What is British citizenship?
This page explains what British citizenship is, and what other types of British nationality there are.
British citizenship is one of the six different forms of British nationality. Some of these were defined in the British Nationality Act 1981, which came into force on 1 January 1983. The laws defining how citizenship can be obtained changed on that date, which is why you will often see references to 1983 on this site.
The forms of nationality are:
- British citizenship;
- British overseas citizenship;
- British overseas territories citizenship;
- British national (overseas);
- British protected person; and
- British subject.
Other forms of British nationality have existed, but they are not current - for example, citizenship of the United Kingdom and colonies (CUKC) or British Dependent Territories citizenship.
Only British citizens, and certain British subjects with right of abode through qualifying connections under the Immigration Act 1971, have the right to live and work in the UK. People holding one of the other forms of nationality may live and work in the UK if their immigration status allows it.
British nationality is defined in law. Whether a person has a claim to British nationality can be determined by applying the definitions and requirements of the British Nationality Act 1981 and related legislation to the facts of their date and place of birth and descent.
The most acceptable evidence of British citizenship is a British passport. For advice on the documents needed for passport applications in the UK, your should read the guidance booklet supplied with passport application forms, visit the Identity and Passport Service website or phone 0300 222 0000. If you believe that you have a claim to British nationality but you cannot apply for a British passport because you do not have the documents needed, you may apply for a nationality status certificate.
British nationality law is complicated, and you are advised to read the Guide NS or obtain professional advice on your claim before applying for a nationality status certificate using Form NS. You can download the form and the guide from the right side of this page. Details of the fee and the payment slip can be found in our fees leaflet (PDF 2.0M opens in a new window).
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These were formerly known as the British dependent territories. The territories are: Anguilla, Bermuda, British Antarctic Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands and Dependencies, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands, St Helena and Dependencies, the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia, Turks and Caicos Islands, and the Virgin Islands. (The sovereign bases of Akrotiri and Dhekelia do not count as qualifying territories for nationality purposes.)
South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands were the dependencies of the Falkland Islands, but were not British overseas territories between 3 October 1985 and 3 December 2001.
Hong Kong stopped being a British overseas territory on 30 June 1997 when sovereignty returned to China. St Christopher and Nevis was a British overseas territory until 18 September 1983, when it became an independent Commonwealth country.
British citizenship gained through your parents. This type of citizenship cannot normally be passed on to your own children. (See also Otherwise than by descent.)
British citizenship gained in your own right (not by descent through your parents or grandparents). This type of citizenship can be passed on to your own children. (See also Descent.)