British protected person: Wikis


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Ireland Act 1949
British Nationality Act 1981
Falkland Islands (1983)
Overseas Territories Act 2002
Canadian Citizenship Act 1946

The status of British protected person (BPP) is a status held by certain persons under the British Nationality Act 1981. It is not traditionally considered a form of British nationality - as British protected persons are not Commonwealth citizens in British nationality law, they do not have full civil rights in the United Kingdom. However, BPPs, like Commonwealth citizens and Irish citizens, are not considered aliens in the United Kingdom, and it has been submitted that as they are not stateless, they must have some kind of nationality, and that nationality must by necessity be a form of British nationality. Their position is therefore sui generis.

As BPPs are not Commonwealth or Irish citizens, they are not eligible to vote in the United Kingdom. However, as they are not aliens, they are eligible for most public positions, e.g. in the armed forces, civil service, etc.



Certain parts of the British Empire were under British control but did not become part of the Crown's dominions. These included:

  • Protected states - Britain controlled only defence and external relations. Brunei is one example.
  • Protectorates - similar to protected states, but where an internal government was also set up by Britain. In practical terms there was little distinction between a protectorate and a colony, except for the legal status of belonging or otherwise to the Crown's dominions. The protectorates included many British possessions in Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and the South Pacific. Details
  • Mandated territories - Britain was given responsibility for administration by the League of Nations. These included the Ottoman territories of Iraq and Palestine, and the German colonies of Cameroon, Nauru, Tanganyika and Togo.
  • Trust territories - similar to mandated territories, under the responsibility of the United Nations after 1945. The only UN trust territory under British control which was not one of the League of Nations mandates was Libya. Details

British protected person status (BPP)

As protectorates and protected states were 'foreign' soil, birth in such a place could not in general confer British subject status before 1949, or citizenship of the UK & Colonies (CUKC) from that date.

The status of British protected person hence evolved over time:

  • From the 1800s onwards, persons indigenous to a protectorate, and subjects of the local ruler in a Protected State, became known as 'British protected persons'. Established under Royal Prerogative, a more sophisticated test of 'belonging' was established by the British Protected Persons Order 1934.
  • British protected person was defined in section 32(1) of the British Nationality Act 1948 and authority was given to the Home Secretary to define by Order in Council persons who should be British protected persons.
  • The British Protectorates, Protected States and Protected Persons Order came into force on 28 January 1949, establishing for the first time a statutory basis for British protected person status (BPP).
  • The concept of a statutory BPP largely replaced that of Royal Prerogative BPP in 1949. However some persons may still be granted Royal Prerogative BPP status if connected to a former protectorate or protected state, with no other nationality and no prospect of obtaining another nationality.

Statutory BPP under the 1949 Order

BPP status was normally held by:

  • persons born in a protectorate or protected state (with no nationality law), or with a father born there; and
  • where a protected state had a nationality law, citizens or nationals of that state

There was no bar on a person with another Commonwealth or foreign nationality also holding statutory BPP status.

The 1949 Order was replaced by new legislation in 1965 which provided for some additional persons (stateless individuals and women married to BPPs) to acquire BPP by registration.

Consequences of Independence

BPP status was normally lost automatically upon acquisition of the nationality of the country with which the person was connected.

In some cases any person with BPP status connected to that territory lost BPP status, even if they did not acquire the citizenship of the country at independence. However the majority of BPPs connected with a former protectorate or protected state retained BPP provided they did not acquire the citizenship of the independent country.

British Protected Persons Order 1978

With effect from 16 August 1978, a BPP acquiring any Commonwealth, Irish or foreign nationality or citizenship automatically lost BPP status.

Naturalisation as a Citizen of the UK & Colonies

Under the British Nationality Act 1948, BPPs were treated similarly to those from non-Commonwealth countries in seeking to become CUKCs. They were expected to apply for naturalisation rather than registration and were required to take an Oath of Allegiance to the monarch.

British Nationality and Protectorates

Although most people connected with protectorates and Protected States did not acquire British subject status there were some exceptions:

  • Persons born in a protectorate and some Protected States with a British subject father were British subjects by birth (even if the father was a British subject by descent). This exception to normal rules on transmission of British subject status was put on a statutory basis by section 2(1) of the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act 1943.
  • On 1 January 1949 any British subject born in a protectorate or Protected State automatically became a Citizen of the UK & Colonies (CUKC) under section 12(3) of the British Nationality Act 1948.
  • Governors of protectorates and some protected states had the right under sections 8 and 10 of the British Nationality Act 1948 to register or naturalise persons as CUKCs by virtue of a connection to that protectorate or protected state.

Some of these persons may have lost CUKC at independence of the protectorate or protected state concerned. If they retained CUKC they would generally be British citizens or British Overseas citizens. See History of British nationality law

Access to British Citizenship

British protected persons may normally become British citizens through one of the following routes:

Residence in the United Kingdom

  • After 5 years residence in the United Kingdom, and holding Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) or its equivalent for at least 12 months, a BPP 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.

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.

Holding No Other Nationality

British protected persons who hold no other citizenship or nationality, and have not lost or renounced any other citizenship or nationality after 4 July 2002 (whether voluntarily or otherwise) may apply to be registered as British citizens. This is through s4B of the British Nationality Act 1981, in force from 30 April 2003, and should include the vast majority of BPPs.

  • Holding permanent residence in another country does not in itself cause a bar to registration, provided the nationality of that country is not acquired before application for British citizenship is granted (and British citizenship acquired through taking an Oath and Pledge). Subsequent acquisition of another citizenship or nationality does not cause loss of British citizenship.
  • Registration under this section confers British citizenship by descent and hence those BPPs permanently resident in the United Kingdom should normally consider section 4 registration or naturalisation instead.

Loss of BPP Status

A British protected person who acquires another country's citizenship, voluntarily or otherwise, automatically loses BPP status.

BPPs may be deprived of BPP status on terms similar to those applicable to British citizens.

A BPP citizen may renounce BPP status on the same basis as a British citizen. However there is no provision to resume BPP status after renunciation.

See also

External links


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