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FAQs: The British Overseas Territories Act, 2002 (referred to after as the 'Act').

The Act extends British citizenship, together with the right of abode in the United Kingdom, to people in the Overseas Territories who qualify for it. Citizenship will be non-reciprocal; residents of the UK will not have the right of abode in the Overseas Territories, as the size of the Territories and their populations would not allow the influx of possibly large numbers of outsiders. As a result of the changes introduced by the Act, most people in the Overseas Territories now hold both British citizenship and British overseas territories citizenship concurrently. Those who do not want British citizenship can renounce it in favour of remaining British overseas territories citizens only. People who do take advantage of the new status will gain the right to travel freely throughout the European Union (EU) and, if they go to Britain to study, will be entitled to support themselves by working during that time.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs):


Acquiring British citizenship

1. When did the new citizenship rules take effect?

The change of name from British Dependent Territories citizen (BOTC) to British overseas territories citizen (BOTC) happened on 26 February 2002, the day that the new law received Royal Assent. The provisions conferring British citizenship came into force on 21 May 2002.

2. Who recives British citizenship automatically?

All BOTCs except for those whose British overseas territories (BOT) citizenship derived solely from a connection with the Sovereign Base Areas in Cyprus (hereafter abbreviated to 'SBAs') became British citizens automatically on 21 May 2002. They can transmit their British citizenship to their children automatically, in the same way as they can transmit BOT citizenship (subject to certain limitations if they are born overseas). (If you are not sure whether you or your relatives are or were BOTCs, please contact the authorities in your Territory who handle enquiries about BOTC status.) British citizenship was also acquired automatically on 21 May 2002 by persons born between 26 April 1969 and 1 January 1983 to mothers who, at the time, were citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies through birth in the British Indian Ocean Territory.

3. Do I have to apply?

The only people who will need to apply for British citizenship are those who, on or after 21 May 2002, acquire BOTC by naturalisation or registration.

4. I was not a BOTC before 21 May 2002. Can I still become a British Citizen?

A person who is naturalised or registered as a BOTC on or after 21 May 2002 can apply, via the Governor, to be registered as a British citizen. In the case of the Ilois, they should apply via the British High Commissioner in Port Louis, Mauritius or Victoria, The Seychelles, to the Home Secretary. Grant of British citizenship to such a person will be discretionary (although Gibraltar BOTCs retain their entitlement to registration).

5. Is BOTC status going to be abolished now that British citizenship is available?

No.

6. Can I lose my British overseas territories citizenship?

As a result of the Act, most people in the territories now hold both British overseas territories citizenship and British citizenship concurrently. But there is no obligation to have a passport indicating possession of either citizenship. (Note, though, that a person wishing to enter the United Kingdom in exercise of his or her British citizenship will be required to produce evidence of status for this purpose. Such evidence will usually be a passport indicating that the holder is a British citizen.) Either British overseas territories citizenship or British citizenship or both may be formally renounced by any person of full age, provided the renunciation would not leave the person concerned with no citizenship at all.

7. How do BOTCs go about getting a British citizen passport?

Please contact your local passport issuing service for further information.

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Who gets British citizenship?

1. Who gets British citizenship automatically?

All who were British overseas territories citizens (BOTCs) on 20 May 2002, except for those whose British overseas territories citizenship derived solely from a connection with the Sovereign Base Areas in Cyprus (hereafter abbreviated to 'SBAs'), became British citizens automatically on 21 May 2002. They can transmit their British citizenship to their children automatically, in the same way as they can transmit BOT citizenship (subject to certain limitations if they are born overseas). If you are not sure whether you or your relatives are or were BOTCs please contact those in your Territory who handle enquiries about BOTC status.

2. Will my children get British citizenship?

Yes – if they were BOTCs on 20 May 2002. Children born to British citizen parents on and after 21 May 2002 will automatically be British citizens at birth if they are born in an Overseas Territory or the UK. If they are born outside the OTs or the UK, they will be British citizens if they have a parent who is a British citizen otherwise than by descent. There are also provisions whereby children who are not British citizens at birth can become British citizens afterwards by registration.

3. Is an illegitimate child entitled to British Citizenship?

If, on 20 May 2002, the child was a BOTC other than by connection with the SBAs, he or she automatically acquired British citizenship on 21 May 2002. However, the status of illegitimate children born on and after 21 May 2002 will depend on the status of the mother – as it does at present with BOTC. If she is not a British citizen, she will not be able to transmit the status to a child born outside the OTs or the UK. (But if she is settled in the OTs or the UK, any child born to her there (legitimate or not) will be a British citizen otherwise than by descent). If the father of an illegitimate child is a British citizen, and there is evidence of paternity –for example, the father’s name appears on the child’s birth certificate- it may be possible to register the child as a British citizen.

4. Does a child adopted in a territory get British citizenship?

If, on 20 May 2002, the child was a BOTC other than by connection with the SBAs, he or she automatically acquired British citizenship on 21 May 2002. A child adopted on or after 21 May 2002, who is not already a British citizen, will automatically acquire British citizenship at the time of the adoption if at least one of the adopters is a British citizen, and the adoption order is made by a court in the UK or in any Overseas Territory other than the Sovereign Base Areas.

5. I have married again and my second husband is a BOTC. My children from my first marriage do not have BOTC status because neither their father nor myself are BOTCs. Can my children become BCs?

Not automatically, unless they are legally adopted by their stepfather. If they acquired BOTC by adoption before 21 May 2002, they will have acquired British citizenship automatically on that date, like most other BOTCs. If the stepfather became a British citizen on 21 May 2002 and subsequently adopted the children in either the United Kingdom or an Overseas Territory other than the SBAs, the children will have become British citizens on the date of their adoption. In any other circumstances, an application would need to be made for the children to be registered as British citizens.

6. I am a BOTC living in a different Overseas Territory or another country from where I was born. Am I entitled to British citizenship?

Yes. Provided your BOTC status does not derive solely from a connection with the SBAs, the new British citizenship provisions of the Act apply to you wherever you are living.

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Who is not entitled?

1. What about others, i.e. non-British overseas territories citizens (BOTCs) resident in the Overseas Territories?

They will first have to acquire British overseas territories citizenship. If they wish to acquire British citizenship they will then need to apply via the Governor. In the case of the Ilois, they should apply via the British High Commissioner in Port Louis, Mauritius or Victoria, The Seychelles, to the Home Secretary.

2. I am a British overseas citizen (BOC) who lives in an Overseas Territory. Am I entitled to British Citizenship under the Act?

No. The provisions of the Act do not apply to any other types of British national.

3. Why are BOCs excluded?

British Overseas citizenship (BOC) is held by people who do not have sufficient connections with any of the present Overseas Territories or Britain itself to enable them to qualify for BDTC or BC. Many of them have access to or have acquired another citizenship.

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Dual nationality

1. I am a British overseas territories citizen (BOTC) but I am also a citizen of another country; can I also have British citizenship (BC) and still keep my other citizenship?

The UK does not object to dual nationality. If the country of your other nationality has no objections to your being a BDTC as well, the acquisition of British citizenship should make no difference to your position with the authorities of the other country. However, in order to clarify your own position you might wish to check that the other country whose citizenship you hold has no restrictions on dual nationality.

2. I am a BOTC who has acquired another nationality e.g. US. Am I still entitled to British citizenship automatically?

Yes. It makes no difference that you have another nationality in addition to British overseas territories citizenship.

3. I was born in a qualifying Overseas Territory. However, I went away to get work in another country (e.g. Jamaica) and there I acquired their nationality. I want to return (or have returned) to my original OT (of birth). Am I entitled to BC status?

Yes, if you are a BOTC. Your eligibility for British citizenship does not depend on where you are living at the time the new law comes into force, nor on where you may have lived previously.

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Renouncing British citizenship

1. If I would rather not be known as a British citizen, do I have to renounce it?

No, not unless you want to. You are not obliged to have a passport describing you as a British citizen – though you will need one if you wish to exercise your right of abode in the United Kingdom.

2. What happens if I formally renounce British citizenship? Can I get it back again?

Not automatically. To renounce it you have to apply, via the Governor, to the Home Secretary. In the case of the Ilois, they should apply via the British High Commissioner in Port Louis, Mauritius or Victoria, The Seychelles, to the Home Secretary. You will have to apply again if you want it restored.

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What are the implications of British citizenship for my territory?

RECIPROCITY

1. Does the Act mean that people in Britain can go and live in my Overseas Territory?

No. The offer of British citizenship is non-reciprocal as far as immigration rights are concerned. We have reached this decision following close consultation with the Overseas Territories Governments.

HUMAN RIGHTS

2. Is the British citizenship offer dependent on the Overseas Territories carrying out human rights changes?

There is no linkage with British citizenship. The offer of British citizenship is conferred on individuals, not territories. However, Britain places considerable importance on the observance of international standards of human rights. British citizens wherever they live (UK or OTs) are entitled to enjoy the same standards of human rights.

3. Does the acquisition of British citizenship affect my status in an OT?

No. Your status should remain unaffected. Questions on permanent residence and ‘Belongership’ are for the governments of the OTs. British nationality is a matter of UK law.

INDEPENDENCE

4. What would happen if one of the Territories became independent?

The nationality consequences of independence would be dealt with in a separate Act of Parliament. In the past, the usual practice was to withdraw British nationality from the majority of those acquiring citizenship of the new State on independence day, but to provide for its retention where the person concerned had a residual connection – for example, through a parent or grandparent - with the UK or a place that continued to be what nowadays would be referred to as a British overseas territory. But it would be inappropriate to speculate on how such matters might be handled in the future, and the British Overseas Territories Act does not give voice to any assumptions in that respect.

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What benefits does British citizenship entitle me to?

UNITED KINGOM

1. What benefits will acquiring British citizenship give me?

The main benefit of British citizenship will be right of abode in the United Kingdom and with it, the right to use the fast track EU/EAA channel at the airport. British citizens from the Overseas Territories will not be subject to UK immigration controls and will therefore be able to come to the UK for purposes of leisure, study and employment without gaining prior permission. This will enable British citizens to come and live in the UK and build up the residence requirements relating to other benefits.

2. Am I eligible for US Visa waiver?

This is a matter for the authorities in the USA. Please check for the latest situation with your nearest US embassy or consulate.

3. Can I apply to join the Armed Forces?

British overseas territory citizens (BOTCs) can apply to join the Armed Forces now. The Ministry of Defence waived their normal nationality and residence rules for entry to the armed forces. There are a number of BOTCs already in the British Armed Forces. As British citizens, people from the Overseas Territories continue to be eligible.

4. Can I apply to join the British Police?

Yes. The police force is open to anyone who meets the required criteria. There are various entry points into the police including an accelerated promotion scheme for graduates. For more information please visit: www.policecouldyou.co.uk

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The European Union - what's in it for me?

1. Am I free to travel, work and live in the EU?

Under European Community law, having British citizenship confers rights of free movement, residence and the opportunity to work (without a work permit) in the EU and EEA Member States.

2. What are my other rights, duties and obligations in the EU?

3. Can I practise as a lawyer in any EU country?

Yes. But you would have to go through a number of procedures. If you wish to practise as a lawyer in an EU country under the professional title and with the rights and obligations that you would be entitled to then you must satisfy a number of conditions in recognition of your qualifications. The Member State may wish you to sit an aptitude test in those subjects which are not covered by your training. Your application will then be examined and a decision reached within 4 months.

4. Can I practise as a doctor in any EU country?

Yes. You have the right of establishment as a self-employed or employed person in any Member State of the EU, subject to recognition of your qualification. As above there is a procedure to follow which includes registration and processing which can take the Member State up to 3 months to undertake.

For further information on the above information and the procedures for working in EU countries please log on to: www.europan.eu.int/citizens.

5. Can I study, train or do research in the EU?

Yes. You can apply to study, train or do research anywhere in the Union. If you are unemployed, you can also undergo training and periods of work experience anywhere in the Union. Conditions of entry to educational establishments are laid down by individual Member States; they may differ significantly from one country to another. You should find out more before departure from your home country.

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What am I not entitled to?

EDUCATION

1. Does British citizenship mean that students from the Overseas Territories will now pay the domestic rate for tuition fees for Further and Higher Education?

British citizenship does not in itself attract a fee subsidy. The fee structure is governed by The Education (Fees and Awards) Regulations 1997, as amended. However, the autonomy enjoyed by institutions of higher education is such that each college and university decides the level of fees and who qualifies. Eligibility for such support depends on length of residence in the UK and whether or not this is subject to a restriction under the UK immigration laws. Students of the British Overseas Territories wishing to study in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should read the new provisions set out below. New Provisions: Students of British Overseas Territories studying in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland  (PDF, 123k)

2. Are students from the OTs automatically eligible for support with living costs or tuition fees?

No. To qualify for student support a student would need to meet similar conditions to those relating to tuition fees i.e. UK settlement and residence. However, on meeting these conditions, like any other UK student, he or she would be financially assessed to determine the level of their contribution towards their tuition fees.

HEALTH

3. Are British citizens from the OTs be entitled to free NHS treatment?

Eligibility for free NHS treatment is based on residence in the UK, National Insurance contributions, or payment of UK taxes, not on nationality. Visitors to the UK (whether they are British citizens or not) are charged for any NHS treatment they receive with certain exceptions: the exceptions include emergency care and treatment for some referred patients from those OTs with reciprocal health agreements with the UK. (The territories concerned are Gibraltar, BVI, TCI, Anguilla, Montserrat, St Helena and the Falklands). All visitors from the OTs receive emergency treatment from GPs and within hospital Accident and Emergency Departments free of charge whether or not there is a reciprocal health agreement.

BENEFITS

4. Are British citizens from OTs be eligible for state benefits?

British citizenship does not mean automatic entitlement to UK state benefits. Other criteria need to be satisfied such as residence status and contribution payments.

5. Am I entitled to a UK State retirement pension?

No. Entitlement to a UK State retirement pension is entirely based on a person’s UK National Insurance record, not on their nationality nor on their residency.

VOTING

6. Are British citizens from the OTs eligible to vote in British elections?

Not while resident in their territories or elsewhere. If resident in Britain they are, as British overseas territory citizens or British citizens, able to vote if they satisfy the normal UK residence and registration requirements.

7. Are the OTs represented in Parliament, like the Dutch or the French territories?

No - the territories have their own legislatures. They are not being integrated into the UK. But an FCO Minister has specific responsibility for looking after OT issues and will represent their interests in Parliament.

8. Does British citizenship entitle my territory to send a representative to the British Parliament?

The award of British citizenship is made to individuals not to a territory. The question of representation is a constitutional one. Overseas Territories are not constitutionally part of the United Kingdom; they are separate legal jurisdictions. Therefore, it is not appropriate for them to be represented in the British Parliament and to take part in decisions on British legislation and internal UK domestic matters.

UK TAXES

9. Does a British passport mean British citizens from the Overseas Territories pay British taxes?

No. British citizens resident outside the UK/EU are not subject to the direct taxation regimes operated by the UK or other Member States of the European Union.

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Every effort has been made to ensure that the information contained above is accurate, complete and up to date at the time of publication. However it does not constitute an authoritative interpretation of the law applicable in individual cases. If you have any further detailed enquiries please submit them in writing through the Governor’s office.