How to tell if you are a British citizen
If you were born before 1 January 1983
On 1 January 1983, you became a British citizen if both of these applied:
- you were a citizen of the UK and Colonies on 31 December 1982
- you had the ‘right of abode’ in the UK
‘Right of abode’ means you:
- are entirely free from UK Immigration Control and don’t need to get permission from an Immigration Officer to enter the UK
- can live and work in the UK without restriction
This includes people who:
- were born in the UK
- were born in a British colony and had the right of abode in the UK
- have been naturalised in the UK
- had registered as a citizen of the UK and Colonies
- could prove legitimate descent from a father to whom one of these applies
People who had the right to live in the UK but not the ‘right of abode’ did not become British citizens.
If you were born after 31 December 1982
Being born in the UK does not automatically give you British citizenship.
If you were born after 31 December 1982, you will be a British citizen if either your mother or father* was either:
- a British citizen when you were born
- ‘settled’ in the UK when you were born
In most cases you will be a British citizen if your mother or father* was born or naturalised in the UK.
There are other situations in which a mother or father’s* British nationality can pass to their children born abroad. Please call the Passport Advice line on 0300 222 0000 if you think this may apply to you.
*A note on fathers
Until July 2006, unmarried British fathers could not pass on their British nationality.
If you were born before then, your father’s British nationality will pass to you only if he was married to your mother. It does not matter if they were married before or after you were born.
How to tell if you are a British overseas territories citizen (BOTC)
Before the British Overseas Territories Act 2002, BOTCs were known as British Dependent Territories citizens (BDTCs).
BOTCs’ citizenship comes from a connection with a territory that is still a British dependency, like Gibraltar or Bermuda.
With the British Overseas Territories Act 2002, most people holding a BDTC passport automatically became British citizens. Only people whose status came solely from their connection with Akrotiri and Dhekelia in Cyprus did not.
The Act gives British citizenship as well as, not instead of, British overseas territories citizenship.
If you were a BDTC who became a BOTC in May 2002, you can choose to either:
- renew your BDTC passport as a BOTC passport
- apply for a British citizen passport
When your BDTC passport expires you can apply to renew it as a BOTC passport in the usual way. You don’t have to have the form countersigned.
If you apply for a British citizen passport, this is treated as a first-time application. You will need to provide a countersigned form and original supporting documents. Your existing passport will be returned to you uncancelled.
You should write on your application whether you are applying for a British citizen or BOTC passport.
How to tell if you are a British overseas citizen (BOC)
BOCs are people who have a connection with a former British colony (like Kenya) and who did not:
- become citizens of that country when it became independent
- become British citizens
How to tell if you are a British subject
Generally, British subjects were born before 1 January 1949 and had a connection with British India or the Republic of Ireland (Southern Ireland).
How to tell if you are a British national (overseas)
British nationals (overseas) are former British dependent territories citizens connected with Hong Kong.
How to tell if you are a British protected person
These are people who had a connection with territories that were previously British protectorates, protected states or mandated or trust territories.
What to do if you are still not sure
If you are still unsure, you can find more information on British citizenship on the website of the UK Border Agency.
I apologise for anyone not looking for this type of data at the same time after spending a morning looking for “basic” information I am sure others will find it very helpful as we work through the paperwork for both visas and passports for the UK. So may seem a bit boring at times and I welcome anyone not needing or wanting the information to skip over it.