Who can apply for a British passport?
You can apply for a British passport if you’re a:
- British citizen
- British Overseas Territories citizen
- British overseas citizen
- British subject
- British national (overseas)
- British protected person
A Guide to the 6 Types of British Nationality
As the above list indicates there are 6 types of British nationality currently recognised by the UK government. They are:
Anyone born prior to 1983 within the UK or any of the Crown Dependencies were granted automatic British citizenship at birth, regardless of the country of origin of their parents. This was known as “birthright citizenship”.
In 1983 automatic birthright citizenship came to an end. In its place was a slightly more restrictive system whereby a person would be granted British citizenship if they were born within the UK or any of the Crown Dependencies AND at least 1 parent was a British citizen or had achieved “settled” status. This continues to be the law.
In addition, children born outside the UK and its Crown Dependencies who have at least 1 parent that is a British Citizen qualify for British Citizenship and can, in time, apply for a British Passport. Also, any citizenship rules that apply to children born to British citizens also apply to those adopted by British citizens.
Children born outside the UK or its Crown Dependencies to those serving in the British Armed Forces, the Overseas Civil Service, the Colonial Service or the Diplomatic Corp are treated the same as if they were born in the UK.
Beyond qualifying for British citizenship at birth a person can also qualify for British citizenship (and by extension earn the right to apply for a British passport) if they have resided in the UK for a minimum of 5 years and have been in possession of an Indefinite Leave to Remain for at least 1 year prior to applying for citizenship. If the person is married to a British national the waiting time is reduced to 3 years and they can apply for citizenship as soon as they obtain an Indefinite Leave to Remain.
Even if the foreign national satisfies those requirements they will still need to prove they are proficient in English, Welsh or Scottish (depending on where they apply) and pass the Life in the United Kingdom exam.
British Overseas Territories Citizenship
Any person born in one of the British overseas territories who has at least 1 parent with BOTC (British Overseas Territories Citizenship) or Belonger status will automatically receive BOTC themselves and become eligible to eventually apply for a British passport. British Overseas Territories consist of:
- Ascension & Tristan da Cunha
- British Antarctic Territory
- British Indian Ocean Territory
- British Virgin Islands
- Cayman Islands
- Falkland Islands
- Pitcairn Islands
- South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands
- Sovereign Bases of Akrotiri and Dhekelia
- St Helena
- Turks and Caicos
Children of British citizens born in one of the British Overseas Territories leapfrog BOTC and are considered full British citizens just like their parents.
If, however, neither parent is a natural born British Citizen the child may still qualify for BOTC status if one of their foreign-born parents settles in an overseas territory prior to the child’s birth, or either or both parents obtain BOTC themselves prior to the child being born.
In cases where neither parent satisfies the legal criteria that would enable their child to acquire BOTC at birth that child may still qualify for BOTC if they live in the territory where they were born until the age of 10. The only stipulation being that they must not have spent more than 90 days outside the territory where they were born in any of those 10 years.
But the BOTC carousel does not stop there.
Even if a foreign national was not born in a particular British Overseas Territory they may still be able to acquire BOTC status if they live in one of the British Overseas Territories for at least 5 years and have Belonger or Permanent Residence status for at least a year. Mind you this does not apply if the person jumps about from territory to territory. Only if they remain in the same one for at least 5 years. That said, if they marry a BOTC their waiting period to apply for British Overseas Territory Citizenship is reduced from 5 years to 3.
And if all that were not confusing enough, on May 21, 2002 all people who held BOTC status on that date automatically became British citizens as well. Meaning they suddenly held simultaneous BOTC and British citizenship, and any children born to them after that date also enjoyed dual status.
If you are a bit confused about what all this means for you the best thing to do is to contact Barar & Associates and talk to one of our Citizenship Solicitors. They’ll untie the knot for you and provide an easy-to-understand roadmap to acquiring BOTC and, in time, a British passport.
What About the 4 Other Forms of British Nationality?
Up to now, we have focused solely on British citizenship and British Overseas Territory Citizenship. But what about the other 4 types of nationality that can qualify a person for a British passport? Why haven’t we talked about them in the same type of comprehensive way?
The answer is refreshingly simple: British Overseas Citizenship, British National (Overseas), British Protected Person and British Subject – are not available to foreign nationals attempting to become naturalized British citizens.
British Overseas Citizenship, British Protected Person and British Subject can only be transferred from someone who holds that status by direct descent and only in cases where the descendent/child would otherwise be considered stateless.
The remaining type of British Nationality – British National (Overseas) – was a special category of nationality created specifically for residents of Hong Kong who had also been British Dependent Territories Citizens prior to the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997. Once the handover was complete and all applicants processed the British National (Overseas) classification was retired.
Who can apply for a British passport? Foreign nationals and/or their children who satisfy the requirements for British citizenship or British Overseas Territory Citizenship (BOTC) as laid out above.
You must have British nationality in order to apply for a British passport.
For information on how to obtain British nationality, please refer to our British Citizenship section.
However, it is important to note that having a British nationality does not guarantee you a passport. There may be circumstances where you may not get a new British passport.
Child British Passport
You can apply for your child’s British passport if your child is under the age of 16.
A child passport is valid for 5 years.
First Adult Passport
You can apply for your first adult passport if:
- You are over the age of 16 (or will be in 3 weeks)
- And never had a child British passport
An adult passport is valid for 10 years.
For further information on how to apply for your British passport, please do not hesitate to contact us.