British Nationality vs British Citizenship

The terms "British nationality" and "British citizenship" are sometimes used interchangeably, but there is a distinction between the two.

What is British Nationality?

  1. British Nationality is a broader category that encompasses various statuses and types of connections to the United Kingdom and its territories.
  2. It includes British Citizens, British Overseas Territories Citizens, British Overseas Citizens, British Subjects, British Nationals (Overseas), and British Protected Persons.
  3. British Nationality is a legal status that indicates a person's connection to the UK or its territories, but it does not necessarily grant full citizenship rights.

Types of British Nationality

British Citizenship:

  1. British Citizenship is one specific type of British Nationality that confers the highest level of rights and privileges within the United Kingdom.
  2. When someone is a British Citizen, they have the right of abode in the UK, which means they can live, work, and study in the UK without being subject to immigration restrictions.
  3. British Citizens can also vote in UK elections and access various social benefits.
  4. British Citizenship is acquired through birth, descent, marriage, or naturalisation.

British Overseas Territories Citizenship

British Overseas Territories Citizenship, formerly known as British Dependent Territories Citizenship before February 26, 2002, grants certain rights and privileges to individuals with connections to British overseas territories. As a British Overseas Territories citizen, you can apply for a British passport, but it's important to note that you will still be subject to immigration regulations and won't have an inherent right to reside in the UK.

Here's a breakdown of who can acquire British Overseas Territories Citizenship:

Born Before January 1, 1983:

  • You became a British Overseas Territories Citizen on January 1, 1983, if:
  • You were a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies (CUKC) on December 31, 1982.
  • You had connections with a British overseas territory through birth, registration, or naturalization of yourself, your parents, or grandparents.
  • Women married to a man who became a British Overseas Territories Citizen on January 1, 1983, also acquired this citizenship.

If One of Your Parents Was a British Overseas Territories Citizen:

  • You can apply to become a British Overseas Territories Citizen if you did not automatically acquire it due to:
  • Your parents not being married at the time of your birth.
  • Your mother being a British Overseas Territories Citizen.
  • You can also apply for British citizenship simultaneously.

Born on or After January 1, 1983:

  • You are a British Overseas Territories Citizen if:
  • You were born in a British overseas territory.
  • At the time of your birth, one of your parents was a British Overseas Territories Citizen or legally settled in a British overseas territory.
  • You also qualify if you were adopted in an overseas territory by a British Overseas Territories Citizen or if you were born outside the overseas territory to a parent who gained citizenship in their own right ("otherwise than by descent").

If Your Parents Were Not Married:

  • You can apply for British Overseas Territories Citizenship if you didn't automatically acquire it because your parents were not married at the time of your birth. You can also apply for British citizenship concurrently.

A British overseas citizen is a status that some people hold, and it comes with certain rights and restrictions. Here's a user-friendly summary of the key points:

British Overseas Citizen


British overseas citizens have certain privileges, like holding a British passport and receiving consular assistance, but they are not automatically granted the right to live or work in the UK, and they are not considered UK nationals by the EU. You can become a British overseas citizen under specific conditions, especially if you are stateless or if you were born in certain situations related to British overseas citizens. Children can also acquire this status in unique cases.

How You Became a British Overseas Citizen:

  • You became a British overseas citizen if you were a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies (CUKC) on 31 December 1982 and did not become a British citizen or a British overseas territories citizen on 1 January 1983.
  • If you were a British overseas territories citizen because of your connection with Hong Kong, you lost that citizenship on 30 June 1997 when Hong Kong's sovereignty returned to China.

Exceptions to Become a British Overseas Citizen:

  • You became a British overseas citizen if you had no other nationality and would have become stateless.
  • If you were born on or after 1 July 1997 and would have been born stateless if one of your parents was a British national (overseas) or British overseas citizen when you were born.

Rights as a British Overseas Citizen:

  • You can hold a British passport.
  • You can get consular assistance and protection from UK diplomatic posts.
  • However, you're subject to immigration controls, and you don't have the automatic right to live or work in the UK.
  • You are not considered a UK national by the European Union (EU).

How to Become a British Overseas Citizen:

You may register as a British overseas citizen if you are re stateless (not recognised by any country as having a nationality) and both of these apply:

  • you were born in the UK or an overseas territory
  • one of your parents is a British overseas citizen

You may also be able to register if you’re stateless and all of these apply:

  • you were born outside the UK and qualifying territories
  • one of your parents is a British overseas citizen
  • you’ve lived in the UK or an overseas territory for 3 years or more

Children:

- Children under 18 can be registered as British overseas citizens in special circumstances.

British Subject

Historically, the term "British subject" was used to describe individuals with a close connection to the United Kingdom. Before 1949, nearly everyone with such a connection fell under this category. However, things have changed over the years. As a British subject, you have certain privileges, like holding a British passport and receiving consular assistance, but they are not automatically granted the right to live or work in the UK, and they are not considered UK nationals by the EU.

Who Qualifies as a British Subject?

As of January 1, 1983, only a few groups of people are recognized as British subjects:

1. British Subjects Without Citizenship: If you were a British subject on December 31, 1948, and did not become a citizen of the UK and Colonies, a Commonwealth country, Pakistan, or Ireland by January 1, 1983, you are considered a British subject.

2. Irish Citizens: If you were a citizen of Ireland on December 31, 1948, and made a claim to remain a British subject, you fall under this category.

3. Women Married to British Subjects: Women who registered as British subjects based on their marriage to a man in one of the above categories also became British subjects on January 1, 1983.

Ireland Citizens

If you were an Irish citizen on December 31, 1948, and didn't make a claim to remain a British subject, you can still apply to become one if you've been in Crown service for the UK government or have strong associations with the UK or a British overseas territory.

You can apply for British subject status by obtaining a British subject passport.

Children of British Subjects


Typically, British subjects cannot pass on their status to their children born after January 1, 1983. However, there are exceptions. A child may be a British subject if:

  • They were born in the UK or a British overseas territory on or after January 1, 1983.
  • One of their parents is a British subject.
  • Neither parent is a British citizen, British overseas territories citizen, or British overseas citizen.
  • They would be stateless without British subject status.

Rights as a British Subject

Being a British subject comes with certain rights, including the ability to hold a British passport and receive consular assistance and protection from UK diplomatic posts. However, it's essential to note that British subjects are usually subject to immigration controls and do not automatically have the right to live or work in the UK, with rare exceptions. Also, they are not considered UK nationals by the European Union.

Becoming a British Subject

If you find yourself stateless and were born outside the UK or British overseas territories on or after January 1, 1983, you may be eligible to register as a British subject. There are specific conditions to meet, and you can apply using Form S2.

For children under 18, there are special circumstances under which they can be registered as British subjects. More information can be found in the guidance notes when applying using Form MN4.

Citizenship in Another Country

Since January 1, 1983, anyone gaining citizenship in another country typically loses their British subject status, unless they also hold citizenship in Ireland.

British National (Overseas)

Individuals who held British Overseas Territories citizenship by virtue of their connection with Hong Kong were eligible to register as British Nationals (Overseas) before July 1, 1997.

British Overseas Territories citizens from Hong Kong who did not complete the registration process as British Nationals (Overseas) and did not possess any other nationality or citizenship as of June 30, 1997, were automatically designated as British Overseas Citizens on July 1, 1997.

As a British National, you have certain privileges, like holding a British passport and receiving consular assistance, but they are not automatically granted the right to live or work in the UK, and they are not considered UK nationals by the EU.

British Protected Person

As a British Protected Person, you have certain privileges, like holding a British passport and receiving consular assistance, but they are not automatically granted the right to live or work in the UK, and they are not considered UK nationals by the EU.

You could have become a British protected person on January 1, 1983, if:

  • You were a citizen of Brunei.
  • You were already a British protected person.
  • You would have been born stateless (without a country) in the UK or an overseas territory because one of your parents was a British protected person.

To become a British protected person:

  • You must be stateless and have always been so.
  • You must have been born in the UK or an overseas territory.
  • Your father or mother must have been a British protected person when you were born.

Recent articles

Changes to the 10-Year Long Residence ILR Rules: New Absence Limits

Changes to the 10-Year Long Residen...

Life in the UK test

Life in the UK test

Financial Requirements for UK Spouse Visa Applications

Financial Requirements for UK Spous...

Ruslan Kosarenko

Ruslan Kosarenko

Senior Partner