What is British Nationality?

Key Takeaways 

  • There are 6 types of British Nationality.
  • Only 2 are inheritable: British Overseas Territories Citizenship, and British Citizenship.
  • The remaining 4 will gradually cease as the remaining holders of these types of nationality pass away.

British nationality is the way of categorizing different people with different ties to the United Kingdom. It should not be confused with British citizenship, which is one type of British nationality.

It was necessary because of the the UK’s colonization of over 1/4 of the entire world, at the British Empire’s peak.

There are six types of British nationality:

The Types of British Nationality

Passport CodeType of British NationalityPathway to Citizenship/Right of AbodeStatus inheritable from a parent?
GBDBritish Overseas Territories CitizensMost BOTCs are also British Citizens as of 2002 (excepting BOTCs of Akrotiri and Dhekelia)Yes, provided your parent was born in the UK or naturalized before your birth
GBNBritish Nationals (Overseas)Apply after living in the UKNo
GBOBritish Overseas CitizensApply after living in the UKNo
GBPBritish Protected PersonsApply after living in the UKNo
GBRBritish CitizensN/A (already have full citizenship)Yes, provided your parent was born in the UK or naturalized before your birth
GBSBritish subjectsApply after living in the UKNo
Above is a list of all the different UK passport codes corresponding to each type of British nationality.

As you can see from the above table, only 2 types of British nationality are inheritable and the goal is for these uninheritable types of nationality to be grandfathered out as those with that status die of natural causes. So eventually, there will only be the two main types, British citizenship and British Overseas Territory Citizenship.

What is British Citizenship?

This is why you’re here.

Full British citizenship includes the “right of abode” in the UK and all other citizenship privileges. When people ask us about UK passports, this is what they are trying to claim.

British citizenship can be acquired through the following ways:

  • birth in the UK or an eligible overseas territory to an eligible parent
  • naturalization in the UK or an eligible overseas territory through the appropriate process
  • inheriting British citizenship through a parent who meets either of the above 2 situations (i.e. they were either born in the UK or an eligible territory to an eligible parent OR they naturalized before your birth).

This website exists to help those not currently in the UK who may be British citizens get their passports. So we do not have information on how to naturalize in the UK. If you would like to immigrate to the UK and become a citizen, please go to the UK government’s website.

If you believe you are a British citizen by birth or descent, but do not have a passport, please click on the link below to learn if you are indeed a British citizen:
How do I know if I’m a UK citizen?

British Overseas Territories Citizenship (BOTC)

Formerly British Dependent Territories Citizens (BDTCs), BOTCs are citizens of

  • Anguilla (in the Caribbean),
  • Bermuda,
  • the British Antarctic Territory,
  • the British Indian Ocean territory,
  • the British Virgin Islands (in the Caribbean),
  • the Cayman Islands (in the Caribbean),
  • the Falkland Islands (near Argentina),
  • Gibraltar (in Spain),
  • Montserrat (in the Caribbean),
  • the Pitcairn Islands (in the south Pacific),
  • Saint Helena (off the coast of Africa in the Atlantic),
  • Ascension and Tristan da Cunha (off the coast of Africa in the Atlantic),
  • South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (closer to Antarctica than the Falklands),
  • the sovereign base areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia in Cyprus (citizens of these bases are not automatically British citizens),
  • the Turks and Caicos Islands (in the Caribbean).

With one notable exception, citizens of each of the above territories are British citizens as of 2002.

However, if you are not directly eligible for a UK passport and have to register first, the rules get more complicated than for full UK citizenship.

So, if you are a BOTC (citizen of one of the above territories) you are a British citizen. The only exceptions are:

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British Overseas Citizen

Yes, it’s confusing, there is both a British Overseas Territory Citizen (BOTC) and a British Overseas Citizen. We didn’t make the rules.

British Overseas Citizens are not British Citizens (as opposed to BOTCs, who are British citizens). So really it’s a form of British nationality, not citizenship.

They have special privileges in the UK but there are only about 10,00 in the entire world so we are not going to cover those rights.

It almost impossible to inherit Britisgh Overseas Citizenship.

Again, do not confuse this form of British nationality with BOTC status.

British Nationals (Overseas)

This is a very specific class of British nationality exclusively related to Hong Kong. You must have lived in Hong Kong when it was till a British colony and registered between 1987 and the transfer of sovereignty.

The period to attempt to turn BNO status into British citizenship ended in 2007.

However, as of January 2021, there is a process by which BNOs can emigrate to the UK right now and begin the process of naturalization.

British Protected Persons

This form of British nationality is virtually extinct. There are approximately 1,200 people in the world who currently have British Protected Person passports.

You can no longer become a British Protected Person.

British Subjects

“British subject” used to mean every single British national, regardless of which type.

However, since 1981 it has meant something very specific, not all that dissimilar to what British Protected Person means. Just as with British Protected Person status, it is nearly extinct, though there are many more status holders left.

You can no longer become a British Subject.

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