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British Citizenship and Nationality

British Nationality

British nationality law is one of the most complicated and complex laws in the world, in part because of Britain’s history and historical relationship with other countries in the world. In some cases it will be necessary to go back several generations to identify whether an individual is a British citizen or is entitled to apply for British citizenship.

There are six different types of British nationality. These are:

  • British citizenship
  • British overseas territories citizen
  • British overseas citizen
  • British subject
  • British national (overseas)
  • British protected person


There are then two types of British citizenship, those who are “British citizens otherwise than by descent”, and those who are “British citizens by descent”. Being a “British citizen otherwise than by descent" is more advantageous then “by descent”.

Determining whether an individual automatically qualifies as a British citizen depends on three factors:

  • Where they were born;
  • When they were born; and
  • Their parents’ circumstances


In relation to the other five types of British nationality, these are mostly from the legacy of the British Empire and will not normally provide a right to live or work in the UK without the correct Immigration status.

Some individuals may be British but do not hold a UK passport. In these cases, an individual may be eligible to apply for a Certificate of Entitlement to the Right of Abode in their foreign passport, which will allow them to live and work in the UK as a British citizen without holding a UK passport.

For those who are not automatically a British citizen, to become British they either need to be naturalised or registered as one.



Naturalisation is the most common way for adults who were not born British to become a British citizen. To apply to naturalise as a British citizen, they will have to fulfill the residency requirements, and hold Indefinite Leave to Remain/Permanent Residence. They will also need to demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the English Language, and Life in the UK, be of good character, and have the intention to make the UK their home. The good character is mainly based on previous immigration history and an individual’s criminal history.



Registration is the only way that a child under the age of 18 can become a British citizen, and is also used for adults in special circumstances. It is not necessary to demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the English Language, and Life in the UK, however anyone over the age of 10 is still subject to the good character requirement.


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Gherson is proud of its reputation in this specialist area of law. To discuss your requirements and find out whether you are automatically a British citizen or how to apply to become a British citizen please Contact us.

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For advice on immigration, nationality, extradition or human rights, please contact us now.

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