Good Character Test Vital for Citizenship Applications
Indefinite leave to Remain (ILR) is not something that anyone has to apply for. It is simply granted as a right – usually once a person has lived legally in the UK for a period of five years. For those seeking British citizenship ILR is a vital element of the application. But it must be remembered that ILR on its own is not enough to guarantee that an application for citizenship will be successful.
In particular, UKBA are going to some effort to ensure that only those applicants who can show themselves to be of ‘good character’ are granted a British passport. This, of course, raises the question of what actually constitutes ‘good character’.
What is Good Character?
Since there is no logical proof of a person’s character what UKBA do is to establish that there is no evidence of ‘bad character’ on the part of applicants. Viewing someone’s legal history (in terms of prosecutions made against them, for example) is a lot easier than probing their morality.
The terms under which ‘good character are assessed are laid out in the Home Offices guidance notes on good character. The relevant passage can be found in Volume 1, Chapter 18, Annex D of the Nationality Instructions. Key issues under scrutiny are a person’s criminal convictions (both in the UK and elsewhere), the state of their financial affairs and their compliance with immigration laws. Furthermore, Home Office officials will also make their determination based on a person’s ‘notoriety’ as well as any suspected involvement in war crimes or any activity involving the evasion of immigration control – not necessarily involving the applicant themselves. Any one of these will be taken as an index of a lack of good character and will result in the refusal to grant citizenship.
A Political Issue
There has been some confusion concerning the question of good character in recent months, leading to the Home Office issuing its latest determination of the question as recently as December 2014. The changes attracted some publicity at that time as there was a strong sense that they were especially discriminatory to refugees, just as those opposed to immigration in principle appeared to welcome their ‘tightening up’. In both cases, the uncertainty surrounding what constitutes ‘good character’ simply fuels the political debate.
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