This post looks at the main reasons for refusals in applications for British Citizenship by Naturalisation so that common mistakes or issues can be easily avoided. If you make a mistake or fail to submit a relevant document, your application will be automatically refused, and you will lose the Home Office fee. In case of a refusal, there is an internal review process. Otherwise, the only remedy is likely to be judicial review. However, the Home Office fee is non-refundable.
There were 176,910 applications for British citizenship in the year ending March 2021, out of which there were 125,691 grants of British citizenship, 23% fewer than the previous year. This fall was partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic response and comes after a period of relative stability since 2014. All statistics used in this article are derived from official government records available on the GOV.UK website.
British Citizenship Application Mistakes
The Home Office’s published processing time for application for Naturalisation is up to 6 months. Errors or mistakes in the application may lead to an even longer time till a decision is given. A well-prepared application will be processed more quickly. Moving on to the common reasons why some British citizenship applications are refused, we begin with the following:
Failure to meet the good character requirement
The most common reason for the refusal of a citizenship application is because the applicant is considered by the Home Office to be “not of good character”. In the most obvious examples, this would involve refusals of applications by those with criminal records. Still, the good character requirement is drawn much more widely than this. It can involve non-criminal activity such as bankruptcy, dishonesty or lack of Comprehensive Sickness Insurance for EU applicants.
This is quite a broad test, but essentially the Home Office will carry out criminal and civil record checks on every application. As the Home Office is not bound to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, this means that every criminal offence will be considered as part of your application to naturalise, no matter how minor or when the act was committed.
Any criminal offence committed, both in the UK and abroad, such as theft, drunk driving, use of a mobile phone while driving and driving while disqualified, may prevent you from naturalising until a certain period of time has elapsed from the date of conviction.
Absent from the UK for too long
The residence requirements for British citizenship are relatively straightforward. However, still many applications are refused because individuals have either been absent from the UK for too long or have not been in the UK long enough. When counting absences from the UK, only whole-day absences are counted. For example, if you were absent from the UK from 1 January 2020 and 21 January 2020, only count 19 days.
Not only that, you must have been physically present in the UK at the start of the qualifying period, whether it is three years or five years ago.
Another common cause for rejecting citizenship applications is that the person applying is not eligible, and their application is rejected. Rejections differ from refusals; in case of a rejection, the Home Office caseworker has not considered your case. This is due to the applicant being found to be already British or that the application doesn’t have specific evidence of entitlement or simply does not meet the qualifying criteria. In 2019, the Home Office rejected 2,290 applications.
Delay in responding to the Home Office
In some cases where the Home Office requires further information from the applicant or needs the applicant to provide a different referee, usually, they will write to the address provided in the application form. They will also provide a time frame for providing the said information. A failure to respond to such a request will result in the application being refused. Applicants should note that in some cases, the Home Office will send letters rather than emails, so it is important to provide up-to-date contact details and inform them of address changes whilst the application is under process.
Insufficient knowledge of English and Life in the UK
Unless exempt, for example, because of age or disability, one of the requirements of British Citizenship is that the applicant has passed the life in the UK test and demonstrated that they speak English to the required level. The English language test must be taken at a Home Office-approved facility or the Secure English Language Test or SELT. You can use a B1 level qualification that’s run out if you’re applying for citizenship, and it was accepted when you settled in the UK. It does not matter if the B1 level test you took is not on the current list of recognised tests. You do not need to take another test. We recommend that you check the GOV.UK website for any possible changes to this rule before applying.
Other reasons for UK Citizenship application refusals
Other reasons include refusal because an applicant’s parent is not a British citizen, incomplete application, and other reasons not listed.
How can we help with your British Citizenship application
Our immigration experts can provide advice and guidance in relation to naturalisation and registration applications. If you are interested in making an application and are concerned about your immigration history and conduct or any other matter, our team would be delighted to assist and can be contacted here.
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Frequently asked questions
A person may naturalise as a British citizen under Section 6(1) of the British Nationality Act 1981 (BNA 1981), as a person applying in their own right who is not married to or in a civil partnership with a British citizen providing they meet the following main requirements:
– Be over 18 years of age
– Meet the 5-year residence requirements
– Have ILR or permanent residence status for at least 12 months
– Have passed the ‘Life in the UK’ test
– Meet the English language requirements
– Meet the ‘good character’ requirements
– Intend to make the UK your permanent home.
If you do not provide the information requested on the application form, it will normally be delayed or refused. Traffic/environmental/civil offences and fines could also result in the rejection of your application. If you didn’t pay a fine and there were criminal proceedings as a result, you could be refused.
Criminal convictions of many types, as well as fines, tax liabilities, NHS debt and breaches of immigration conditions, can all negatively influence an application. Repeated incidents/offences will negatively affect your prospects of a successful application.
If the mistake is interpreted by officials as an attempt to mislead or deceive, the application may be refused.
Unfortunately, the Home Office will not refund the application fees if your application is refused.