|British & Commonwealth
|Commonwealth nationality laws|
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In British nationality law, the status of British Overseas citizen (BOC) is one of several categories of British national. A British Overseas citizen does not have an automatic right to live in the United Kingdom.
There are categories of British national other than these three, but these consist of persons who were not CUKCs before 1983 or who were connected with Hong Kong before 1997.
British Overseas citizenship is a residual category of British nationality, in that there is very little provision for the acquisition of British Overseas citizenship after 1983; and with the passage of time the category will become extinct. However, when Hong Kong reverted to Chinese rule in 1997, Hong Kong BDTCs who had not applied for the status of British National (Overseas), and who were not already considered Chinese citizens by the PRC government at the time of the handover (such as Indians and other non-Chinese), became British Overseas citizens.
As British Overseas citizenship is a "mop-up" category for CUKCs who did not acquire British citizenship or BOTC in 1983, there are many ways in which someone may have acquired that status.
Several early independence acts did not contain any provision for the loss of Citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies by citizens of the newly independent states. A notable case is that of the former Settlements (colonies) of Penang and Malacca in what is now Malaysia. These were combined in 1948 with the nine Malay states (which were protected states rather than colonies) to form the Federation of Malaya. On independence on 31 August 1957, British protected persons from the Malay states lost their BPP status. However, as a result of representations made by the Straits Chinese, known as the "Queen's Chinese", it was agreed by the Governments of the United Kingdom and Malaya that no provision should be made for the withdrawal of CUKC status from the inhabitants of Penang and Malacca, who would consequently be allowed to remain CUKCs as well as citizens of Malaya.
On 16 September 1963, the colonies of North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore were joined with Malaya to form Malaysia (Singapore subsequently left Malaysia in 1965). CUKC was withdrawn from those acquiring Malaysian citizenship in 1963, but this did not affect existing citizens of the Federation.
Hence, persons connected with Penang and Malacca prior to 31 August 1957, together with those born before 1983 in legitimate descent to fathers so connected, form the largest group of British Overseas citizens (estimated at over 1 million). Most also hold Malaysian citizenship.
Cyprus became an independent Commonwealth country on 16 August 1960 (the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia were formed into a new colony at that point), although a nationality law was not enacted until 16 February 1961.
Persons resident in any area of the Commonwealth (excluding Cyprus) immediately before 16 August 1960 retained CUKC even if they acquired Cypriot citizenship.
A CUKC who acquired right of abode before 1983 would have become a British citizen on 1 January 1983, instead of a British Overseas citizen. Most commonly this was through:
Save for some transitional arrangements made under the 1981 Act (which expired on 31 December 1987) it is normally only possible for a person to acquire British Overseas citizenship if otherwise stateless.
A British Overseas citizen parent does not in itself give rise to a claim to British Overseas citizenship, or any other form of British nationality. This applies whether one is born in the UK or elsewhere.
British Overseas citizens may normally become British citizens through one of the following routes:
Both of these options confer British citizenship otherwise than by descent and hence children born subsequently outside the United Kingdom will normally have access to British citizenship.
The Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 granted British Overseas Citizens, British Subjects and British Protected Persons the right to register as British citizens if they have no other citizenship or nationality and have not after 4 July 2002 renounced, voluntarily relinquished or lost through action or inaction any citizenship or nationality. Previously such persons would have not had the right of abode in any country, and would have thus been de facto stateless. Despite strong resistance from Senior Officials at the Home Office, the then Home Secretary, David Blunkett, said on 3 July 2002 that this would "right a historic wrong" which had left stateless tens of thousands of Asian people who had worked closely with British colonial administrations (see UK to right 'immigration wrong', BBC 5 July 2002). The Government of India has also issued clarifications in respect of people with these citizenships to assist with consideration of applications under the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002.
This Act resolved the issue of de-facto statelessness for most BOCs; however, anyone who lost his/her other nationalities after 4 July 2002 are not eligible. This includes situtations like BOCs who used to hold a nationality from a country (eg Malaysia) that considers the acquisition of a BOC passport to mean an automatic relinquishment of that country's citizenship, as well as minors who held British Overseas Citizenship and another citizenship (eg Kenya) which was automatically lost at majority because the holder was required to renounce his/her British Overseas Citizenship to keep the other citizenship.
Of all the six classes of British nationality, only the status of British citizen carries with it the right of abode somewhere (in this case the UK). However, in practice, British Overseas Territories Citizens (except those associated with the Sovereign bases in Cyprus) were granted full British citizenship in 2002, British Nationals (Overseas) have right of abode in Hong Kong, British subjects and British Protected Persons lose their statuses upon acquisition of another nationality (except British subjects connected the Republic of Ireland, who have the right to live and work in the UK anyway because of EU treaties) and so should be eligible for registration as British Citizens under the 2002 Act.
This makes British Overseas Citizens unique in they their nationality status is not associated with the right of residence anywhere in the world.
Acquisition of another country's citizenship does not cause loss of British Overseas citizenship. However if an entitlement to registration as a British citizen under section 4B is held it will be lost if the person acquires another nationality before becoming a British citizen.
British Overseas citizens may be deprived of British Overseas citizenship on terms similar to those applicable to British citizens.
A British Overseas citizen may renounce British Overseas citizenship on the same basis as a British citizen. However there is no provision to resume British Overseas citizenship after renunciation.