Asked by Sir Nicholas Soames (Conservative, Mid Sussex)
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, if she will introduce legislative proposals to prevent anyone who has entered or stayed illegally in the UK being granted British citizenship.
Answered by: James Brokenshire (Minister of State for Immigration, Conservative, Old Bexley & Sidcup)
Applicants for naturalisation need to meet the statutory requirements in the British Nationality Act 1981 which specify that a person must not have been in breach of the Immigration Rules during the required residential qualifying period.
In addition, a person is required to be of good character. If a person meets these requirements, the Home Secretary may, if she thinks fit, grant a certificate of naturalisation.
We have recently substantially strengthened our policy on both the good character and residence requirements. Our revised policy on good character makes it clear that entering the UK illegally or evading immigration control will
usually mean that a person is prevented from acquiring citizenship for a period of 10 years. In terms of assessing the residence requirements, new guidance has been published on how the Home Secretary will exercise her discretion. We
will no longer overlook lengthy periods of unlawful residence, as was the case under previous governments. Whereas previously discretion would have been exercised in cases where a person who deliberately entered or remained in the UK without permission had attempted to regularise their stay by making an application to the Home Office, we will no longer tolerate this. We will normally only exercisediscretion to overlook periods of unlawful residence if they are short and genuinely inadvertent or outside the applicant’s control.