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Different Types of UK Citizenship and Nationality

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 6 Sep 2019 | comments*Discuss
 
British Uk Nationality Citizen

Because of the UK’s complex international history there are several different forms of UK nationality. An individual’s nationality will generally be determined by the country in which they were born, the nationality of their parents or ancestors and their date of birth.

Many of the rules determining UK nationality changed in 1983 when the British Nationality Act 1981 came into force.

British Citizenship

Prior to 1983 almost anyone born in the UK acquired British citizenship. People born in the UK after 1 January 1983 are still likely to be British citizens if one of their parents was a British citizen or was legally settled in the UK at the time of the birth.

The children of European Economic Area (EEA) or Swiss nationals may also acquire British citizenship if born in the UK. However, whether they are British citizens will depend on when they were born. Those born in the UK to EEA nationals:

  • Between 1st January 1983 and 1st October 2000 are likely to be British citizens.
  • From 2nd October 2000 to 29 April 2006 are likely to be British citizens if one of their parents had indefinite leave to remain in the UK at the time of the birth.
  • From 30 April 2006 are likely to be British citizens if one of their parents had acquired permanent resident status.
Similar rules apply to the children of Swiss nationals born in the UK since 1 June 2002.

Whether children born abroad to British citizens will themselves acquire UK citizenship will depend on when they were born and the type of British citizenship held by their parent or parents.

Individuals holding the forms of nationality listed below may need a visa before coming to live or work in the UK. Some British nationals may, however, be entitled to register as a British citizen.

British Overseas Citizenship

This form of nationality was introduced when the British Nationality Act came into force in 1983. Under the terms of that Act, individuals who had been a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies before 1 January 1983 - but who did not automatically become British Citizens or British Overseas Territories Citizens on that date – became British Overseas Citizens. Those who became British Overseas Citizens on that date, rather than British Citizens, may have done so because they did not satisfy a minimum qualifying period.

British Overseas Citizens may be able to register as British citizens if they satisfy the residence requirements or if they hold no other nationality.

British Overseas Territories Citizenship

This form of citizenship is acquired by individuals who have some connection with British Overseas Territories – previously known as British Dependent Territories. It generally applies to individuals who were United Kingdom and Colonies citizens before 1st January 1983 and who did not automatically become British Citizens on that date but who had some connection with a British overseas territory either personally or through an ancestor.

On 21 May 2002 many British Overseas Territories Citizens automatically acquired full British citizenship.

British National (Overseas)

Individuals who held British Overseas Territories Citizenship by connection with Hong Kong were entitled to register as British Nationals (Overseas) up to 1 July 1997. When Hong Kong passed back to China individuals whose only entitlement to British nationality was through their connection with Hong Kong – and who had not registered as British Nationals (Overseas) - lost their entitlement to British citizenship. However, individuals with no other nationality as of 30th June 1997 automatically became British Overseas Citizens on 1 July 1997.

British Subjects

Few individuals have qualified as British Subjects since the British Nationality Act came into force on 1st January 1983. The following categories of people became British Subjects on that date:
  • Individuals who were British subjects prior to 1949 and who did not subsequently acquire another form of citizenship;
  • Individuals who were British subjects and citizens of Eire prior to 1949 and who applied to remain as British subjects;
  • Women who had registered as British subjects through their marriage to a man who fell into one of the two preceding categories.

British Protected Persons

This form of nationality applied to the nationals of countries, which did not form part of the British Empire, but which were offered protection by Britain. Most British Protected Persons lost that status either through acquiring the citizenship of another country or a different form of UK nationality.

Only individuals who were British Protected Persons as of 1 January 1983 and / or who were born to a British Protected Person after that date are likely to qualify under this category of British nationality. British Protected Persons may qualify to register as British citizens by satisfying the residence requirements or through marriage to a British citizen.

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My paternal grandfather was born illegitimately in 1922 in the US. His father was American. His mother was a British Citizen. Next generation: my father was born in 1948. From my very basic impression of the 1948 British Nationality Act, it seems possible that all 3 generations were considered citizens when that act took effect in 1949. If that is true, what would my father need to do to claim or register that? Thank you for your help!
S - 6-Sep-19 @ 5:18 PM
I was born abroad but acquired British Citizenship by descent from my UK born father. My daughter was born in 1982 and my citizenship was granted in 1984 ,two years after her birth. According to the BNA, I could not pass citizenship to her as it can only be passed down one generation meaning from my father to me only. My family were given ILR when we moved to the UK in 1984. After meeting the residency and other statutory requirements after 6 years in the UK, my husband applied for naturalisation (successful) and registered my daughter (successful) under 3.1. There was no accompanying letter to explain the 3.1 status. My question is : is my daughter classified as by descent or otherwise than by descent? I think it is the latter as she qualified for registration in her own right.
JR - 24-Jul-19 @ 12:09 PM
@Angie - Once you get settled status your child will be able to apply for British citizenship using the MN1 form
TJ. - 11-Mar-19 @ 11:52 AM
My son was born in UK in 2016. I am spanish but in 2016 I had just 2 years living in UK ao my baby didn't get the British Nationality. My question is: When I get the settled status can he apply for British Citizenship? Thanks.
Angie - 9-Mar-19 @ 10:54 PM
@Lay - If your father was married to your mother and he was a British citizen by birth or naturalisation at the time of your birth then you are already a British citizen and you can just apply for a British passport.
TJ. - 7-Mar-19 @ 9:20 AM
I was born before 1983 in Bangladesh. My dad was a British citizen, can I apply for british citizenship? He has now sadly passed away but lived in the UK for most of his life. Any advice would be much appreciated
Lay - 6-Mar-19 @ 7:29 AM
I was born in the Republic of Ireland (1952) ; I have lived in the UK since 1972 with initially an Irish passport and currently an EU (Irish) one. I was considering applying for dual Citizenship so I could also have a british passport as I travel quite a bit in and out if the UK for work. However it seems the fees are outrageously high - £1,200 or more. Do I have any rights to a less prohibitive cost considering I have lived in the UK for over 46 years?
Maisie - 3-Jan-19 @ 10:00 AM
@Rajn - Because your son was born outside the UK before you or your partner became British citizens then you can only apply to register him as a British citizen under section 3(1) and this will be at the Home Secretary's discretion
TJ. - 23-Oct-18 @ 9:02 AM
Hi, I am currently living in Australia and I am a British citizen since 2002. My son born in overseas in 2001 (prior to acquire my citizenship). However, me and my wife had ILR at the time of my son born. Can I register my son as British citizen, if yes how, please explain. Thanks
Rajn - 22-Oct-18 @ 2:10 PM
@Kalie - Are you registered as British citizen by descent? If yes, your children will only be able to apply to register as British citizens once they have lived with both parents in the UK for a continuous period of at least 3 years. This is section 3(5) of the Nationality act and you will apply using the MN1 form
TJ. - 2-Jul-18 @ 10:33 AM
Hello. I’m aBritish Citizen through registration since 2009. I have two kids 5&9 years. They were born in Sierraleone. We have recently moved to the UK 5 months ago. Are they entitled to British Citizenship? If yes what type? And which firmi should use to apply. Please emailme a copy of your reply. Thank you very much
Kalie - 1-Jul-18 @ 9:09 PM
Hello me and my wife (born and raised in England) have been married and living in the US for almost 10 years. We were recently wanting to move her back. We are seeking advice on what the best route would be for me to move over there with her.
Grim - 2-Jun-18 @ 12:37 AM
seeking enlightenmen - Your Question:
I am a british passport holder born in france to british parents.I am married to a french citizen and our son was born in costa rica. Can my son be a british citizen or does he have to be costa rican

Our Response:
You may be able to apply for your child (under 18 years of age) to be registered as a British citizen, for example if you’re a British citizen but your child was born or adopted outside the UK. Please see link here , which will tell you all you need to know.
AboutImmigration - 16-Apr-18 @ 2:47 PM
my dear. I have a British passport and I have not renewed it. My father has an official British passport. My father died and his passport is valid. It is still with me. She renewed the Queen's passport office in Liverpool. The payment was sent to Liverpool and the old passports were then requested by the Queen's Passport Office in Liverpool. Send them. Is my passport renewed and a new passport issued to me? My parents are issued passports because their father and grandfather have British walnuts. Thank
Abo_Omar - 14-Apr-18 @ 11:58 PM
@seeking enlightenmen - Your child is not a British citizen. You can only register him as a British citizen if you lived in the UK for at least 3 continuous years before he was born
TJ. - 14-Apr-18 @ 1:32 PM
i am a british passport holder born in france to british parents.I am married to a french citizen and our son was born in costa rica. Can my son be a british citizen or does he have to be costa rican
seeking enlightenmen - 14-Apr-18 @ 11:44 AM
Mic - Your Question:
Hi, I am a Singaporean married to a British citizen for 16 years. We have 3 British kids together. For the first 4 years of our marriage, I lived in U.K under EEA family permit. Then we moved to Asia for the last 8 years due to my husband’s job. We have been away from U.K. for 8 years. I came back U.K. under spouse visa in 2017. Question:1) I would like to apply for indefinite leave to remain. I understand that I need to live in U.K. for 5 years before applying for it. Could it be earlier as we have been married for 16 years and have been living together? Many thanks.

Our Response:
There are no exceptions to the rule. To be considered for ILR, you must meet the continuous lawful residence requirement. To do so, you are required to prove you have completed five years of continuous lawful residence in the UK .
AboutImmigration - 12-Apr-18 @ 10:45 AM
Hi, I am a Singaporean married to a British citizen for 16 years. We have 3 British kids together. For the first 4 years of our marriage, I lived in U.K under EEA family permit. Then we moved to Asia for the last 8 years due to my husband’s job. We have been away from U.K. for 8 years. I came back U.K. under spouse visa in 2017. Question: 1) I would like to apply for indefinite leave to remain. I understand that I need to live in U.K. for 5 years before applying for it. Could it be earlier as we have been married for 16 years and have been living together? Many thanks.
Mic - 11-Apr-18 @ 1:24 PM
@AndreeaB - Your level of income is irrelevant to an application for British citizenship.
TJ. - 21-Mar-18 @ 5:26 PM
Hi, I’ve been living in the UK since December 2013, my first P60 it shows an income of almost £4000. Now I would like to apply for British citizenship as in April I will have the 5th P60. I am from Romania. Will I be accepted if my first P60 doesn’t show a big income?
AndreeaB - 21-Mar-18 @ 8:07 AM
I am 100% British born and bred. Moved to nigeria in 1983. My son born here in 1987 (greek father) obtained passport here. We are still in nigeria and he has a daughter 9yrs old with a Nigerian lady (no longer together)we tried to get a brit passport for my granddaughterbut refused. How can she travel with nigerian passport and either one of us brit pass. Different queue etcwhat do we do?
Pd - 8-Jan-18 @ 12:30 PM
Niyaaz - Your Question:
Hi, I was born in the US and have American citizenship, but I also have British nationality as well beause my mom was able to pass it on to me since she was British born, so I have dual nationality as US and British. I have moved to the UK permenately and am studying there as well, but they are considering me as an Overseas student because I didn't live in the UK 3 years before starting university, but I have been a British national since birth. So, technically shouldn't I be considered a home student?

Our Response:
Unfortunately, the blanket policy is that if you are a British citizen you have to be classed as being 'ordinarily resident' in the United Kingdom, Channel Islands and/or Isle of Man for the whole period of the three years directly preceding the first day of the academic course you have chosen to study. If you do not fulfil these requirements you are considered an overseas student.
AboutImmigration - 6-Nov-17 @ 11:02 AM
@Rosina unfortunately before 1983 a British mother could not pass on citizenship to a child born outside the UK if the father was not British. Your daughter has two options. She can register as a British citizen "by descent" using the UKM form on the govuk website which is more straight forward. Her other option is she can apply for ILR (assuming she doesn't have this already) and after naturalize as a British citizen based on her residency and marriage to a British citizen. The second option costs more and will take longer than the first but it will allow her to be British "otherwise than by descent" like her siblings and yourself.
TJ. - 6-Nov-17 @ 9:27 AM
Hello I am British born since 1950 I married in 1968 had two children my husband then got work in South Africa in 1976, I divorced the same year and married again in 1977.I had another child that year who had a South African passport .She started school at 5 back in UK and has been here since,having another sister born in UK .All my family are British .She is the only one with different passport. she would like a British one. She married a British man and her own Son is British. What should she do .I divorced her Dad in the UK and I was granted custody of the two children by this marriage in UK court.
Rosina - 5-Nov-17 @ 9:04 PM
@Niyaaz for one to be considered a home student they need to have been resident in the UK for 3 years before applying.
TJ. - 5-Nov-17 @ 4:20 PM
Hi, I was born in the US and have American citizenship, but I also have British nationality as well beause my mom was able to pass it on to me since she was British born, so I have dual nationality as US and British. I have moved to the UK permenately and am studying there as well, but they are considering me as an Overseas student because I didn't live in the UK 3 years before starting university, but I have been a British national since birth. So, technically shouldn't I be considered a home student?
Niyaaz - 5-Nov-17 @ 2:01 PM
Leo - Your Question:
Hi me and my sibblings came under our fathers citerzenship and british passport we came to uk in 1987 as children with our mother who had us added to her passport.all my sibblings have got there british passport made years back im the youngest im now 36.i dont even have a british passport but my indefinate leave to remain has been stamped in my bangladeshi passport for past 18 years.so still recognised as a bamgladeshi citezen even if ive been given indefinate leave to remain.how can I obtain my own British passport or be recognised as a british citerzenship.do I really need to under go life in uk after having a leave to remain for 18years stamped in my passport.i would like to have a british passport.

Our Response:
Please see gov.uk link here which will explain further.
AboutImmigration - 12-Oct-17 @ 11:33 AM
Hi me and my sibblings came under our fathers citerzenship and british passport we came to uk in 1987 as children with our mother who had us added to her passport.all my sibblings have got there british passport made years back im the youngest im now 36.i dont even have a british passport but my indefinate leave to remain has been stamped in my bangladeshi passport for past 18 years.sostill recognised as a bamgladeshi citezen even if ive been given indefinate leave to remain.how can i obtain my own British passport or be recognised as a british citerzenship..do i really need to under go life in uk after having a leave to remain for 18years stamped in my passport.i would like to have a british passport.
Leo - 10-Oct-17 @ 7:19 PM
Hi i am 17 year old born in uk in 10 july 2000.My familly was deported from England 6 years later.From what I read above I dohave a chance to get british citizenship.Can you please explain me more if that is possible.Thank you.
Berber - 29-Sep-17 @ 2:19 PM
hello i am wai lin aung lives in Yangon.
Ka Yin Gyi - 30-Aug-17 @ 1:42 AM
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