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What Is The Difference Between A British Citizen And A British Overseas Citizen?

Two types of British nationality include British citizens and British overseas citizens. A British citizen is allowed to live and work in the United Kingdom without being subject to immigration rules. A British overseas citizen, on the other hand, has limited rights in the United Kingdom.

If you want to confirm your British citizenship eligibility or wish to upgrade your British Overseas Citizenship (BOC), our lawyers can help. For more information about our British citizenship application services, speak to our team today on 0333 305 9375 for immediate help and assistance with your situation. We’re here to help you in person, via the phone, or live chat

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Types Of British Nationality

The United Kingdom is among the few countries with more than one type of citizenship. There are six types of British nationality available. They all have various regulations for each citizenship right. The different types of British nationality are briefly discussed below.

British Citizens

British Citizens are people with the Citizen of the UK & Colonies  (CUKC) status with the Right of Abode in the United Kingdom and Isles. They become British Citizens by naturalisation or birth in the United Kingdom and Isles.

British Overseas Citizens

This citizenship is typically granted to people who kept their British citizenship after obtaining independence from Britain. In other words, British Overseas Citizenship is a legacy citizenship resulting from ties to a past British colony.

British Subjects

British subjects are those who were not CUKCs or citizens of any other Commonwealth country at the time of their birth. Most were British subjects because they lived in British India or the Republic of Ireland until 1949.

British National Overseas (BNO)

The Hong Kong Act 1985 and the British Nationality (Hong Kong) Order 1986 established the BNO status.

Holders of the BNO are Hong Kong residents who applied for registration as BNOs prior to Hong Kong’s surrender to the People’s Republic of China.

British Protected Person (BPP)

British Protected Person status is inherited from sections of the British Empire that were client states or protected states with ostensibly autonomous rulers under the safety of the Crown, but which were not legally part of the Crown’s empires.

BPPs have a unique status in that they are neither Commonwealth citizens nor British nationals, but they are also not foreigners.

British Overseas Territories Citizens (BOTC)

The position of British Overseas Territories citizen refers to those who have British nationality as a result of their relationship with a British Overseas Territory. If both of the following conditions were met, you became a British overseas territories citizen on January 1, 1983:

  • If on 31 December 1982, you were a citizen of the CUKC and had ties to a British overseas territory since you are a descendant of a person registered, or naturalised in that British overseas territory.
  • If you were a woman married to a man who became a British overseas territories citizen on January 1, 1983.

Note that those who had British Overseas Territories citizenship because of their link to Hong Kong lost it on June 30, 1997, when China regained control. However, a person can become a British overseas citizen if any of the following conditions is met:

  • They were not a citizen of any country, making them stateless
  • If they were born after July 1, 1997.
  • If one of their parents were a British national (overseas) or BOC when they were born.

British Citizenship

British citizen is a person who was born in the United Kingdom and at least one of their parents is/was a British citizen or lived in England, Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland when they were born.

In 1983, it was ruled that an individual became a British citizen if they were a citizen of the United Kingdom or one of its territories, or if they had the “right of abode” in the United Kingdom. People with the right of abode are exempt from the bureau of immigration and do not require a visa or authorisation to visit the United Kingdom. These people are free to work and live in the country with no limitations.

A person can be a British citizen even if they were not born in the United Kingdom. They are likely to be British if one of their parents was born or naturalised in the United Kingdom. Note that simply being born in the United Kingdom does not entitle you to British citizenship.

People born after January 1983 are only deemed British citizens if they were domiciled in the country at the time of their birth or if their parents were British citizens at the time of their birth. If the parents are naturalised in the United Kingdom at the time of their child’s birth, the child is automatically granted British citizenship.

Benefits of Being a British Citizen

There are great benefits to being a British citizen. Below are the advantages of this kind of citizenship.

  • British citizenship entitles you to live and work in the United Kingdom indefinitely, with no immigration restrictions.
  • Being one allows you to be able to apply for a UK passport
  • The right to remain in the UK as long as you want – your status will be permanently established
  • You are granted full civil rights including the right to vote and be voted for.
  • There are no limits on your freedom to work or enter the UK.
  • There are no limits on international travel.

British Overseas Citizenship

British Overseas citizenship is one of the 6 types of British nationality under the British Nationality Act 1983. British Overseas Citizens are British citizens, but they are not granted the right to reside in the UK.

Those who qualify can apply for British citizenship, enjoy privileges when applying for visas to other countries, and are eligible for the British government’s support and assistance when overseas. This is a general rule. However, they are not considered British citizens, so they have limited privileges.

It is practically impossible to become a BOC. This British nationality type cannot be obtained by naturalisation and can only be passed by descent if a person is born to a parent who is/was a British overseas citizen.

Additionally, when visiting a country without a British embassy, BOCs are entitled to seek international support and assistance from the consulate of any other Commonwealth country located in that country.

It is assumed that British overseas citizens will gain citizenship in their home country and that the number of people with this type of British nationality will reduce. Because of the regulating acts that establish British Overseas Citizenship eligibility, a person could have obtained this citizenship under a lot of conditions.

Because the UK does not oppose dual citizenship, a person can be both a BOC and a citizen of another country, so long as the other country does not oppose it. BOCs have a clear edge over other commonwealth citizens because they cannot relinquish their residency status in the UK when issued with Indefinite Leave to Remain.

However, other foreign citizens’ UK residence status is revoked if they are absent from the UK for longer than 2 years.

British Overseas Citizenship cannot be handed down through generations; but, because the UK does not implement unilateral Citizenship legislation, once you obtain British Overseas Citizenship, you will not have to forfeit it until official actions are made to disavow it.

Benefits of Being a British Overseas Citizen

The BOC status is awarded to applicants who were born in a former British territory but were not granted citizenship of that country at the time of its independence. This is predominantly due to the Independence Day arrangements and how citizenship was given based on where the person’s parents were born.

Although your rights as a holder of British overseas citizenship are limited when compared to those of a British citizen, you can gain advantages by being one. Below are some of the benefits:

  • You do not need a visa to visit the UK.
  • Individuals who have/had indefinite leave to enter the UK earlier cannot lose their status by staying absent for longer than two years.
  • If your home country is unsafe or insecure and it is dangerous to stay there, or you are longer allowed to live there, the UK will welcome you for residence.
  • Visas to other European countries are normally not needed except if the visit is longer than three months.
  • BOCs are excluded from the current Naturalisation regulations and will just have to live five years in the UK as opposed to the new period of eight years.
  • BOCs are entitled to request Consular Protection from the British Government when they need it overseas.
  • Stateless children of British Overseas Citizens may identify as British after three years of living in the UK if born in another country, or become British Citizens immediately if they were born in the UK.
  • People with the BOC status who have not had another nationality since 4th July 2002 are eligible to apply for British citizenship without fulfilling any additional requirements.

The arrangements for BOC status are constantly evolving, and if a favourable change is made to holders of this type of British nationality, these benefits normally only pertain to individuals who hold this citizenship at the time of the amendment.

If you have any questions about your British Citizenship application, our team is happy to assist.

How Can IAS Help?

In some cases, a British overseas citizen can upgrade to become a British citizen. This is possible even when they hold another citizenship. However, it is a complicated subject of British nationality law that requires expert counsel.

IAS’ immigration experts and attorneys are available and always ready to ease the burden of your immigration procedure and increase help you succeed in achieving your immigration goals. If you intend to visit or migrate to the United Kingdom, our experienced advisers can assist you and your family with our personalised immigration advice packages.

We offer comprehensive advice and premium service. You will be allocated an immigration lawyer who properly suits your particular and professional demands. This is part of our fast track application package.

Your personal attorney will assist you in assessing your circumstances and eligibility, as well as guiding you through the application process for a successful appeal and assisting you all through the process. Contact us today to learn more about our services and get started on your journey to becoming a British citizen.

We offer immigration advice sessions as face-to-face appointments at all of our UK offices, or via the phone.

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Frequently Asked Questions

You can only apply for British overseas citizenship in limited situations.

  • If you were born stateless, that is, you are not accepted by any country as holding citizenship and both of the following conditions apply, you may be allowed to apply.
  • You were born outside the United Kingdom and eligible territories one of your parents is a British overseas citizen.
  • You were born outside the United Kingdom and eligible territories one of your parents is a British overseas citizen.
  • You were born in the United Kingdom or a British overseas territory, and any of your parents is a British overseas citizen.

The right of abode implies that you can live and work in the UK without being subject to any restrictions on immigration. This suggests that you will not require a visa to visit the United Kingdom, and there is no time limit on how long you can stay in the country. All British citizens enjoy the absolute right of abode in the United Kingdom.

No, you will not lose your UK citizenship if you relocate to another country. If you intend to reside in an EU country, you should read their rules and laws to learn about your rights.

No, they are not the same. British overseas citizens are Commonwealth citizens and British nationals, but not British citizens. When visiting the United Kingdom, unlike British citizens, they are liable to immigration checks and are not granted an unconditional right of abode.

You must have resided in the United Kingdom for at least five years prior to the time of your application. You should also not have violated any UK immigration regulations.

Yes, they can move to the UK but they will require a visa permit to be able to do so. This is because they are subject to immigration laws.

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