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Different Types of UK Citizenship and Nationality

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 9 Mar 2017 | 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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[Add a Comment]
Annie - Your Question:
I was born in 1975 in Australia. Can I apply for a British passport? Can my son who is 2 years old also apply? Thank you.

Our Response:
You can only apply for British citizenship if you have a parent who is a British citizen. However, it only applies to one generation born abroad, so would not apply to your child.
AboutImmigration - 10-Mar-17 @ 12:54 PM
I was born in 1975 in Australia. Can I apply for a British passport? Can my son who is 2 years old also apply? Thank you.
Annie - 9-Mar-17 @ 1:53 PM
I am British Citizen and married my wife in 1985 who is Portuguese. She arrived to UK in 1985 with an entry on her passport 'GIVEN LEAVE TO ENTER THE UNITED KINGDOM FOR AN INDEFINITE PERIOD. Since 1985, she has been living in UK and we have two children; does she still have to apply for resident permit and test to obtain British citizenship?
Kam - 8-Mar-17 @ 1:55 PM
I have British citizenship, was born in Britain in 1970s, but I have always had a French passport as my mother is French. Post Brexit, should I get a British passport?
bob - 2-Mar-17 @ 4:29 PM
Hi, I have a.daughter who has been born in the UK 6years ago,but has a Hungarian passport and Hungarian citizenship. She does have English birth certificate too.we have been in the UK for 9 years now. How can she have British citizenship? Or shall I just apply for an English passport and she will get dual nationality? I also have a son,who's 3 weeks old,and got tje British citizenship straight away. Thanks
Betty - 2-Feb-17 @ 2:42 PM
Jackie - Your Question:
I am a british citizen living in south africa. My children were born is south Africa. Do they qualify for a british passport?

Our Response:
Please see gov.uk link here which should answer your question.
AboutImmigration - 18-Jan-17 @ 1:40 PM
I am a british citizen living in south africa. My children were born is south Africa.Do they qualify for a british passport?
Jackie - 18-Jan-17 @ 8:37 AM
liz - Your Question:
I born in the philippines. my father is british and my mother is philippine. they ate not married but my father recognised me as his father in my birth certificate. how can I get a british passport

Our Response:
You can see more on how to register as a British citizen via the gov.uk site here.
AboutImmigration - 1-Dec-16 @ 2:07 PM
i born in the philippines. my father is british and my mother is philippine. they ate not married but my father recognised me as his father in my birth certificate.. how can i get a british passport
liz - 30-Nov-16 @ 10:20 PM
My mother was born in the Uk and I was born in Canada in 1982. I know I can apply to register but how do I do it from abroad re the self asessmemt tax form required Any help appreciated
Jillllee - 15-Nov-16 @ 5:09 PM
hi i am borned in england on 23 may 2000 since 2002 i live in Albania wihch isnt in european union i'm living in ALBANIA because british authorties returned me and my family in my parents country because they went there by immigration and they had the right to stay there for an unspecified time but they returned us since 2002 i want to know if i can go in england by vissa to live and get a passport.
ledia - 6-Nov-16 @ 5:43 PM
I've been living in England for the past 19 years. I was a Portuguese national but as of last year my nationality got revoked due to my parents not have been living in Portugal for 5years prior to my birth. I have been married to a British citizen and have 3 British children. As I have been left without a passport what are my options. What do I do next. Lawyers are charging £80 per session. It's unreal.
Sonia - 4-Nov-16 @ 2:14 PM
Jasmine - Your Question:
Im born in hk and by mother has the overseas British passport but my father is foreigner with Japanese residenceAm I also able to get British citizenship.?

Our Response:
You would have to check via the gov.uk site here.
AboutImmigration - 9-Sep-16 @ 11:54 AM
Im born in hk and by mother has the overseas British passport but my father is foreigner with Japanese residence Am I also able to get British citizenship.?
Jasmine - 8-Sep-16 @ 4:42 PM
I haveaCanadianPassport andhavelivedinBritainsince1978. MymotherisBritish andfatherCanadian. CanIapplyforaBritishpassport andstillholdmyCanadianpassport.
missylee - 20-Aug-16 @ 7:52 PM
southfields - Your Question:
Hello,Me and my wife have lived in UK for over 12 years as EU nationals.Will we be entitled to apply for British permanent residency and British citizenship now? If not, what else do we need to do to enable us to?Many thanks

Our Response:
Please see gov.uk link here which will give you more information regarding your rights.
AboutImmigration - 5-Aug-16 @ 2:21 PM
Hello, Me and my wife have lived in UK for over 12 years as EU nationals. Will we be entitled to apply for British permanent residency and British citizenship now? If not, what else do we need to do to enable us to? Many thanks
southfields - 5-Aug-16 @ 7:37 AM
I was born in Ireland in 1955, lived and worked in UK for the last 40 years., as a nurse in the NHS (drawing an NHS pension) I hold an Irish passport. My husband and two children are English and hold English Passports. Am I entitled to an English passport and if so, do I go through usual channels to appy for it, please? Many thanks, Ros
Ros - 13-Jul-16 @ 3:31 PM
Hi! How can I apply for British citizen visa for subject to become a British citizen program.my grandparent and parent also live in u.k. as a British citizen and my birth before 1st January 1983.I hold Commonwealth country(india) passport. Please reply as soon as possible.how to I apply for visa..
Rahul - 29-Jun-16 @ 7:25 AM
I was born in the UK in 2000. My mother is Italian but has studied and worked in the Uk since 1985. My grandmother is British. My father is British too. I hold an Italian passport as my parents never married. Am I eligible for British nationality? Can I have dual nationality?
Sash - 25-Jun-16 @ 8:36 AM
Alexander - Your Question:
Hi! I am British citizen by descent (born in HK to British mother) and am wondering if I can pass my citizenship to my children abroad if I have studied in the UK for three years. Does studying count as a form of 'living there'? If so, how can I do so?

Our Response:
A parent who is a British citizen by descent cannot normally pass that status on, please see link here.
AboutImmigration - 18-May-16 @ 11:49 AM
Hi! I am British citizen by descent (born in HK to British mother) and am wondering if I can pass my citizenship to my children abroad if I have studied in the UK for three years. Does studying count as a form of 'living there'? If so, how can I do so?
Alexander - 17-May-16 @ 4:21 PM
Hi I am an EU national who has been living in the UK for 12 years. I have been living with my British partner as we are married for 11 years and we also have 2 children, they are British too. However, my partner is officially still married to a UK national although they separated before we met. What is my route to apply for British citizenship? Can my partner be a sponsor or on the ground of my British children can I apply as a direct family member?
Erika - 9-Feb-16 @ 11:56 AM
Ifrah - Your Question:
Im a british citizen other than by decent. Have gained it through naturalisation. I had a baby in sweden and want to apply a british passport for him. Is he eligible?

Our Response:
You can see more via the gov.uk link here. I hope this helps.
AboutImmigration - 12-Jan-16 @ 11:37 AM
Im a british citizen other than by decent. Have gained it through naturalisation. I had a baby in sweden and want to apply a british passport for him. Is he eligible?
Ifrah - 11-Jan-16 @ 12:11 PM
i am married to a british citizen for 6 years .I am from south africa but we live in Ireland with my kids from my previous marriage.Can i get a british passportCan my kids get a british passport. Any advise would be appreciated
lorna - 25-Nov-15 @ 1:07 AM
Hello, I have the British nationality (born in the UK). I now live in Greece. I have two daughters 17 and 21 years old. Can I apply for my daughtersBritish Nationality? Thank you
SHABNAM - 6-Nov-15 @ 7:38 PM
@Popsi - you can apply via the link here. You can also see our partner article: Registering a Child as a UK Citizen or National, link here which will give you more information regarding your eligibility. I hope this helps.
AboutImmigration - 25-Jun-15 @ 9:57 AM
My daughter's dad is British. I am a Ugandan with Permanent Residency. I have no contact with him and do not know where he lives. I know his name, date of birth and NI number. Can I apply for my daughter to become a British citizen on the grounds that her dad is a British.
Popsi - 23-Jun-15 @ 12:14 AM
My wife and I lived in London, England from 1994 through 1997.We are both US Citizens.Our daughter was born in London in April 1996.Is she able to obtain a British passport and have duel citizenship?
Chris - 31-Dec-14 @ 2:56 AM
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