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UK Nationality: Do You Qualify?

  • 9 minute read
  • Last updated: 15th October 2019

 

It may be that you are unsure whether you already have UK nationality, perhaps because of your parent’s nationality even though you were born in the UK, or alternatively, you may wish to become a UK national and want to find out whether you are eligible to apply.

Eligibility in either circumstance will rely on factors such as when you were born, your parents’ situation and your place of birth.

 

This article covers:

What is UK nationality?

There are 6 categories of UK nationality:

  • British citizen
  • British overseas territories citizen
  • British overseas citizen
  • British subject
  • British national (overseas)
  • British protected person

A British citizen has the freedom to work and live in the UK without adherence to any immigration controls, that is, they do not require a visa or other permission to be in this country.

They may apply for a British passport and have full access to free healthcare, education and other state benefits.

Do you already hold UK nationality?

A person born in the UK generally is an automatic British citizen, although there are certain exceptions, for instance, where neither of your parents were British, Irish, EU or EEA nationals and they didn’t have permission to be in the UK.

The first place to start when checking whether you are already a British citizen is the year you were born:

  • Born before 1983 in the UK – you are a British citizen unless your father was a diplomat working on behalf of a foreign country or an ‘enemy alien in occupation’ situated in the Channel Islands during the second world war when you were born.
  • Born before 1983 in a British colony – you are a British citizen if you had the right of abode in the UK and were a citizen of the UK and Colonies (CUKC) at the end of 1982. You may not be a British citizen, however, if you obtained a confirmatory certificate of CUKC under the British Nationality (No 2) Act 1964.
  • Born in the UK between 1st January 1983 and 1st October 2000, you will automatically be a British citizen if at the time of your birth:
    • one or both of your parents was a British or Irish citizen, and if that parent was your father, he was married to your mother.
    • one or both of your parents was a citizen of an EU or EEA (European Economic Area) country, living and working/studying in the UK, with full rights of free movement, and if that parent was your father, he was married to your mother.
    • one or both of your parents lived lawfully in the UK under indefinite leave to remain, right of abode or right of re-admission because they were not British, Irish, EU or EEA citizens, and if that parent was your father, he was married to your mother.
  • Born in the UK between 2nd October 2000 and 29th April 2006, you will automatically be a British citizen if at the time of your birth:
    • one or both of your parents was a British or Irish citizen, and if that parent was your father, he was married to your mother.
    • one of your parents was a citizen of an EU or EEA country, they were resident in the UK under indefinite leave to remain, right of abode or right of re-admission, and if that parent was your father, he was married to your mother.
    • one of your parents lived lawfully in the UK under indefinite leave to remain, right of abode or right of re-admission because they were not British, Irish, EU or EEA citizens, and if that parent was your father, he was married to your mother.
  • Born in the UK between 2nd October 2000 and 29th April 2006, you will automatically be a British citizen if one or both of your parents lived in the UK and either they or their family member was an EU/EEA citizen living and working in the UK who died or stopped working before you were born. If these conditions apply only to your father, he must have been married to your mother.
  • Born in the UK from 30th April 2006, you will automatically be a British citizen if at the time of your birth:
    • one or both of your parents were British or Irish citizens living in the UK. If you were born before 1st July 2006 and that parent is your father, he must have been married to your mother.
    • one or both of your parents was a citizen of an EU or EEA country, living in the UK under indefinite leave to remain, permanent residence status, right of abode or right of re-admission. If you were born before 1st July 2006 and that parent is your father, he must have been married to your mother.
    • one of your parents lived in the UK under indefinite leave to remain, right of abode or right of re-admission because they were not British, Irish, EU or EEA citizens. If you were born before 1st July 2006 and that parent is your father, he must have been married to your mother.
    • one of your parents was in the British Armed Forces and you were born after 12 January 2010.
  • If you were adopted by a British citizen in a UK court, you will automatically be a British citizen.
  • If you were adopted by a British citizen overseas, you will automatically be a British citizen if your adoption order is acceptable under the Hague Convention.

 

Becoming a British citizen

There are several routes to becoming a British citizen, each with their own eligibility and application requirements:

  • Born in the UK but not an automatic British citizen:
    • Born on or after 1 January 1983 – to be eligible you must either be under 18 years of age with at least one parent who became a British citizen since you were born or obtained permission to remain in the UK on a permanent basis, or you have been resident in the UK until the age of 10 years or older.
    • Where you were born in the UK before 1983, the only reasons that you would not be an automatic British citizen would be if your father was a diplomat for a foreign country or you were born in the Channel Islands during the second world war and your father was ‘an enemy alien in occupation’. In these circumstances, you may request confirmation of your citizenship in writing.
  • Moved to the UK – you may be eligible to naturalise as a British citizen if at least one of the following apply:
    • Your spouse or civil partner is a British citizen, you have been resident in the UK for the previous 3 years, and you have permission to live in the UK (i.e. you have indefinite leave to remain in the UK, settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, and/or a valid permanent residence document).
    • You have indefinite leave to remain and have lived in the UK for at least 12 months since obtaining this status.
    • You have permanent residence status, have lived in the UK for at least 12 months since obtaining this status, and have a valid permanent residence document which proves 5 years’ residence in the UK.
    • You have settled status/indefinite leave to remain under the EU Settlement Scheme and have lived in the UK for at least 12 months since obtaining this status.
  • Born outside the UK to a British parent – eligibility to apply for British citizenship rests on a number of factors:
    • Born before 1983. Where you are not automatically a British citizen, you may be eligible to apply to become a British citizen if one of your parents was a CUKC when you were born, they were born or adopted in the UK, they became a citizen under their own merits rather than through their parent, or where they worked as a Crown servant at the time you were born.
    • Born between 1983 and June 2006. Where you are not automatically a British citizen, your father was British, and your parents were unmarried when you were born, you may be eligible to apply to become a British citizen if your father was a British citizen and born or adopted in the UK, obtained British citizenship on his own merits, or worked as a Crown servant.
    • Born after 1 July 2006. Where you are not automatically a British citizen, it may be possible for you to apply to become a British citizen if you lived in the UK with your parents, your British parent was resident in the UK prior to your birth, or you were adopted by a British parent outside the UK.
  • If you hold another form of UK nationality but are not a citizen of any other country, you may be eligible to apply to be a British citizen. The way you apply will depend on whether you have been resident in the UK for at least 5 years, you have been employed as a Crown servant, you have been resident in Hong Kong, or you are connected in some way with Gibraltar. The exception to this eligibility is if you are a British overseas territories citizen.
  • You are stateless, i.e. you have no recognised citizenship of any country. Eligibility will depend on your place and date of birth.
  • You were a British citizen until you renounced that citizenship, but you now wish to resume that citizenship. Eligibility rests on when and where you were born, your parents’ nationality, and how you obtained British citizenship in the first place.
  • The Windrush Scheme. If you are a Commonwealth citizen, eligibility under this scheme rests on you or at least one of your parents having entered the UK prior to 1973 and that you have been resident in the UK with no breaks abroad that are longer than 2 years. Where it was your parent who entered the UK prior to 1973, the UK must be your place of birth or you must have entered the country prior to your eighteenth birthday.

 

British overseas territories citizens

Referred to as ‘British dependent territories citizenship’ up to 26 February 2002, a person with this form of UK nationality may hold a British passport and have access to consular assistance and protection.

Unless combined with British citizenship, a British overseas territories citizen does not have the right to live or work in the UK and is not deemed to be a UK national by the EU.

However, British overseas territories citizens having a connection with a qualifying territory (such as Bermuda or Gibraltar) gained British citizenship on 21 May 2002.

Eligibility to be a British overseas territories citizen rests on the fulfilment of one of the following factors:

  • Born before 1983. You were a CUKC on 31 December 1982 and you, your parents, or your grandparents were born in the British overseas territory, or registered or naturalised there.
  • On 1 January 1983, you were a woman born before 1983 who was married to a man who had gained British overseas territories citizenship.
  • Born on 1 January 1983 or later. The British overseas territory is your birth-place and when you were born your one or both of your parents had British overseas territories citizenship or were lawfully settled in a British overseas territory.
  • Born on 1 January 1983 or later. You were adopted by a British overseas territories citizen and the adoption took place in an overseas territory.
  • Born on 1 January 1983 or later. You were born outside the overseas territory, but your parent was made a British overseas territories citizen on their own merit.

 

British overseas citizens

A British overseas citizen may hold a British passport and have access to consular assistance and protection.

Unless combined with British citizenship, a British overseas citizen does not have the right to live or work in the UK and is not deemed to be a UK national by the EU.

You automatically became a British overseas citizen on 1 January 1983 if you were a CUKC at the end of 1982 and did not become a British citizen or British overseas territories citizen at the beginning of 1983.

You can only apply to become a British overseas citizen if you are stateless or, in certain circumstances, under 18 years old.

 

British subjects 

As with the last two categories of UK nationality, a British subject may hold a British passport and have access to consular assistance and protection.

Unless combined with British citizenship, however, a British subject does not have the right to live or work in the UK and is not deemed to be a UK national by the EU.

The meaning of the term ‘British subject’ has changed over the years. It was previously and commonly used to describe anyone with a connection to the UK, but this changed on 1 January 1983.

At that date, if you fulfilled one of the following conditions you became a British subject:

  • that before 1983, you were a British subject without citizenship of any country, i.e. on 31 December 1948, you were a British subject who did not become a citizen of the UK and Colonies, Ireland, a Commonwealth country or Pakistan, or you were an Irish citizen on 31 December 1948 and requested that you retain the status of British subject.
  • you were a woman who was married to a man who fulfilled the above.

A child born on or after 1 January 1983 in the UK or in a British overseas territory may become a British subject if one or both of the parents are British subjects, the parents do not hold British citizenship/British overseas territories citizenship/British overseas citizenship, and the child would otherwise be stateless.

You can only apply to become a British overseas citizen if you are stateless or, in certain circumstances, under 18 years old.

British nationals (overseas)

A British national (overseas) may hold a British passport and access consular assistance and protection.

A British national (overseas), however, does not have the right to live or work in the UK and is not deemed to be a UK national by the EU.

This form of UK nationality is appropriate only for previous British overseas territories citizen who had or have a connection with Hong Kong and registered as a British national (overseas) prior to 1 July 1997.

It is not now possible to register as a British national (overseas). Any British overseas territories citizens connected with Hong Kong who did not register before 1 July 1997 and had no form or citizenship or nationality by 30 June 1997 were subsequently given the status of British overseas citizen.

 

British protected persons 

A British protected person has the right to hold a British passport and access consular assistance and protection. They do not have the automatic right to live or work in the UK and are not deemed to be a UK national by the EU.

On 1 January 1983, any person fulfilling the following conditions would have been given the status of British protected person:

  • a national of citizen of Brunei
  • someone already holding the status of British protected person
  • someone who would be stateless unless termed a British protected person and whose parent or parents were British protected persons

You may apply to become a British protected person if you are and always have been stateless or, were born in the UK or an overseas territory, and at least one of your parents was a British protected person at the time of your birth.

Need assistance?

DavidsonMorris are experienced UK nationality and immigration law specialists. We advise and support individuals making a Home Office nationality application, including naturalisation and registration applications. For professional guidance and help with your application, contact us.

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