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Belonger status is a legal classification normally associated with British Overseas Territories. It refers to people who have close ties to a specific territory, normally by birth and/or ancestry. The requirements for belonger status, and the rights that it confers, vary from territory to territory.
The rights associated with belonger status normally include the right to vote, to hold elected office, to own real property without the necessity for a licence, to reside in that territory without immigration restrictions, and to freely accept employment without the requirement of a work permit. In general, to be born with belonger status a person must be born in a territory to a parent who holds belonger status. There are usually also some ways to pass belonger status to a child born outside the territory, but these are purposely limited, to minimize the number of belongers who will not live in the territory. In most independent countries, these rights would be associated with citizenship or nationality. However, as the British Overseas Territories are not independent countries, they cannot confer citizenship. Instead, people with close ties to Britain's Overseas Territories, all hold the same nationality: British Overseas Territories Citizen (BOTC). The status of BOTC is defined by the British Nationality Act 1981 and subsequent amendments.
BOTC, however, does not confer any right to live in any British Overseas Territory, including the territory from which it is derived. It is the possession of belonger status that provides this right. Acquisition of belonger status in a British Overseas Territory does not automatically confer BOTC, although most people holding such status are eligible for registration or naturalisation as a BOTC upon meeting the requirements of the 1981 Act. Similarly, it is possible to lose belonger status in a territory while retaining BOTC or British citizenship.
The British Overseas Territories Act 2002 also conferred British Citizenship upon BOTCs (other than those solely connected with the Sovereign Base Areas of Cyprus) which does provide for a right of abode in the United Kingdom. This conferral is in addition to their BOTC and was not reciprocal in nature, in that British Citizens did not receive any rights to reside in the Overseas Territories without permission. The act also changed the reference of British Dependent Territories to British Overseas Territories. This act was enacted 5 years after the United Kingdom relinquished sovereignty over its most populous dependent territory, Hong Kong, to the People's Republic of China.
In Hong Kong, the belonger status was renamed to permanent resident status in 1987. Only permanent residents, regardless of citizenship or nationality, have the right to vote, to contest in elections, to hold public offices, to freely accept employment without work permit requirement, to reside without immigration restrictions, and to the right of abode within the territory. (After 1997, the right to hold principal offices is restricted to those who are concurrently permanent residents and nationals of the Special Administrative Region, who have no right of abode in other countries. And the number of members of the territory's Legislative Council who are having foreign right of abode is capped at 20%.)
- 1 Belonger status in the BOTs
- 2 Equivalent status
- 3 External links
- 4 Footnotes
Belonger status in the BOTs
Belonger status in Anguilla
Anguilla Constitution - Section 80. Belonger status
- (1) There shall be an Anguilla Belonger Commission (hereinafter referred to as “the Commission”), the composition and functions of which shall, subject to the provisions of this section, be prescribed by law.
- (2) For the purposes of this Constitution a person shall be regarded as belonging to Anguilla if that person —
- (a) is a British Dependent Territories citizen—
- (i) who was born in Anguilla, whether before or after the commencement of the British Nationality Act 1981; or if not so born
- (ii) who was adopted in Anguilla; or
- (iii) whose father or mother was born in Anguilla; or
- (iv) whose father or mother became a British Dependent Territories citizen by virtue of having been adopted in Anguilla; or
- (v) who is domiciled in Anguilla and whose father or mother by virtue of registration or naturalisation while resident in Anguilla became a British Dependent Territories citizen at the commencement of the British Nationality Act 1981 (or would have done so but for his or her death) or so became such a citizen after such commencement of the said Act; or
- (vi) who by virtue of registration or naturalisation while resident in Anguilla became such a citizen at or after the commencement of the British Nationality Act 1981; or
- (b) is domiciled in Anguilla, has been ordinarily resident in Anguilla for not less than fifteen years, and has been granted belonger status by the Commission; or
- (c) was born in Anguilla of a father or mother who was born in Anguilla and who is regarded (or, if deceased, would if alive be regarded) as belonging to Anguilla by virtue of this subsection; or
- (d) was born outside Anguilla and has satisfied the Commission that his father or mother was born in Anguilla and is regarded (or, if deceased, would if alive be regarded) as belonging to Anguilla by virtue of this subsection; or
- (e) is the spouse of such a person as is referred to in any of the preceding paragraphs of this subsection and has been married to that person for not less than five years; or
- (f) is the spouse of such a person as is referred to in paragraph (a), (b), (c) or (d) of this subsection, has been married to such a person for not less than three years, and has been granted belonger status by the Commission.
- (a) is a British Dependent Territories citizen—
Belonger status in Bermuda
The term itself does not exist in Bermuda's laws, but is equivalent to "Bermudian status".
Belonger status in the British Virgin Islands
In the British Virgin Islands there are two forms of status: Belongership and BVIslander status. The two forms of status overlap to some degree, although it is possible be a Belonger without being a BVIslander. BVIslander status is the 'senior' form of status and that is only conferred on those who have at least one grandparent born in the territory. Belonger status can be acquired in several ways, but generally it is granted as an honour (very rare), by naturalisation or it can be acquired after a qualifying period (three years at the present time) after marriage to a BVIslander. All BVIslanders and Belongers can vote, but only BVIslanders can hold a British Virgin Islands passport. It is possible to have BOTC status and be a Belonger but not a BVIslander if the person with BOTC status comes from another British Overseas Territory and has married a BVIslander.
The definition of qualifications for Belonger status in the British Virgin Islands is contained in section 2(2) of the Constitution, and includes nine different methods by which a person may be regarded as Belonger.
The British Virgin Islands is extremely restrictive about conferring Belongership status on immigrants to the Territory. Under the leadership of Orlando Smith the Government formally committed itself to naturalising no more than 25 persons a year. This was maintained when Dr. Smith's NDP party was no longer in office.
Belonger status in the Falkland Islands
Belonger status in Gibraltar
As with Bermuda, the term itself has been supplanted by "Gibraltarian status".
- (a) He was born in Gibraltar on or before the 30th day of June 1925; or
- (b) He was the child of a person born in Gibraltar on or before the 30th day of June 1925; or
- (c) He is the descendant of a person entitled to be registered by virtue of (a) or (b) and their parent or grandparent was born in Gibraltar; or
- (d) He was born in Gibraltar and are the child of a person who is registered in the register; or
- (e) He is married to a person entitled to be register by virtue of (a, b, c or d) or are the widow or widower of such a person.
Additionally, a person may be registered as a Gibraltarian at the discretion of the Government of Gibraltar minister with responsibility for personal status (currently Justice Minister Daniel Feetham), if they satisfy the minister that:
- (a) he is a British Overseas Territories citizen by virtue of their connection with Gibraltar, or Gibraltar or Great Britain is their country of origin;
- (b) he is a British national;
- (c) he is of good character;
- (d) he has sufficient knowledge of the English language;
- (e) he has his permanent home in Gibraltar;
- (f) he has been resident in Gibraltar for periods amounting to not less than twenty-five years in the aggregate including the whole of the period of ten years immediately preceding the date of application; and
- (g) he intends to make his permanent home in Gibraltar.
Belonger status in Turks and Caicos
A Belonger is an individual who is free from immigration restrictions in relation to the amount of time they may remain in the Turks and Caicos Islands, having acquired Belonger status under the relevant law. Belonger status is acquired by a person who:
- was born in the Islands, and at the time of his birth at least one of his parents had Belonger status
- was born outside the Islands and
- (i) at least one of his parents had Belonger status at the time of his birth ; and
- (ii) at least one of his parents was born in the Islands;
- was born outside the Islands and lawfully adopted in the Islands by a person who had Belonger status at the time of his adoption;
- has been granted a Certificate of Belonger Status by the Governor for having made a significant social or economic contribution to the development of the islands.
- is the dependent child of a person to whom any of the foregoing paragraphs apply; or
- is the spouse of a Belonger who has made an application to the Governor in Cabinet, and has lived with his spouse for a period of five consecutive years.
Belonger status of the former British colony of Hong Kong has been known as 'Hong Kong permanent resident status' since 1 January, 1987. The name remains unchanged after the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong in 1997.
- Bermuda Immigration Department
- Cayman Islands Immigration Department
- Turks and Caicos Islands Immigration Department
- Statutory Instrument No 1678 of 2007, Caribbean and North Atlantic Territories, The Virgin Islands Constitution Order 2007