Categories of British nationality

British Nationality Act 1981

The British Nationality Act 1981 (BNA 1981) superseded all previous nationality laws of the UK. It divided British nationals into the following categories:

  • British citizens;
  • British overseas territories citizens;
  • British overseas citizens;
  • British subjects.

The following two categories were not covered by BNA 1981 but nevertheless are types of British nationality.

  • British protected persons;
  • British nationals (overseas).

A British citizen can live and work in the UK free of any immigration controls. British overseas territories citizens, British overseas citizens, British subjects, British protected persons and British nationals (overseas) can hold a British passport and get consular assistance and protection from UK diplomatic posts, but are subject to immigration controls (they don’t have the automatic right to live or work in the UK) and they aren’t considered a UK national by the EU.

British citizens

If you were born in the UK or a British colony before 1 January 1983, you became a British citizen on 1 January 1983 if you were a citizen of the UK and Colonies (CUKC) on 31 December 1982 and you had the ‘right of abode’ in the UK. A right of abode means you don’t need permission from an immigration officer to enter the UK and you can live and work in the UK without restriction. This includes people who were born in a British colony and had the ‘right of abode’ in the UK, as well as those who:

  • were born in the UK;
  • have been naturalised in the UK;
  • had registered as a CUKC;
  • could prove legitimate descent from a father to whom one of these applies.

If you were born in the UK on or after 1 January 1983, you’ll be a British citizen if one of your parents was a British citizen and ‘settled’ in the UK when you were born. Settled means you can stay in the UK without any time restrictions. This includes people who have one of the following:

  • right of abode;
  • indefinite leave to remain;
  • permanent residence as an European Economic Area (EEA) national.

You’ll usually be a British citizen if one of your parents was born in the UK or naturalised there at the time of your birth. If you were born before July 2006, your father’s British nationality will normally only pass to you if he was married to your mother when you were born.

You automatically became a British citizen on 21 May 2002 if your British overseas territories citizenship was gained by connection with a qualifying territory. These are: Anguilla; Bermuda; British Antarctic Territory; British Indian Ocean Territory; British Virgin Islands; Cayman Islands; Falkland Islands; Gibraltar; Montserrat; Pitcairn Islands; Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha; South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands; Turks and Caicos Islands.

British overseas territories citizens

If you were born before 1 January 1983 you became a British overseas territories citizen on 1 January 1983 if: you were a CUKC on 31 December 1982, and you had connections with a British overseas territory because you, your parents or your grandparents were born, registered or naturalised in that British overseas territory.

You also became a British overseas territories citizen if you were a woman married to a man who became a British overseas territories citizen on 1 January 1983.

Unlock this article now!

 

For more information on:

  • British overseas citizens
  • British subjects
  • British protected persons
  • British nationals (overseas)