Definitions

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Definitions and government jargon can be overwhelming, this page will help you find what things mean at the HM Passport Office.

HM Passport office definitions look up.

Application Reference: a number used to allow you to track your passport application. If it begins with PEX or POD and you have applied online using a digital photo, you can use your application reference to begin tracking your application immediately. Otherwise, you have to wait 3 weeks from the date you submit your application.

British Nationality: there are 6 types of nationality, including British Citizenship.

British Citizen: it depends on where you were born, when you were born, as well as the status of your parents. At our webpage: How Do I Know if I’m a UK Citizen?” we cover this in more detail. As a British citizen, you can live, work, and study in the UK with no restrictions as well as hold a British Passport.

British Overseas Territories Citizen: this was called “British Dependent Territories Citizen” before 2002. You can hold a British Passport to obtain assistance from UK consulates, embassies, or high commissions, but you are still subject to immigration controls. In general, you are a British Overseas Territories’ citizen if you, your parents, or your grandparents were born, naturalised, or registered in a British overseas territory. You can hold a British Passport and get consular assistance, but you are subject to immigration controls and are not considered a British National by the European Union.

British Overseas Citizen: a special category for those who are neither citizens nor British Overseas Territories citizens. It essentially applies to people from Hong Kong who did not become Chinese citizens in 1997and who did not register as British Nationals before 1997. You can hold a British Passport and get consular assistance, but you are subject to immigration controls and are not considered a British National by the European Union.

British Subject: a relic from the past that nowadays applies to very few people. If you were a British subject on December 31, 1948, and you did not become a citizen of a Commonwealth country, nor a citizen of the UK and colonies, nor a citizen of Pakistan, nor a citizen of Ireland, then you remain a British subject.  As well, if you were a citizen of Ireland who on December 31, 1948 made a claim to remain a British subject, you are also a British subject nowadays. You can hold a British Passport and get consular assistance, but you are subject to immigration controls and are not considered a British National by the European Union.

British National (overseas): this applies to people from Hong Kong who were British Overseas Territories citizens before 1997 and who registered as a British National before 1997. You can hold a British Passport and get consular assistance, but you are subject to immigration controls and are not considered a British National by the European Union.

British Protected Person: you’re a British protected person since 1983 if you had been a citizen or national of Brunei; if you were previously a British protected person; or if you were born stateless because one of your parents was a British protected person. You can hold a British Passport and get consular assistance, but you are subject to immigration controls and are not considered a British National by the European Union.

Certificate of Naturalisation: given when a non-British resident of the UK applies for and obtains British citizenship.

Check and Send: a service provided by the Post Office that reviews and sends in your paper passport application on behalf of you.

Countersignatory: a person who signs paper applications for a passport, as well as who signs passport photos to prove your identity. You need a countersignatory for the following: first adult passports; first child passports; replacement passports for lost/stolen/damaged passports; renewal of passports for children 11 and younger; and renewal of passports for people whose appearance has changed significantly.

Deed Poll: A document used as proof of a change of name when there is no other document to provide proof of a name change, such as a marriage certificate or divorce papers or a decree absolute.

Digital photo: a photo in electronic format taken by a device like a digital camera or mobile phone that you save to your pc and then upload to the UK government website during your online application. It must meet Passport Office specifications, as we outline here in our article on applying for a passport.

Emergency Travel Document: used when you’re overseas and need to travel, and you can’t get a passport in time for your trip. It’s also called an Emergency Passport. If you’re abroad, you must use this rather than apply for urgent service (also called fast-track) which is unavailable if you’re overseas.

EU Settlement Scheme: allows EU citizens as well as citizens of Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein to live in the UK. Deadline to apply was June 30, 2021. For family members who can also apply deadline is March 2022.

First Adult Passport: to apply for your first adult passport, you must: be a British National; be 16 or over or 3 weeks shy of your 16th birthday; and have never had a UK passport before. Additionally, if your last UK Passport was issued before January 1, 1994, you must also apply for a first adult passport.

First Child Passport: used when your child is under 16 and has never had a British Passport before.

Form B(OTA): a form used to register as a British citizen. To be eligible, you must be one of the 5 Non-citizen British Nationals (see above); be of “good character”; and meet the 5-year residence requirements or have been in the service of the Crown or similar services or met the alternative requirements for British Overseas Citizens.

General Register Office (GRO): this is where you order copies of birth, adoption, death, marriage, or civil partnership certificates for England and Wales. In Scotland, use the National Records of Scotland (NRS) by going to their ScotlandPeoples website and clicking on Certificates and Copies. In Northern Ireland, use the nidirect website and go to Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Civil Partnerships.

Home Status: allows British Nationals and others to benefit from lower tuition fees rather than pay the fees overseas students pay. It generally requires a residence of 3 years in the UK or Overseas Territories in the case of British Nationals and their family members.

Indefinite Leave to Enter (ILE): similar to Indefinite Leave to Remain, allowing the person to stay in the UK without time limits. However, your passport will have an expiry date for your ILE stamp that’s usually the same as the expiry date of your passport. When you renew your passport, apply to the UK Border Agency for a transfer of your conditions (in this case ILE or ILR) to your new passport.

Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR): a form of permanent residence in the UK similar to Right of Abode, but automatically expires if you are out of the UK for 2 or more consecutive years. It’s like permanent residence in Canada with its residency requirements. As in the case of an ILE stamp, you should apply to the UK Border Agency to get your ILR stamp when renewing your passport.

Long-form Birth Certificate: contains your information as well as your parents’ information.

Passport Adviceline: a service of UK Passport Office for finding out when your urgently needed passport will arrive, how to get a passport or travel document urgently, or when you cannot attend your passport appointment.

Registration (of British Citizenship): if you are already a British citizen, you do not need to register. If you’re not a British citizen, you need to find out whether you’re entitled to register. Registration of citizenship is normally done with children and care must be taken to ensure they are registered under the correct provision, because this affects whether or not future generations are British by descent. The main factors determining this are: where the child was born and the status of the child’s parents.

Right to Reside: gives you the right to live in the UK. To have a right to reside you must: have the right to abode as a British citizen; be a citizen of Ireland; have pre-settled or settled status through the EU Settlement Scheme; have Indefinite Leave to Enter (ILE) or Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK; or be otherwise exempt from immigration controls.

Right of Abode: similar to permanent residence (a status which is being phased out) which gives you the right to enter, work, study, and live in the UK. However, it doesn’t come with conditions like ILR, and is usually valid for life.

34-page Passport: A standard or regular passport used if you aren’t a frequent traveller.

50-page Passport: A jumbo passport for frequent travellers.

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