Are British citizenship and British nationality the same?
British citizenship is a type of British nationality as defined by the British Nationality Act 1981. However, British citizenship is not the only type of British nationality. The British Nationality Act also created other forms of British nationality, these include:
- British overseas territories citizen
- British overseas citizen
- British subject
- British national (overseas)
- British protected person
As a British national it is important to know what type of nationality status that you hold as your rights will vary depending on the status that you hold. Generally, British citizenship is the only nationality that allows you to live and work in the UK without being subject to immigration time restrictions.
Information about the different types of British nationality and the rights associated with them according to British nationality law is outlined below.
British citizenship allows you to live and work in the United Kingdom free from UK immigration controls.
As a British citizen, you are also entitled to a UK passport that you can use to travel freely in and out of the country. British citizens have other rights too, this includes the right to vote in all elections, the right to stand for office, the right to claim public funds and the right to be joined by family members.
Some people have an automatic right to British citizenship at birth, this depends on where you were born when you were born and your parent’s immigration status at the time.
Naturalisation is the most common process used by foreign nationals to become a British citizens. To be eligible you must meet certain conditions. Usually, you will need to have had settled status in the UK for at least 12 months, have lived in the country for at least 5 years, pass the Life in the UK Test and meet the good character requirement. Naturalised British citizens are also required to attend a British citizenship ceremony.
British overseas territories citizen
British overseas territories citizenship, previously known as British dependent territories citizenship is a type of nationality created on 1 January 1983 for citizens of British overseas territories.
You would have become a British overseas territories citizen on 1st January 1983 if you were a citizen of one of the United Kingdom and Colonies (CUKC) on 31 December 1982 and if you had certain family connections with a British overseas territory.
Women who were married to men who became British overseas territories citizens on 1 January 1983 also became British overseas territories citizens.
You can also be a British overseas territory citizen if you were born after 1st January 1983 and 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.
Like regular British citizens, overseas territory citizens have the right to a UK passport. They can also receive diplomatic assistance. However, overseas territory citizens are still subject to UK immigration control and do not have an automatic right to live and work in the UK.
British overseas citizen
British overseas citizenship is a type of nationality generally reserved for people who are connected to a former British colony and who do not have close ties to the UK or any of the remaining overseas territories.
You would have become a British overseas citizen on 1 January 1983 if you were a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies (CUKC) on 31 December 1982 and you did not become a British citizen or a British overseas territories citizen on 1 January 1983.
British overseas citizens have the same rights as British overseas territory citizens. This means that as a British overseas citizen you can apply for a UK passport and receive consular assistance but you are subject to immigration control and cannot live or work in the UK without the correct immigration status.
Many people used to qualify as a British subject. Up until 1949, this was the term used to everyone with a close connection to the United Kingdom and all Commonwealth citizens were referred to as British subjects up until 1983. However, since 1983 very few people qualify as British subjects.
You would have become a British subject on 1st January 1983 in two cases:
- You were a British subject without citizenship, this means that you were a British subject on 31 December 1948 and you didn’t become a citizen of the UK and Colonies, a Commonwealth country, Pakistan or Ireland.
- You were a citizen of Ireland on 31 December 1948 and had made a claim to remain a British subject
British subjects can hold a British passport and access consular assistance but they are usually subject to immigration controls.
British national (overseas)
The British national overseas nationality came as a result of the sovereignty of Hong Kong being handed over from the UK to China on July 1st 1997.
People who were British overseas territories citizens because of their connection with Hong Kong were able to register to become a British national overseas before the handover took place. British overseas territories citizens from Hong Kong who did not register but who had no other nationality or citizenship on June 30th 1997 became British overseas citizens on July 1st 1997.
Those with British national overseas status can get a UK passport and receive consular assistance but they are subject to immigration control.
However, those with British national overseas status may be entitled to apply for a BNO visa which allows you to live and work in the UK. Family members of British nationals overseas can also be eligible for this visa.
British protected person
You would have become a British protected person on January 1st 1983 if you met one of the following requirements:
- You were a citizen or national of Brunei
- You were already a British protected person
- You would have been born stateless in the UK or an overseas territory because one of your parents was a British protected person when you were born
British protected people will usually lose their status if they gain another type of nationality or citizenship or if the territory they were connected with became independent and they became a citizen of that country.
The rights of a British protected person are the same as overseas citizens, this includes the right to a UK passport and consular support but does not include the right to live and work in the UK without being subject to immigration control.
How can London Immigration lawyers help?
British nationality law is complex and can be very difficult to understand but our lawyers are highly trained when it comes to British nationality and citizenship law and they can assist you with any issues you may be facing.
Whether you are unsure about the type of nationality you hold, the rights you have as a British national or if you want to make a British citizenship application, our lawyers can help. No matter how complicated your issue may be our team have the knowledge and expertise to be able to assist you.
For more information about our British citizenship and nationality services get in touch with our team today on 020 4502 8582.
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