British Overseas Territories citizen

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British Overseas Territories citizenship (BOTC), formerly called British Dependent Territories citizenship (BDTC), is a class of British nationality granted to people connected with one or more of the British Overseas Territories. Individuals with this nationality are British nationals and Commonwealth citizens, but not British citizens. The status itself does not grant right of abode in the United Kingdom or any of the territories, though all BOTCs would have had belonger status in a territory on acquisition. Nationals of this class are subject to immigration controls when entering the United Kingdom and do not have the automatic right to live or work there.

This nationality was created to differentiate between British nationals with strong ties to the United Kingdom and those connected only with an overseas territory. British Overseas Territories citizens are eligible for British passports and enjoy consular protection when travelling abroad. Almost all BOTCs are also British citizens, after nationality law reform in 2002.


Three black Hong Kong BDTC passports, issued prior to its replacement by the machine-readable passports in 1990.

All British nationals previously held a common citizenship, as Citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies (CUKCs), and had the unrestricted right to enter and live in any British territory.[1] This was gradually restricted by Parliament from 1962 to 1971, when subjects originating from outside of the British Islands first had immigration controls imposed on them when entering the United Kingdom.[2] In 1983, CUKCs were reclassified into different nationality groups based on their ancestry, birthplace, and immigration status: CUKCs with the right of abode in the United Kingdom or were closely connected with the UK, Channel Islands, or Isle of Man became British citizens while those connected with a remaining colony became British Dependent Territories citizens (BDTCs). Individuals who could not be reclassified into either of these statuses became British Overseas citizens.[3][4]

Belonger status[edit]

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. Depending on the territories' laws, most non-British citizens who acquire this status will need to normally become naturalised BOTCs, while British citizens (or Commonwealth citizens) have the option to do so if they wish.

An example of this is Bermuda's 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 BOTC and a British citizen passport concurrently, as either one is sufficient for entry (providing it bears the Bermudian status stamp) into Bermuda as a person with Bermudian status.

Acquisition and loss[edit]

There are three ways to acquire British Overseas Territories citizenship: by birth or adoption, descent, or naturalisation.

Individuals born in a territory automatically receive BOTC status if at least one parent is a BOTC or has belonger status. Children born to British citizen parents who are not settled in an overseas territory are not BOTCs at birth. Parents do not necessarily need to be connected with the same overseas territory to pass on BOTC status.[5] Alternatively, a child born in an overseas territory may be registered as a BOTC if either parent becomes a BOTC or settles in any overseas territory subsequent to birth. A child who lives in the same territory until age 10 and is not absent for more than 90 days in each year is also entitled to registration as a BOTC.[6] Furthermore, an adopted child automatically become a BOTC on the effective day of adoption if either parent is a BOTC or has belonger status. In all cases that an individual is a British Overseas Territories citizen at birth or adoption within the territories, that person is a BOTC otherwise than by descent.[5]

Individuals born outside of the territories are BOTCs by descent if either parent is a BOTC otherwise than by descent. Unmarried fathers cannot automatically pass on BOTC status, and it would be necessary for them to register children as BOTCs. If a parent is a BOTC by descent, additional requirements apply to register children as BOTCs. Parents serving in Crown service who have children abroad are exempted from these circumstances, and their children would be BOTCs otherwise than by descent, as if they had been born on their home territory.[6]

Foreigners and non-BOTC British nationals may naturalise as British Overseas Territories citizens after residing in a territory for more than five years and possessing belonger status or permanent residency for more than one year. The residency requirement is reduced to three years if an applicant is married to a BOTC. All applicants for naturalisation and registration are normally considered by the Governor of the relevant territory, but the Home Secretary retains discretionary authority to grant BOTC status.[7] Since 2004, BOTC applicants aged 18 or older are required to take an oath of allegiance to the Sovereign and loyalty pledge to the relevant territory during their citizenship ceremonies.[8]

British Overseas Territories citizenship can be relinquished by a declaration made to the Governor of the connected territory, provided that a person already possesses or intends to acquire another nationality.[9] BOTC status can be deprived if it was fraudulently acquired[10] or if an individual is solely connected with a territory that becomes independent and that person gains the new country's citizenship. The last territory to have done so is St. Christopher and Nevis in 1983.[11] BDTCs connected with Hong Kong also had their status removed at the transfer of sovereignty in 1997, but were able to register for British National (Overseas) status before the handover.[12]

Rights and privileges[edit]

British Overseas Territories citizens are exempted from obtaining a visa or entry certificate when visiting the United Kingdom for less than six months. They are eligible to apply for two-year working holiday visas and do not face annual quotas or sponsorship requirements.[13] When travelling in other countries, they may seek British consular protection. BOTCs are not considered foreign nationals when residing in the UK and are entitled to certain rights as Commonwealth citizens. These include exemption from registration with local police, eligibility to serve in non-reserved Civil Service posts, and voting eligibility in UK and EU elections. British Overseas Territories citizens can also be conferred British honours, receive peerages, and be sitting members of the House of Lords. If given indefinite leave to remain (ILR), they are also eligible to stand for election to the House of Commons and local government.[14]

All British Overseas Territories citizens other than those solely connected with Akrotiri and Dhekelia became British citizens on 21 May 2002, and children born on qualified overseas territories to British citizens since that date are both BOTCs and British citizens otherwise than by descent. Prior to 2002, only BOTCs from Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands were given unrestricted access to citizenship. BOTCs naturalised after that date may become British citizens by registration at the discretion of the Home Secretary.[15]


United Kingdom[edit]

British Overseas Territories citizens are subject to immigration controls and have neither the right of abode or the right to work in the United Kingdom.[16] BOTCs other than Gibraltarians are required to pay a "health surcharge" to access National Health Service benefits when residing in the UK for longer than six months.[17]

European Union[edit]

Unlike full British citizens, most British Overseas Territories citizens are not European Union citizens and do not have freedom of movement in the EU. They are exempted from obtaining a visa when visiting the Schengen Area.[18] Gibraltar is the sole exception to this; BOTCs connected to that territory are EU citizens and do have freedom of movement within the EU.[19]


The year left between the passing of the British Nationality Act 1981 on 30 October 1981 and its going into force on 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 the rights of abode and work in the UK when the Act went into force. This caused anger in the affected colonies as the Act, which resulted from the desire to prevent ethnic-Chinese people in Hong Kong 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 objected to being described as dependent, especially in Bermuda, which had been self-reliant virtually since 1612, and largely self-governed since 1620. This resentment 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.[20] 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.[21][22][23][24][25]

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, although BOTCs who do not use their British citizen passports to enter the UK would need to comply with UK's visa policy.[26]



  1. ^ McKay 2008.
  2. ^ Evans 1972.
  3. ^ British Nationality Act 1981.
  4. ^ Re Canavan [2017] HCA 45, at para. 126
  5. ^ a b "Automatic acquisition: BOTC" (PDF). 1.0. Home Office. 14 July 2017. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  6. ^ a b "Registration as a BOTC: children" (PDF). 1.0. Home Office. 14 July 2017. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  7. ^ "Naturalisation as a BOTC at discretion" (PDF). 1.0. Home Office. 14 July 2017. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  8. ^ "Oath of allegiance and pledge of loyalty" (PDF). UK Visas and Immigration. 17 December 2007. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  9. ^ "Guide RN: Declaration of Renunciation" (PDF). Home Office. December 2015. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  10. ^ "Deprivation and nullity of British citizenship" (PDF). UK Visas and Immigration. 27 July 2017. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  11. ^ "Independence" (PDF). UK Visas and Immigration. 27 July 2017. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  12. ^ "Historical background information on nationality" (PDF). 1.0. Home Office. 21 July 2017. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  13. ^ "Youth Mobility Scheme visa (Tier 5)". Government of the United Kingdom. Archived from the original on 25 April 2017. Retrieved 8 January 2019.
  14. ^ Representation of the People Act 1983.
  15. ^ "Registration as British citizen: other British nationals" (PDF). 2.0. Home Office. 17 December 2018. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  16. ^ "Types of British nationality: British overseas citizen". Government of the United Kingdom. Archived from the original on 10 March 2017. Retrieved 20 February 2019.
  17. ^ "UK announces health surcharge". Government of the United Kingdom. 27 March 2015. Archived from the original on 11 December 2018. Retrieved 8 January 2018.
  18. ^ Regulation (EU) No 2018/1806.
  19. ^ Foreign and Commonwealth Office Parliamentary Relations and Devolution Team (13 February 2007). "Foreign Affairs: Written Evidence - Letter to the Clerk of the Committee from the Parliamentary Relations and Devolution Team, Foreign and Commonwealth Office". Letter to Clerk of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  20. ^ Partnership for Progress and Prosperity: Britain and the Overseas Territories. PDF
  21. ^ HANSARD: British Overseas Territories Bill (H.L.). House of Lords Debate. 10 July, 2001. Volume 626. cc1014-37
  22. ^ HANSARD: British Overseas Territories Bill (Lords) House of Commons Debate. 22 November, 2001. Volume 375. cc477-546
  23. ^ Jowett, AJ; Findlay, AM; Li, FLN; Skeldon, R (July 1995). "The British who are not British and the immigration policies that are not". Applied Geography. 15 (3): 245–265. doi:10.1016/0143-6228(95)00009-S.
  24. ^ The British Nationality Act. Marxist-Leninist Journal. Volume 2, Number 2. April, 1982.
  25. ^ "British immigration policy, race relations, and national identity crisis". 27 September 2012.
  26. ^ "Bermudians Visiting the UK & Europe - bda london office".