British Overseas Territories citizen

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The status of British Overseas Territories citizen relates to persons holding British nationality by virtue of a connection with a British Overseas Territory.

British Nationality Act 1981[edit]

The British Nationality Act 1981 came into force on 1 January 1983, and divided Citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies (CUKCs) into three categories:

  • British citizens
CUKCs with the right of abode in the United Kingdom and Islands (i.e. the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) by virtue of a close connection therewith, e.g. by birth or descent from a person born in the United Kingdom & Islands, became British citizens.
  • British Dependent Territories citizens
CUKCs with a close connection with one of the United Kingdom's colonies, at the same time redesignated as Dependent Territories, became British Dependent Territories citizens (BDTCs). It was possible for a person to acquire British citizenship and BDTC at the same time. For example, a person born in Bermuda before 1983 with a parent born in the United Kingdom would have acquired both nationalities.
  • British Overseas citizens
All other CUKCs became British Overseas citizens.

There are categories of British national other than these three, but these consist of persons who were not CUKCs before 1983.

See also History of British nationality law

British Overseas Territories Act 2002[edit]

The year left between the passing of the British Nationality Act 1981 on 30 October 1981, and its going into force on the 1 January 1983, was intended to allow the local governments of the colonies to lodge complaints, but few colonials were aware of the pending change and the only colony which protested was the Falkland Islands, which was permitted to retain full British Citizenship.

All other colonials not already resident in the UK or the Crown Dependencies lost full British Citizenship, and the rights of abode and work in the UK, when the Act went into force. This resulted in outrage in the affected colonies as the Act, which resulted from the desire to prevent ethnic-Chinese people with UK and Colonies Citizenship from migrating to the UK prior to the planned 1997 hand-over of the colony to China, was seen as racist, especially as those colonials in affected colonies who possessed a qualifying connection to the UK sufficient to retain either British citizenship or a right to remain (in the UK) notification in their BDTC passports were usually white. The former colonials also seethed at being described as dependent, especially in Bermuda, which had been self-reliant virtually since 1612, and largely self-governed since 1620. This ire was exacerbated when full British citizenship was returned to Gibraltarians, ensuring that those from territories perceived as having negligible non-white populations retained free movement into the UK, with rights of abode and work, as did many of the whites in the remaining coloured colonies. Most non-whites in those remaining territories, by contrast, could only enter the UK as short-term visitors (with a date stamped in their passports by which they must exit) or with difficult-to-obtain entry clearances.

Conservative Party back-benchers hinted in the years following 1983 that the undeclared intent of the British Government was to revert to a single British Citizenship for UK and the territories following the hand-over of Hong Kong, but it will now never be known if the Conservative government would have done so as it had been replaced by Tony Blair's Labour Party government in 1997. Labour had insisted that the territories had been treated badly by the previous Government, and had made a single British Citizenship, restoring rights of free movement, abode, and work in the UK to BDT Citizens, part of the party's election manifesto. A white paper addressing the issue, titled Partnership for Progress and Prosperity: Britain and the Overseas Territories, was produced in 1999.[1] This did not, however, have a high enough priority for Labour to table a Bill before its first term in Government ended. Although Labour was re-elected in 2001, it was again slow to act on its promise to the territories. The House of Lords, in which sat many former Governors of territories who felt the matter more pressing, consequently tabled and passed its own Bill then sent it down to the House of Commons to be confirmed, the reverse of the normal procedure. Thus enacted, the Bill became the British Overseas Territories Act 2002.[2][3][4][5][6]

Although Labour had promised to restore a single British citizenship for the UK and territories, as CUKC had existed before 1983, on 26 February 2002, British Dependent Territories Citizenship (BDTC) was instead renamed British Overseas Territories citizenship (BOTC) and retained as the default citizenship for the territories, although most British Overseas Territories citizens gained full British citizenship on that day, hence right of abode in the UK was restored to all BOTCs, whether they held a British citizen passport or only a BDTC or BOTC one.

Belonger status[edit]

Main article: Belonger status

British Overseas Territories citizenship is a 'citizenship' covering all the Overseas Territories. Individual overseas territories do not have their own legal nationality status. However they retain the right to make their own immigration laws and award Belonger status, and holding BOTC does not in itself give a right to reside in a British Overseas territory. This depends on a territory's immigration laws. Thus, some BOTCs have no right to live in any overseas territory.

Similarly, it is possible to have Belonger status in a territory without necessarily being a BOTC, depending on the law of that territory. Most non-British citizens who acquire this status will normally become naturalised BOTCs, while British citizens have the option to do so if they wish.

In a territory, by example Bermuda, BDTC or BOTC is not the same as Bermudian status, which serves as the territory's de facto citizenship. Bermudian status can be indicated on either a BOTC or British citizen passport by a rubber stamp, and it is that stamp which indicates to Bermudian immigration officers that the passport's holder is Bermudian. It is consequently not necessary for Bermudians to hold both a BDTC and a British citizen passport, as either one is sufficient for entry into the UK with right to remain or (providing it bears the Bermudian status stamp) into Bermuda as a person with Bermudian status. As other European Union members may not recognise BOTC passport holders as having free movement within the EU, however, the more useful of the two passports is the British citizen one. This has been complicated by changes to entry requirements for the United States, which has long had favorable policies in place for BOTCs with Bermudian status comparing to other British nationals.

Prior to the Patriot Act and other changes that followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, Bermudians did not require a passport to enter the US, only a birth certificate and photographic ID (US citizens also did not need a passport to enter Bermuda). Bermudians were, and are, automatically admitted into the US for stays of up to six months (180 days) without a visa (they are exempt from visa requirements, which should not be confused with the Visa Waiver Program intended for British citizens or other visa waiver policies for some other BOTCs). They also do not require a F-1 visa to study in the US, although a form I-20 is required. The new US entry requirements, however, specify that, in order to be identified as a Bermudian, a traveller must hold a BOTC passport bearing the Bermudian status stamp.[7] Although the Government of Bermuda accepts a British citizen passport with the Bermudian status stamp as identifying the holder as a Bermudian, any Bermudian entering the US with a such passport will be subject to the same entry requirements as other British citizens,[8] namely fingerprint scans and photo capturing on arrival, as well as the completion of Electronic System for Travel Authorization prior to arrival.[9] They are also only exempt for a maximum of 90 days. This means many Bermudians possess both the British citizen and the BOTC passport, both with Bermudian status stamped inside, for convenience of entry into different regions.

The US has no similar exemptions for BOTCs other than Bermudians, and for those territories there is consequently no advantage to holding a BOTC passport in addition to a British citizen one, especially as, since June, 2016, the local governments of territories are no longer permitted to issue or renew BOTC passports on behalf of the British Governments, with the HM Passport Office in Britain now the only agency authorised to do so (the governments of the territories had actually continued to issue and renew British Citizen passports locally to those qualified to possess one after 1983, but had been stopped from doing so after 2002).

Acquisition of British Overseas Territories Citizenship[edit]

Birth in a British Overseas Territory[edit]

From 1 January 1983 a person born in an Overseas Territory is a BOTC by birth if one of the person's parents is a BOTC or settled in an Overseas territory.

  • only one parent must meet this requirement, either the father or the mother
  • if only the father meets this requirement, the parents must be married. If the parents marry subsequent to the birth the child may acquire BOTC at that point. Failing that, it is possible for the child to be registered as a BOTC under s17(1) of the 1981 Act which deals with discretionary registration of minors.
  • Settled implies ordinarily resident without a time limit
  • The parent does not have to be a BOTC connected with the same territory as the child's birth, or settled in the same territory. For example, a child born in the Falkland Islands to a parent who is a BOTC from St Helena will automatically be a BOTC by birth. However such a child will not necessarily have Belonger status in either the Falkland Islands or St Helena unless permitted by the territory immigration laws.
  • a parent who is a British citizen is not sufficient in itself for the child to be a BOTC.

Registration entitlements[edit]

A child born in an Overseas Territory may be entitled to registration as a BOTC if:

  • subsequent to the birth, one of the parents becomes a BOTC or settled in any Overseas Territory (not necessarily the same one). Application must be made before age 18.
  • the child lives in the same territory until age 10.

BOTC by descent[edit]

A person born outside the Overseas Territories on or after 1 January 1983 will automatically acquire BOTC by descent if either parent is a BOTC otherwise than by descent at the time of the birth.

  • only one parent needs to be a BOTC otherwise than by descent - either the father or the mother.
  • an unmarried father cannot pass on BOTC automatically. Although if the parents marry subsequent to the birth the child normally will become a BOTC at that point if legitimated by the marriage and the father was eligible to pass on BOTC. Otherwise it is possible to apply for the child to be registered as a BOTC.
  • where the parent is a BOTC by descent additional requirements apply. In the most common scenario, normally the parent is expected to have lived in an Overseas Territory for three years and apply for the child to be registered as a British citizen within 12 months of the birth.
  • Children born overseas to parents on Crown Service under the government of an Overseas Territory are normally granted BOTC otherwise than by descent. In other words, their status is the same as it would have been had they been born in their home Territory.
  • In exceptional cases, the Home Secretary or Governor of a Territory may register a child of BOTC by descent as a BOTC under discretionary provisions, for example if the child is stateless.

Requirements for naturalisation as a BOTC[edit]

The requirements for naturalisation as a BOTC depend on whether one is married to a BOTC or not.

For those married to a BOTC the applicant must:[citation needed]

  • be permitted to live indefinitely in a particular territory (the relevant territory)
  • have lived legally in that territory for three years
  • meet specified English competence standards, or equivalent in any other language recognised for official purposes in that territory.

For those not married to a BOTC the requirements are[citation needed]

  • five years legal residence in the relevant territory
  • permission to live in that territory indefinitely must have been held for 12 months or more
  • the applicant must intend to continue to live in that territory or work elsewhere for the territory government or a corporation or association established in that territory.
  • similar language standards apply as for those married to BOTC

All applicants for naturalisation must be of "good character". Naturalisation is at the discretion of the Governor the Territory but is normally granted if the requirements are met.

Access to British citizenship[edit]

Between 1 January 1983 and 21 May 2002 only BOTCs from the Falkland Islands and Gibraltar had automatic access to British citizenship.

On 21 May 2002 any BOTC who was not already a British citizen automatically acquired that status, with the exception of those solely connected with the Sovereign Base Areas of Cyprus.

Those who became BOTCs after 21 May 2002 may normally become British citizens through one of the following routes:

Section 4A registration[edit]

A BOTC is eligible to apply for registration as a British citizen based on his status as a BOTC under s4A of the British Nationality Act 1981 (in force from 21 May 2002) provided:

Registration is discretionary but will not normally be refused unless there is a specific reason.

This option confers British citizenship otherwise than by descent and hence children born subsequently outside the United Kingdom will normally have British citizenship by descent

Residence in the United Kingdom[edit]

  • After 5 years residence in the United Kingdom, Channel Islands or Isle of Man, and holding Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) or its equivalent for at least 12 months, a BOTC may apply for registration as a British citizen under section 4 of the British Nationality Act 1981.
  • If married to a British citizen, it is possible to apply for naturalisation as a British citizen after 3 years residence in the United Kingdom provided ILR is held on the day of application.

This confers British citizenship otherwise than by descent, however since the introduction of section 4A are usually of interest only to BOTCs from the Sovereign Base Areas of Cyprus.

Section 5 registration[edit]

BOTCs by connection with Gibraltar may apply for registration as a British citizen under section 5 of the 1981 Act. Unlike section 4A registration:

  • this is an entitlement and cannot be refused
  • persons who have previously renounced British citizenship are eligible
  • this confers British citizenship by descent

This section is relatively unused since the British Overseas Territories Act 2002 came into force, but remains part of the law.

British citizenship by birth in an Overseas Territory[edit]

Persons born in a British Overseas Territory after 21 May 2002 automatically acquire British citizenship (even if they do not acquire BOTC) so long as one parent is a British citizen, settled in the UK, or settled in an Overseas Territory (other than the Sovereign Base Areas).

Between 1 January 1983 and 20 May 2002, this provision only extended to the Falkland Islands.

BOTC Citizenship ceremonies[edit]

With effect from 1 January 2004, all new applicants for BOTC by naturalisation or registration who are aged 18 or over must attend a citizenship ceremony and take an Oath of Allegiance to the Queen and a Pledge to the relevant Territory.

  • This requirement also applies to British citizens seeking to acquire BOTC
  • BOTCs by naturalisation after 21 May 2002 who apply for registration as a British citizen (e.g. under s4A of the 1981 Act) must attend a second citizenship ceremony to give a Pledge to the United Kingdom.

Loss of BOTC[edit]

BOTC can be lost involuntarily through

  • deprivation under conditions similar to those for British citizens
  • independence of the territory concerned

The provisions for renunciation and resumption of BOTC mirror those for British citizenship. See British nationality law

Acquisition of a foreign citizenship does not cause loss of BOTC, however it may cause loss of Belonger status depending on the laws of the territory concerned.

Independence[edit]

The only British Dependent Territory to have become independent since 1 January 1983 is St. Christopher and Nevis. St Christopher (aka St Kitts) and Nevis became an independent Commonwealth country on 19 September 1983. British citizenship was not lost by anyone who became a citizen of these countries on that date. British Dependent Territories citizenship was however lost unless there was a connection with a remaining dependent territory.[10]

  • BDTCs connected solely with St. Christopher and Nevis generally lost BDTC on 19 September 1983 unless they retained ties to another Dependent Territory.
  • Those who did not acquire St. Christopher and Nevis citizenship at independence retained BDTC status which then renamed in 2002 as BOTC.

Hong Kong[edit]

BDTCs solely connected with Hong Kong lost that status on 1 July 1997 upon transfer of sovereignty to the People's Republic of China.

  • The status of British National (Overseas) was made available before 1997 to allow Hong Kong BDTCs to opt to retain a form of British nationality.
  • Those who were not Chinese nationals (or any other nationality) and who had not registered as British Nationals (Overseas) became British Overseas citizens on 1 July 1997.

To close a possible loophole created in British Overseas Territories Act 2002, which made provision to substitute the wording of "British Dependent Territories" with "British Overseas Territories" in British Nationality Act 1981 among other new provisions, further clarification was made. Article 14 of the subsequent Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, stated specifically that a person may not be registered as a British overseas territories citizen under a provision of the British Nationality Act 1981 by virtue of a connection with Hong Kong.[11]

Future independence acts[edit]

Most British Overseas Territories do not wish to become independent, or have no civilian population. However independence is under discussion in some territories, most notably Bermuda.

  • It is likely that future legislation for loss of BOTC would mirror the 1983 provisions relating to St Christopher and Nevis
  • The British Government has informally indicated (in the context of discussions on the potential impact of independence in Bermuda) that in the event of independence, it would be likely that legislation would be passed to remove both British citizenship and BOTC from persons becoming Bermuda citizens who did not have specific ties to the UK or another Overseas Territory.

Delegation of registration and naturalisation authority[edit]

Although powers to register or naturalise a person as a BOTC are vested in the Home Secretary, these powers are generally delegated to the Governors of Overseas Territories under s43 of the British Nationality Act 1981.

Only in exceptional cases will the Home Office in the United Kingdom register or naturalise a person as a BOTC, and in such instances the Governor of the relevant territory will be informed.

Normally applications for BOTC that are received directly by the Home Office (e.g. from persons in the United Kingdom) are referred to the Governor of the relevant territory for consideration.

Comparison with France[edit]

Citizens of French overseas dependencies, unlike their British counterparts, are considered full French citizens as well, regardless of whether they were born in Metropolitan France or in one of the dependencies. Persons born in one of France's ex-colonies when they were administered by France could become French citizens under certain circumstances.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]