by Primerose Makunzva

Britain has now voted to leave the European Union (UE) and it has become clear that the Brexit campaign won the vote because of their arguments against Mass Migration to the UK from the European Union.

It is important to note that the concerns regarding migration are not just restricted to European nationals but to migrants from anywhere in the world. These same concerns led the Conservative Party to win the UK’s general election in May 2010 as they had vowed to address this issue and reduce net migration from hundreds of thousands a year to the tens of thousands. Since then, the Conservative Government has brought about unprecedented changes to the UK’s Immigration Laws through a series of reforms that began in 2012.

We have seen the UK’s immigration system become very hostile since then and it appears that these changes are going to continue. The only difference is the harsh laws will now apply to everyone including European Nationals who might want to migrate to the UK after the UK has formally left the EU.

What next for migrants

Now is probably a time for those who are already in the UK ( both EU nationals and non EU nationals) to secure their future by applying for British Citizenship as no one knows what further reforms lie ahead for both European nationals and those from outside the UK once the UK is formally out of the EU.

It is advisable for people for those who are currently eligible to apply for British Citizenship to apply for it now and not postpone it to the future. It is also important to note that UK Nationality laws have not been spared from the harsh reforms in Immigration law and it is fair to say that refusals for British citizenship applications are at an all-time high due to the changes that were introduced in December. These changes were probably in response to an article that was published in the Guardian Newspaper on 11th December 2014.

In that article, the Guardian newspaper criticised the way in which the UK Home Office assesses applications for British citizenship. The Home Office was accused of granting British citizenship to people who do not meet the 'good character' requirement for naturalisation.

The Guardian article alleged that the Home Office was in fact just dishing out British Citizenship to anyone who applied for it without scrutinising the applicant's character. It advocated for a tougher scrutiny of an applicant's character which goes beyond basic computerised background checks to take into account more than just the criminal records.

Interestingly enough, soon after that article was published, new requirements were added to the good character requirement for applications for British Citizenship by naturalisation and registration to take into account a number of factors that would disqualify an applicant from being granted British Citizenship.

In December 2014, the Home Office added some undesirable behaviours to the list of disqualifying behaviour to include the following behaviours:

  • Illegal entry.
  • Assisting Illegal migration
  • Evasion of immigration control

If the applicant entered the UK illegally, their application for British citizenship is likely to be refused.

In this case, the Home Office can refuse an application where there are grounds to believe that the applicant was involved in facilitating illegal migration.

This would apply in cases where an applicant failed to observe the conditions of their leave to remain or temporary admission such as working above the permitted number of hours. Another example is failure to report to the Local enforcement unit for those who have reporting instructions.

The Home Office guidance on the subject provides that where the above disqualifying behaviour applies, an application for citizenship will be refused for a period of 10 years from the date the applicant entered the UK or the date the breach ended. If the date of entry to the UK is unknown to the authorities, then the 10 year period is counted from the time the Home Office became aware of the applicant's presence in the UK.

The new requirements are now being applying to all applications for naturalisation and registration.

Since these new changes were quietly introduced, it seems the Home Office has gone on a spree of refusing applications for naturalisation and registration for just about any reason they can think of under the 'good character ' test.

It might be possible to challenge the refusal of an application for British Citizenship but this will depend on the facts of each case. The High Court has already had a chance to consider some cases were the applications for Citizenship by both naturalisation and registration were refused. Thankfully, the High Court is taking a sensible approach to the assessment of good character and some of these cases have succeeded and the applicants had the Home Office decision quashed.

Those whose applications for Citizenship are refused should seek professional advice on the merits of challenging the Home Office decision in their cases. Please note that this paper does not seek to provide direct legal advice in people's individual cases. If you think you may be affected by the Immigration law reforms in the UK, please seek advice from a professional.

Primerose Makunzva is aa partner at IPS Legal Solicitors LLP in Central London. She can be contacted at or on 07818 066522/0203 176 5216. You can also watch her Immigration Law updates on youtube.

Disclaimer: This article only provides general information and guidance on immigration law. The writer will not accept any liability for any claims or inconvenience as a result of the use of this information.

© IPS Legal LLP 2019