According to Part I, Chapter 18 of the British Nationality Act 1981, a person is entitled to naturalisation as British citizen if at the time of the consideration meets some requirements, such as being of good character. However, the Act itself does not provide with a definition of good character.
In absence of a statutory definition as to how this requirement should be interpreted or applied, it is the Secretary of State who should be satisfied that an applicant is of good character. In order for the Secretary of State to make an assessment on good character, Annex D of Chapter 18 of BNA contains a guidance with information on how to assess if the applicant is of good character. This guidance also applies to minors above the age of ten.
Annex D of the Good Character Requirement, Part 1, Chapter 18 of the British National Act 1981
This guidance has recently suffered some amendments by the Home Office, which apply to all decisions taken on or after 11 December 2014.
Prior to these amendments, the guidance included as disqualifying behaviours: have been suspected or convicted of a criminal activity; have been involved in or associated with war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, terrorism, or with other actions that are not conducive to the public good. It also included factors such has lack of financial soundness, notoriety, deception or dishonesty. All these factor still remain in the new guidance, along with new factors relating to the applicant’s immigration history.
Indeed, the guidance has added to the list of behaviours that indicate that a person is not off good character: illegal entry, assisting illegal migration and evasion immigration control. These new factors are included within Section 9 of the Annex D and read as follows:
9.5 Illegal Entry
In circumstances where an applicant entered the UK illegally, an application for citizenship should normally be refused for a period of 10 years from the date of entry, if it is known. If it is not known, the period of 10 years starts from the date on which the person first brought themselves to or came to the attention of the Home Office.
9.6 Assisting Illegal Migration
The decision maker will normally refuse an application if there are grounds for believing that the person is currently, or has previously been, involved in an attempt to assist someone in the evasion of immigration control. This includes a person whose spouse’s/civil partner’s recent application for entry clearance has been refused on relationship grounds.
9.7 Evasion of immigration control
The decision maker will normally refuse an application if within the 10 years preceding the application the person has not been compliant with immigration requirements, including but not limited to having:
failed to report
failed to comply with any conditions imposed under the Immigration Acts
been detected working in the UK without permission
Most refugees do not have legal means of reaching the UK, therefore will be prevented from qualifying for British citizenship for at least 10 years from the date of the illegal entry into the UK– as opposed to the previous period of six years. This clearly contradicts some International obligations which prohibits any form of prosecution of refugees on account of the legal entry or presence in the host territory. These provisions read as follows:
The Contracting States shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who, coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened in the sense of article 1, enter or are present in their territory without authorization, provided they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence.
The Contracting States shall as far as possible facilitate the assimilation and naturalization of refugees. They shall in particular make every effort to expedite naturalization proceedings and to reduce as far as possible the charges and costs of such proceedings.