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Different Types of UK Citizenship and Nationality

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 6 Nov 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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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
A - Your Question:
Me and my daughter is british.my daughter is born here. her father is romanian but wants a british passport.can he apply for one immediately.

Our Response:
EU nationals who have lived continuously and lawfully in the UK for at least six years are eligible to apply for British citizenship if they would like to do so. The eligibility requirements can be found here .
AboutImmigration - 10-Aug-17 @ 2:38 PM
me and my daughter is british .my daughter is born here . her father is romanian but wants a british passport.can he apply for one immediately .
A - 9-Aug-17 @ 8:55 PM
binte imran - Your Question:
I was born in Uk on 15th August 1963 in Queen Charlotte's Hospital, Hammersmith.Am I a British national or not? If not, can I apply now for British Nationality

Our Response:
You may automatically qualify as a British citizen, depending on: where you were born, when you were born, your parents’ circumstances. Please see gov.uk link here .
AboutImmigration - 3-Aug-17 @ 2:06 PM
I was born in Uk on 15th August 1963 in Queen Charlotte's Hospital, Hammersmith. Am I a British national or not? If not, can I apply now for British Nationality
binte imran - 2-Aug-17 @ 7:19 PM
Advice please. I was Asylum seeker i got refused butI was granted 2 and half long time ago, so i renew this year so i was also granted 2 and half years base on family life in Uk. I was told to apply for further leave to remain when my application is about to expire in 2019. i and my partner wanted to get married this year although my partner is British citizen and we had a son already which is4 years and his British as well., If i got married and wanted to renew again or submit and application, should i submit for Indefinite leave to remain before my current application expire ? I would be glad if you can give me more information about it. thank you.
Yusuf - 22-Jul-17 @ 5:20 PM
Hi i ask before for any one can help me for advise
Mahmud - 26-Jun-17 @ 1:37 AM
Gladys - Your Question:
I am french citizen I am living in uk since 2003 , my son's born in france came back when he was 1 week old. I will like to know how he can become british because his brother 7 years old are until to have it. Thank you

Our Response:
If the father is a British citizen and/or if you are classed as a permenant resident, then you can register your son.
AboutImmigration - 23-Jun-17 @ 3:52 PM
I am french citizen I am living in uk since 2003 , my son's born in francecame back when he was 1 week old . I will like to know how he can become british because his brother 7 years old are until to have it. Thank you
Gladys - 23-Jun-17 @ 12:22 PM
Hi, I am currently on dependant visa and my husband on ILR. I am planning to go back to my home country for my maternity and stay there for more than 180 days does this affect my ILR visa application? Moreover can I clain British citizenship for my baby as my husband is on ILR?
A - 11-Jun-17 @ 12:28 PM
I was born in Sweden in November 1983, moved to the UK in January 1984 and have lived in the UK since then. My mother is Swedish and father is British, a UK passport holder. I have only ever had a Swedish passport. I have recently married a British man. I have no right to vote in general elections and this is something I want to rectify, do I need to apply for UK citizenship or do I need to apply for a UK passport?
HCM - 9-Jun-17 @ 7:55 AM
Sangita - Your Question:
Hi I came here 1971 from Uganda been here in uk ever since. I have 4 children,all born here in the U.K. between 1985-1993,can they apply for British passports and if so what documents do they need. I have a British passport.

Our Response:
You can see more via the gov.uk link here to first check whether you have to register your children as British citizens. You can also see more via the MN1 link here. Your children should be eligible for British citizenship, based upon your own naturalisation. Once they are registered as British citizens, you/they (if over 18) can apply directly for a British passport.
AboutImmigration - 27-Apr-17 @ 11:04 AM
Hi I came here 1971 from Uganda been here in uk ever since... I have 4 children,all born here in the U.K. between 1985-1993,can they apply for British passports and if so what documents do they need .I have a British passport..
Sangita - 26-Apr-17 @ 1:55 PM
I have a child to my indonesian wife we are only married traditionally indonesia will not issue birth certificate in the fathers last name or reference to father given this how do I satisfy the proof of birth to a British citizen
Ady - 8-Apr-17 @ 1:51 PM
I have a child to my indonesian wife we are only married traditionally Muslim ceremony indonesia will not issue birth certificate in the fathers last name or reference to father on birth certificate given this how do I satisfy the proof of birth to a British citizen
Ady - 8-Apr-17 @ 1:49 PM
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
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