Good Character

Introduction to Good Character

Good Character requirements are essential to the UK’s immigration system. Any application whether for Entry Clearance, leave to enter, Leave to Remain, Settlement and British Citizenship requires that the applicant must be of a good character. Failure to pass the hurdle of good character will result in refusal as it invokes the mandatory and discretionary grounds under the Immigration law Rules to refuse such applications. Due to lack of available material especially online many applicants struggle with the concept and requirement of good character. In this article, we explore the requirement of good character in settlement (ILR and Citizenship) applications and policy of the Home Office“.

Read Time: 5 minutes

 What is on this Page?

  • Introduction to Good Character
  • What is Good Character?
  • Requirements for Good Character
  • Criminal Conviction Chart
  • Fines
  • Fixed Penalties
  • Failure to pay fixed penalties
  • Cautions, Reprimands and Warnings
  • Policy Guidance
  • Exceptions
  • What would you do next?

What is Good Character?

The good character requirement is mandatory for applicants who are over the age of 10. The British Nationality Act 1981 does not provide any definition of “good character” however the policy as to its meaning and application is given in the Nationality Instructions.

If you are applying for settlement, then you must know that the guidance given by the Home Office and policy is not exhaustive. The Home Office may refuse your application under good character requirements for reasons which are not covered in the Nationality Instructions.

Requirements for Good Character

The starting point is that while filling and submitting the Naturalisation application form you must answer all questions honestly and in full detail. You must inform the Home Office of any significant event such as a criminal conviction or a pending prosecution that could have an impact on your good character assessment.

  • Applicant must show that he has respected the laws of United Kingdome at all times while he was in the UK;
  • He was not involved in any criminal activity;
  • He did not receive custodial and non-custodial sentences;
  • He is not involved in terrorism, war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity genocide or other actions not considered to be conducive to the public good;
  • He has paid his taxes and registered with HMRC if you were self-employed;
  • He has not have breached the condition of his previous stay;
  • He has not been involved in deliberately dishonest or was deceptive in his dealings with the UK Government;
  • Applicant must not have any charge of deception and dishonesty;
  • Applicant’s financial affairs are within appropriate order;
  • Activities involved were not notorious and should not cast serious doubt on his standing in the local community;
  • He has not assisted in the evasion of immigration control; or
  • he has not previously been deprived of and is seeking to re-acquire citizenship within a prescribed period.

It is important to note that the record of a criminal conviction does not mean that your application will be refused by the reason of the fact of a criminal conviction. However, where there is evidence that the person is unlikely to abide by the laws of the UK, he is likely to be treated as a person of bad character.

Good Character
Good Character

Criminal Conviction Chart

ConvictionGood character Impact on application
Imprisonment of  4 or more than 4 years  NoThe application will be refused irrespective of when the conviction occurred
Imprisonment of More than 12 months but less than 4 years  No. Unless 15 years have passed since the end of the sentenceThe application will be refused unless 15 years have been passed since the end of the sentence. You can apply after 15 years.
Imprisonment of up to 12 months  No. Unless 10 years have passed since the end of the sentence  The application will be refused unless 10 years have been passed since the end of the sentence. You can apply after 10 years.
All non-custodial sentences and out of court disposal which is recorded against a person and on his/her criminal record. A common example is traffic offences        No. Unless 3 years have passed since the end of the sentence    The application will be refused unless 3 years have been passed You can apply after 3 years.


  • Fines are treated as non – custodial sentences or out of court disposals that are recorded on the applicant’s criminal record. The applicant must wait for three years.

Fixed Penalties

  • Fixed Penalty Notices, Penalty Charge Notices and Penalty Notices for Disorder are imposed by the Police or other authorised enforcement officers for traffic rule violations, environmental and civil violations.
  • These are treated as minor offences. Fixed penalties are not recorded against the person and are not recorded on his/her criminal record. However, fixed penalties do not have any bearing on the actual application.It is advised that the applicant must disclose themand without the fear of refusal, the applicant will be treated of a good character.

Failure to pay fixed penalties

  • If you have failed to pay fixed penaltiesand there were criminal proceedings as a result, or you have received numerous fixed penalty notices which would suggest a pattern of behaviour you are unlikely to be treated as a person of a good character;
  • Where a fixed penalty notice or monetary fine has been referred to a court due to non-payment or the notice has been unsuccessfully challenged by the person in court, the Home Office will consider this as a conviction and the rules mentioned in the table above will apply. The applicant has to wait for at least three years before he can apply for naturalisation.

Cautions, Reprimands and Warnings

These are recorded on an applicant’s criminal record and the applicant has to wait for at least three years before he/she can apply for naturalisation. Failure to disclose these will result in refusal and a ban of a minimum of 10 years based on the grounds of deception and dishonesty.

Policy Guidance

 The Home Office’s policy documents state that an applicant should normally be accepted as being of good character if

  • Enquires of government departments and agencies do not show that he has perpetrated fraud or deception in his dealings with them;
  • there are no unspent convictions;
  • there is no information to cast serious doubts on his character; and
  • where he is a businessperson, self-employed, a person of independent means or sole representative, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have provided written confirmation that his business affairs are in order.


You do not have to fulfil the requirement of good character where

  • the statelessness provisions in Schedule 2 of the British Nationality ACT 1981 applies; or
  •  You are an eligible applicant under section 4B of the Act.
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