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British Subject Citizenship Explained

Almost everyone with a close connection to the United Kingdom was a 'British subject' until 1949. The term also applied to all citizens of Commonwealth countries until January 1983.

What is a British Subject Citizen of the UK?

In fact, few people now qualify as British subjects since the rules changed in 1983.

You would have become a British subject on the 1st of January 1983 if, up until that date, you were (either):

  • A British subject without citizenship. This means you were a British subject on the 31st of December 1948 and did not become a citizen of the UK and Colonies (CUKC), a Commonwealth country, the Republic of Ireland, or Pakistan.
  • An individual who had been a citizen of the Republic of Ireland on the 31st of December 1948 and made a claim to remain as a British subject.

Note: A woman registered as a British subject on the basis of a marriage to a man in one of these categories also became a British subject on January 1st 1983.

Citizens of the Republic of Ireland

Any Republic of Ireland citizen on December 31st 1948, who made a claim to remain as a British subject, would be so.

What if you did not make a claim to remain a British subject? In this case, you can apply to the Home Secretary to become a British subject if (either):

  • You have been in Crown service for the United Kingdom government.
  • You have an association with the United Kingdom or with a British overseas territory. It can be by descent, by residence, or by another way.

Note: You can use the normal passport application and renewal service to apply for a British subject passport.

Children of British Subjects

As a rule, British subjects are now unable to pass on the same status to their children. In fact, it applies most to any children born after the 1st of January 1983.

Even so, it is possible for a child to be a British subject. They must have been born since January 1st 1983 in the UK (or a qualifying British overseas territory) and all these applied at the time of their birth:

Your Rights as a British Subject

British subjects can:

  • Hold a British passport.
  • Get consular assistance and protection from United Kingdom diplomatic posts.

But, in most cases:

  • You would still be subject to immigration controls. In this case, you would not have the ‘automatic’ right to live or work in the United Kingdom.
  • The European Union (EU) would not consider you as a United Kingdom national.

Becoming a British Subject

People who are Stateless

Being stateless means you are not recognised by any country as having a nationality. But, if you are ‘stateless’, you might be able to register as a British subject if:

  • You are a stateless person.
  • You were born outside of the United Kingdom or British overseas territories since January 1st 1983.

Note: You would need to meet certain conditions. Read the publication ‘Apply to register as a British citizen: stateless person (S2)‘ for further guidance.

Registering a Child as a British Subject

There are special rules to register a child under 18 as a British subject. Use the ‘form to register a child under 18 as a British Overseas citizen: form MN3‘.

Becoming a Citizen of another Country

In general, you cannot gain citizenship of any other country and be a British subject – since January 1st 1983. An exception may apply for people who are also a citizen of the Republic of Ireland.

Registering as a British Citizen

You may be able to register as a British citizen if you meet certain conditions. You can check your eligibility to become a British citizen in a different section.

British Subject Citizenship Explained for Easy Understanding