Applying for British citizenship – what is an unspent conviction?

The following is a simplified guide – for specific advice regarding your personal circumstances you should book an appointment to see one of our specialist immigration solicitors:

Do I need to declare my caution(s) when making an application for British citizenship?

Yes. Applications for British citizenship from those living in England, Wales and Scotland are outside the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (ROA). This means that you must declare all police cautions on your application, even if they are spent.

However; If you are applying for British citizenship from Northern Ireland, you will not need to declare any convictions which are spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders (Northern Ireland) Order 1978. For more information on this, please see pages 29-31 of this AN guide.

Do I need to declare my conviction(s) when making an application for British citizenship?

Yes. Applications for British citizenship that are made from England, Wales and Scotland are outside the ROA. This means that you must declare all convictions on your application, even if they are spent.

Again; if you are applying for British citizenship from Northern Ireland, you will not need to declare any convictions which are spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders (Northern Ireland) Order 1978. For more information on this, please see pages 29-31 of the AN guide.

Do I need to declare military convictions when making an application for British citizenship?

Yes. If you have been convicted under court martial or during other military proceedings, you will need to declare this on your application. For further guidance on how such matters are considered by UKVI, please see here.

Do I need to declare pending prosecutions when making an application for British citizenship?

Yes. The nationality application makes it clear that you must disclose all pending matters. Failure to do so may be seen as an attempt to deceive UKVI. Please also bear in mind that the Home Office has access to police records, so if you are under investigation for something or awaiting trial, they will know!

I have an overseas conviction. Do I need to declare this when making an application for British citizenship?

Yes. Overseas convictions will usually be treated as if they happened in the UK. UKVI will use the sentence that you received as a starting point when deciding whether the conviction will impact on their decision to grant you citizenship. Again many countries automatically share this type of information so the Home Office will usually find out if you try to conceal this from them.

If you do conceal it and they do find out, they will refuse your application and ban you from making another application for 10 years for deception!

I have a criminal record. Does this mean I will not be granted British citizenship?

Not necessarily. You must be considered to be of good character to be granted British citizenship and, as part of this assessment, UKVI will consider your criminal record and whether you abide by the laws of the UK.

You must disclose your full criminal record when applying for British citizenship if you are applying from England, Wales or Scotland. If you have been convicted of an offence and were sentenced to exactly four years’ imprisonment or longer, your application is likely to be refused.

If you were sentenced to anything less than four years, or given a non-custodial sentence, your application is likely to be refused until a certain period has elapsed:

Sentence/disposal Application will be refused until:
Prison sentence between 12 months and 4 years 15 years from the end of your full sentence (including time on licence)
Prison sentence up to 12 months 10 years from the end of your full sentence (including time on licence)
Non-custodial sentence+ 3 years from the date of conviction
Caution 3 years from the date of caution

A suspended prison sentence is treated as a non-custodial sentence, unless the prison sentence has been ‘activated’ during the period of suspension.
If you have been convicted and the specified time has elapsed as per the table above, your application may still be refused if:

  • You have a pattern of offending
  • You have been convicted of an offence where serious harm was caused to the victim(s)
  • You have been convicted of a sexual offence and are currently under notification requirements and/or subject to a sexual offences prevention order (SOPO) and/or a foreign travel order and/or a risk of sexual harm order (RSHO).

Driving Offences

Many applicants will have relatively ‘minor’ convictions for driving offences. These can include things like speeding, driving without insurance or more seriously drink driving bans. As far as the Home Office are concerned these are all disclosable offences. This means that they must be disclosed by the applicant and failure to do so will result in your application being refused and losing your application fee.

Due to the huge array of possible offences relating to Road Traffic laws, prospective applicants with previous convictions for driving offences are strongly advised to contact us for specific advice relevant to their circumstances.

Where can I get further advice on applying for British citizenship?

If you are not sure what you need to disclose when applying for British citizenship, you can contact us to book an appointment to see one of our specialist immigration solicitors on 020 8401 7352.

For general advice about your application, you can try to contact the UKVI contact centre on 0300 123 2241

What is an unspent conviction

immigration-appeal solicitor croydon

People submitting applications to the UK Border Agency and the Home Office for immigration related matters are under a duty to disclose on their application forms any unspent convictions.

However; most people don’t really know what an unspent conviction is and this causes no end of problems with applications, often resulting in refusal of the applications by the Home Office and UKBA.

Failure to disclose an unspent conviction is very often an automatic reason for refusal of the application. The guidance below is produced to help potential applicants decide whether their conviction is spent.

If you have been convicted of a criminal offence you must declare your unspent convictions on any immigration applications related to the UK. You do not need to declare convictions that are spent.

A conviction becomes spent after a certain period of time has passed (this is called the rehabilitation period).

The length of time it takes for a conviction to become spent will depend on the sentence which was given by the court. It starts from the date on which you are convicted.

The period may be shorter if you were aged under 18 at the time of your conviction.

If you have been sentenced to more than 30 months in prison for a single offence, this can never become spent.

An application for British citizenship is therefore unlikely to ever be successful.

However in exceptional circumstances we have been able to assist clients even in this situation and if this applies to you then you should contact our office on 020 8401 7352 to arrange an appointment to see a specialist immigration solicitor. Also check out our ‘updated’ post here.

If you have been convicted of a criminal offence but the rehabilitation period has passed by the time you make your application you do not need to provide details of the conviction on your application form.

If you were convicted of a further offence during the rehabilitation period of your original conviction, the rehabilitation period for your original conviction may be extended.

If you have been convicted of a criminal offence and the spent period has not passed you must include details of the conviction on your application form.

If the conviction is unspent at the time of your application, it is unlikely that your application will be successful, unless there are compelling compassionate circumstances or you can establish that refusal of your application is a breach of your Human Rights.

For further guidance on the rehabilitation period, please see Guide AN produced by the Home Office and UKBA.

Information on how a conviction becomes spent, and a chart providing examples of rehabilitation periods for various sentences, can be found in the Good Character section of this guide.

Offences for which you may go to court or are awaiting a hearing in court must also be disclosed.

You must provide details of any offence for which you may go to court for or are awaiting a hearing in court. This includes any offences for which you have been arrested and are waiting to hear if you will be formally charged.

If you are living in Scotland you must provide details of any recent civil penalties.

If are arrested or charged with an offence after you have made your application you must let the UKBA and Home Office know.

Applicants should be aware that when applying for naturalisation it is not just serious criminal offences and convictions that will be taken into account.

Convictions for any type of Road Traffic offence including speeding, drink driving, careless driving and driving without insurance or a licence will also need to be disclosed.

Even situations where you have had excessive parking fines will be taken into consideration and can result in refusal of your application.

Additionally you must disclose all civil judgements including but not limited to debts, bankruptcy and charging orders and enquiries will also be made of HMRC and your tax office to ensure that you have no outstanding tax liabilities.

Naturalisation is not as straightforward as many would assume. This is especially so when there are negative or potentially problematic issues relevant to the applicant. Convictions and debts are the tip of the iceberg.

It is wise always to seek professional and independent legal advice from a specialist immigration solicitor regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Potential applicants should be wary of less experienced or unregulated individuals and companies claiming to be specialist advisers in immigration law.

To discuss your personal circumstances with a specialist immigration solicitor call 020 8401 7352 to book an appointment today, or contact us.