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How a traffic offence can impact South Africans planning to move to the UK

Regardless of the route taken to British citizenship, every applicant must satisfy the good character requirement, says John Dunn, director of citizenship and immigration at Sable International.

“As the name suggests, British officials assess your character and determine whether you could be conducive to the public good in the UK. While there are some obvious reasons for UK citizenship applications being refused, there are also minor breaches that deny applications,” he said.

What are the UK citizenship good character requirements?

The good character test is a mandatory requirement for anyone over the age of 10 who is applying for naturalisation or registration as a British citizen.

If you fail to meet the requirements, your application will be refused, Dunn said.

“There are major crimes that would obviously hurt your chances at getting UK citizenship but there are other, less clear examples.

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“All applicants are assessed based on criteria set out in the UK government’s national policy guidance. Home Office officials use this guidance to assess each nationality application on a case-by-case basis and determine whether the individual meets the good character requirement.”

What type of offence

Dunn noted that the good character requirement goes beyond the scope of simply being free from criminal convictions.

Some of the most likely categories that could put your application at risk:

  • Traffic offences;
  • Financial soundness;
  • Immigration-related issues;
  • Public order;
  • Assisting your children with crime;
  • Dishonesty in the Life in the UK Test.

Traffic offences and your good character standing

Fines and notices that have been referred to a court due to non-payment will be treated as conviction, said Dunn. “So, be sure to settle any fines you receive before you are summoned to pay them.

“Even where a person has not received a fine within the last three years, the decision-maker may still conclude that a person is not of good character. Reason to refuse an application is quite strong in cases where a person has committed multiple offences of this kind, as it shows a pattern of offending,” he said.

Financial soundness

You need to ensure all of your financial affairs – in the UK and abroad – are in order before you begin the UK citizenship application process. This includes any tax or financial issues such as bankruptcy, liquidation or debt, Dunn said.

“As part of your application for citizenship, you authorise the Home Office to conduct verification checks which include credit checks. It is therefore vital that you disclose all infringements, regardless of when they occurred.

“An application will not normally be refused because the person is in debt, especially if loan repayments have been made as agreed or if acceptable efforts are being made to pay off accumulated debts. However, where a person deliberately and recklessly builds up debts and there is no evidence of a serious intention to pay them off, Home Office will normally refuse the application.”

Similarly, Home Office will determine whether the person was reckless or irresponsible in their financial affairs leading to their bankruptcy or their company’s liquidation. If so, it is likely to be reflected by a disqualification being obtained, Dunn said.

Disclosing immigration-related issues

This includes minor or major breaches of immigration law, such as overstaying your visa, even by a short period, or working when your visa did not permit you to, Dunn said.

“If within the 10 years preceding the application, an individual has not been compliant with immigration requirements, the Home Office will normally refuse that person’s application.

“Alternatively, assisting illegal migration or hiring illegal workers violates the good character requirements. If you are in a position that deals with hiring workers, hiring people that are unauthorised to work in the UK can look bad on your good character test and possibly deny you UK citizenship.”

Public order and notoriety

An application will normally be refused if there is evidence that suggests a person has made themselves notorious in the local or wider community, said Dunn.

This will be determined on the scale and persistence of their behaviour, he said.

“Notoriety does not need to be politically related. A person that is, for example, a known football hooligan could also be regarded as a public order risk.”

“If your child has a criminal record, your British citizenship application is normally not refused. This includes being convicted of a criminal offense or being issued with an anti-social behaviour order (ASBO). Your application is at risk when there is evidence of assisting your child with criminal activity.”

Dishonesty in the Life in the UK Test

One of the requirements for British citizenship is passing the Life in the UK Test, which assesses your knowledge of British life. “It is not unheard of for citizenship applicants to pay someone to take their tests or to submit false documents, said Dunn.

“British citizenship applications are refused if the applicant has been deceptive in the 10 years prior to their application. Deception is counted as the day it was carried out to the day is was discovered. The same rules apply to the English language tests required for UK citizenship.”

Read: E-visa system for South Africa to be expanded – what you should know

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