if the applicant is deemed is a persistent offender, namely:

  • has committed an offence which has caused serious harm
  • has committed a sexual offence or their details are recorded by the police on a register

It is very important to disclose all the criminal records when making an application, as the Home Office will carry out third party checks.

  1. International crimes, terrorism, and other non-conducive activity

A person who has been involved in international crimes or serious human rights violations will not be considered of good character. The activities that may raise “serious doubts” on the applicant’s character include:

  • involvement in or association with war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide
  • supporting the commission of those crimes
  • supporting groups whose main purpose or mode of operation consists of the committing of such crimes, even if that support did not make any direct contribution to the groups’ war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide


“Information about an applicant must be considered against information from reputable sources on war crimes and crimes against humanity in the country concerned and, where relevant, on the groups in which the applicant has been involved.”

  1. Financial soundness

The Home Office might refuse a nationality application If a person  were to statesin the form that they have been declared bankrupt or have been a director or involved in the management of a company (either wholly or partly) that has gone into liquidation. However, if the bankruptcy or liquidation occurred more than 10 years ago, or the bankruptcy order has been annulled, the application can still be granted.

  1. Notoriety

Generally, “notoriety” in this case means having one’s reputation tarnished due to some inappropriate/morally questionable deeds/events.  Said individual might not have been convicted of a criminal offence, but the caseworker will assess the behaviour of the applicant to determine whether he/she is of good character.

Examples of notorious behaviour may include, but are not limited to:

  • publicly expressing unsavoury views on a subject such as race, religion or sexuality which do not fall within the definition of extremism in Extremism section
  • persistent anti-social behaviour such as public drug use or excessive noise pollution
  • persistently and deliberately flouting the law


The harmful effects of their behaviour can be seen mainly in “persistently”, “deliberately” and “publicly”. A refusal decision based on “notoriety” must be reasonable and adequate.

  1. Deception and dishonesty

An individual is expected to be honest and frank when making an application to naturalise. So, an attempt to lie or conceal the truth about an aspect of their application, will lead to a refusal.

An application will normally be refused where there is evidence that a person has employed deception either:

  • during the citizenship application process
  • in a previous immigration application in the previous 10 years


It is important to note that the 10 years will start from when the deception is discovered rather than the date it happened.

  1. Immigration-related matters

Deportation order: If the applicant is the subject of an extant deportation order, their application will normally fall for refusal.

Sham marriages or civil partnerships: an application will normally be refused where there is evidence that a person has entered or attempted to enter into a sham marriage or sham civil partnership or assisted another person to enter or attempt to enter into a sham marriage or sham civil partnership in the 10 years prior to the application. The 10-year period starts from the point the deception is discovered or admitted.

Abuse of the English language or Knowledge of Life tests: An application will normally be refused where there is evidence that a person has practised deception in a Knowledge of Life, Life in the UK or English language test in the 10 years prior to the application.

Prosecution for false statements (applications for citizenship): A person who knowingly or recklessly makes a false statement, either in the application or during an interview, is liable to prosecution.

False statements by referees: referees may also be liable to prosecution under section 46(1) where they have been involved in attempts to deceive, for example, by deliberately making false statements about the length and nature of their acquaintance with the person.

Failing to pay litigation costs: litigation debt is a debt owed to the Home Office where the court or Tribunal has ordered another party to pay legal costs. In line with Part 9: Ground of refusal, failing to pay litigation costs owed to the Home Office may demonstrate that a person is not of good character.

  1. Immigration breaches

An immigration breach is where a person has failed to comply with immigration requirements, for example:

  • failing to comply with conditions attached to a grant of permission to enter or stay in the UK
  • accessing public funds when prohibited from doing so
  • failing to report without reasonable excuse, when required to do so
  • assisting illegal immigration
  • working in the UK without permission to do so (illegal working)
  • hiring illegal workers


Having an immigration breach in the 10 years prior to the date of an application will normally be regarded as a reason to refuse an application for naturalisation.


Contact Our Immigration Team

For expert advice regarding any aspect of the UK visa application, please contact our immigration team on 0203 384 3075

The content of this article is for general use and information only. Since each case should be prepared on its own merit and in light of the constant amendments to the Immigration Rules, it is important to note that the information provided must not be relied upon unless Migra & Co has either given written consent or has been officially engaged in relation to a specific immigration matter. As a result, Migra & Co will take no responsibility for any damage, cost or loss resulting from relying on the information contained in this article, blog and website.