Fundamental Changes to British Nationality Law (part 1 of 3)

British Nationality Law has not changed much since 1983. Some of the provisions became outdated and in need of reforms. These reforms needed to address historical anomalies, which negatively affected hundreds of people year.

These changes included:

  • New registration provisions for children of British Overseas Territories Citizens
  • New sections to fix the injustice which prevented a child from acquiring their father’s citizenship if the child’s mother was married to someone else
  • New discretionary adult registration route, giving the Secretary of State the power to allow citizenship application in exceptional, compassionate circumstances to rectify the historical unfairness beyond the applicant’s control.
  • Sections allowing to waive the physical presence requirement for naturalisation in exceptional circumstances. They will allow Windrush victims to qualify for British citizenship.

This is how the British Nationality Act 2022 was born.


Fundamental Changes to British Nationality Law

The British Nationality Act 2022 came into force on 28 April 2022. It is a controversial piece of legislation.

The Act made wide changes to the UK asylum system, which could potentially lead to far-reaching negative consequences for those in need of protection.

The Act introduced a highly-criticised two-tier system, offering less protection to those who arrived in the UK using irregular means.

However, some may also call it a landmark piece of legislation. Partially this is because the 2022 Act made many generous changes to British nationality law.

This article is part of the ‘Fundamental Changes to British Nationality Law’ series, which provides a detailed summary of the most recent changes to British nationality law.


Part 1 (this part) covers:

Fundamental Changes to British Nationality Law (Introduction)

An Overview of Part 1 (Nationality) of the Nationality and Borders Act 2022

A Brief History of British Nationality Law


Part 2 covers:

A New Right to Register as a BOTC

The Chagos Islands/British Indian Ocean Territory

BOTC’s Right to Register as British Citizens

Acquiring British Citizenship not Through a Biological Father


Part 3 covers:

A Discretionary Power to Register Adults

Power to Waive Requirements for Naturalisation Applications

Deprivation of Citizenship Status

Citizenship: Stateless Minors


This is part 1 of 3.


The Nationality and Borders Act 2022: Nationality

Fundamental Changes to British Nationality Law (part 1 of 3)
Fundamental Changes to British Nationality Law (part 1 of 3)

The Act covered all citizenship reform provisions included in part 1 of the Act. This part is called ‘Nationality’ and consists of 11 sections and deals with 4 main aspects of the British Nationality Law:

  1. British overseas territories citizenship
  2. British citizenship
  3. Powers of the Secretary of State relating to citizenship
  4. Registration of stateless minors


PART 1 Nationality

British overseas territories citizenship

  1. Historical inability of mothers to transmit citizenship
  2. Historical inability of unmarried fathers to transmit citizenship
  3. Provision for Chagos Islanders to acquire British Nationality
  4. Sections 1 to 3: related British citizenship
  5. Period for registration of person born outside the British overseas territories


British citizenship

  1. Disapplication of historical registration requirements
  2. Citizenship where mother married to someone other than natural father


Powers of the Secretary of State relating to citizenship etc

  1. Citizenship: registration in special cases
  2. Requirements for naturalisation etc
  3. Notice of decision to deprive a person of citizenship


Registration of stateless minors

  1. Citizenship: stateless minors


A Brief History of British Nationality Law

The history of British nationality law falls into 4 periods:

  1. before 1915
  2. between 1915 and 1948
  3. between 1949 and 1983
  4. after 1983

These 4 periods created 6 different types of British nationality.


These are:

  • British citizenship
  • British overseas territories citizen (BOTC)
  • British overseas citizen (BOC)
  • British subject
  • British national (overseas) (BN(O))
  • British protected person


Before 1 January 1949

Before 1 January 1949, the main form of nationality was a British subject status. The British Subjects got their status because they were born within the British Crowns Dominions.


After 1 January 1949

After 1949, most British Subjects will have become citizens of the UK and Colonies (CUKCs). Those dominions which became independent states are not CUKCs.

Between 1955 and 1981, various parts of the UK and Colonies became independent states, losing their UK and Colonies citizenship.


After 1 January 1983

On 1 January 1983, the British Nationality Act 1981 came into force. The 1981 Act replaced citizenship of the UK and Colonies with 3 separate citizenships:

  1. British citizenship, for people closely connected with the UK (including the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man)
  2. British Dependent Territories citizenship, for people connected with the dependencies
  3. British Overseas citizenship, for CUKCs who did not acquire either of the other citizenships on 1 January 1983


Only 2 Types of British Nationality Are Currently Active

Current statuses remained active to date:

  • British citizen
  • British overseas territories citizen (BOTC)

There is a big difference between British citizens and British nationals. British nationals (not British citizens) usually do not have a right of abode. They cannot enter the UK freely. In other words, they are subject to immigration control. They do not have any right to work or study in the UK without obtaining prior permission from the Secretary of State.

Fundamental Changes to British Nationality Law (part 1 of 3)