Citizen of the UK & Colonies Passport (CUKC)

Can you claim British Nationality?

Getting a British passport might be easier than you think. Thanks to the UK's historical laws and agreements with former territories, you may qualify for British nationality depending on where you, your parents and grandparents were born.

Citizen of the UK & Colonies

You could be eligible for British citizenship if you were:

  • Born to a parent (a father or mother) who was born in the UK before 1983.
  • Born before 1983 to a parent who was born after 1949 – as long as that parent a) was a British Citizen, or b) had a parent born in the UK.
  • Born after 1948, and your parents were married before 1949 and your paternal grandfather (your dad’s dad) was born in the UK.

There are hundreds of other ways to qualify. As a general rule, if you were born in a country that is different to either parent or any of your grandparents, or you have a connection back to the UK, Ireland or a former British Territory, then you might have a claim.

Expert UK immigration and nationality advice

We are the world’s leading experts in UK immigration and nationality. For over 22 years, we have been helping thousands of people navigate the complex path to British citizenship.

Some claims to British nationality are relatively straightforward and can be completed quickly if you meet the above requirements. Other claims can be extremely complex and can only be determined by researching old nationality laws.

Complete our nationality assessment

To find out whether you or your children might have a claim, take a couple of moments to complete our FREE online passport assessment.

British Nationality Assessment


Any person born within the UK and any of the UK Colonies between 01.01.1949 and 31.12.1982 were classified as a Citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies (CUKC) and could hold a passport to that end. The history of this CUKC appears below.

The UK Colonies during this period were:

The Heads of Commonwealth Government decided in 1948 to embark on a major change in the law of nationality throughout the Commonwealth, following Canada's decision to enact its own citizenship law in 1946. Until then, all Commonwealth countries, with the exception of the Irish Free State, had a single nationality status: British subject status. It was decided at that conference that the United Kingdom and the self-governing dominions would each adopt separate national citizenships, but retain the common status of British subject. 

Thus the British Nationality Act 1948 provided for a new status of Citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies (CUKC), consisting of all those British subjects who had a close relationship (either through birth or descent) with the United Kingdom and its remaining colonies. Each other Commonwealth country did likewise, and also established its own citizenship (with the exception of Newfoundland which became part of Canada on 1 April 1949, Newfoundlanders hence becoming Canadian citizens). 

The Act also provided that British subjects could be known by the alternative title Commonwealth citizen.

 It was originally envisaged that all British subjects would get one (or more) of the national citizenships being drawn up under the Act, and that the remainder would be absorbed as CUKCs by the British Government. Until they acquired one or other of the national citizenships, these people continued to be British subjects without citizenship. However, some British subjects never became citizens of any Commonwealth country.

 Because the nationality laws of India and Pakistan did not provide for citizenship for everyone who was born in their countries, the British Government refused to "declare" their nationality laws for the purposes of the Act, and therefore those British subjects from these countries who did not become Indian or Pakistani citizens were never absorbed as CUKCs by the British Government. They remained British subjects without citizenship.

 Due to the imminent withdrawal of the Republic of Ireland from the Commonwealth (which took effect 18 April 1949), special arrangements were made in s2 of the Act to allow British subjects from Ireland to apply to continue to hold British subject status independently of the citizenship of any Commonwealth country.

Until 1983, the status of British subjects without citizenship was not affected by the acquisition of the citizenship of a non-Commonwealth country.


Acquisition of Citizenship of the UK & Colonies

Under the 1948 Act, CUKC status was acquired by: 

  • Birth in the UK or a colony (which does not include birth in the Dominions or children of 'enemy aliens' and diplomats). The immigration status of the parents was irrelevant.
  • Naturalisation or registration in the UK or a colony or protectorate
  • legitimate descent from a CUKC father for children born elsewhere. Only the first generation acquired British nationality automatically. Second and subsequent generations could do so only if born outside the Commonwealth (or Ireland) and registered within 12 months of birth or if the father was in Crown Service.
  • incorporation of territory (no persons ever acquired CUKC this way from 1949)
  • declaration
  • marriage

Provisions for acquisition of CUKC by adoption were not included in the 1948 Act itself but were added soon after.


Requirements for Naturalisation or Registration

Citizens of Commonwealth countries, British subjects and Irish citizens were entitled to register as citizens of the UK and Colonies after one year's residence in the UK & Colonies. This period was increased to five years in 1962.

Other persons were required to apply for naturalisation after five years residence.


Citizenship by Descent

Prior to 1983, as a general rule, British nationality could be transmitted from only the father, and parents were required to be married.

Children born in Commonwealth countries or the Republic of Ireland could not normally access British nationality if the father was British by descent.

Those born in non-Commonwealth countries of second and subsequent generations born overseas could be registered as British within 12 months of birth. However, many such children did not acquire a UK Right of Abode before 1983 and hence became British Overseas citizens in 1983 rather than British citizens.

On 8 February 1979, the Home Office announced that overseas-born children of British mothers would generally be eligible for registration as UK citizens provided application was made before the child reached age 18. Many eligible children were not registered before their 18th birthday due to the fact this policy concession was poorly publicised. Hence it has been effectively reintroduced by the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 for those aged under 18 on the date of the original announcement.

With effect from 30 April 2003, a person born outside the UK to a British mother (who was born or naturalised in the UK) may be entitled to register as a British citizen by descent if that person was born between 8 February 1961 and 31 December 1982. However those with permanent resident status in the UK, or entitled to Right of Abode, may instead prefer to seek naturalisation as a British citizen which gives transmissible British citizenship otherwise than by descent


Citizenship by Declaration

A person who was a British Subject on 31 December 1948, of United Kingdom & Colonies descent in the male line, and was resident in the UK & Colonies (or intending to be so resident) was entitled to acquire CUKC by declaration under s12(6) of the Act. The deadline for this was originally 31 December 1949, but was extended to 31 December 1962 by the British Nationality Act 1958


Citizenship by Marriage

Women married to CUKCs had the right to register as CUKCs under section 6(2) of the 1948 Act.


Citizenship by Adoption

Before 1950 there was generally no provision to acquire UK citizenship by adoption: 

  • between 1 January 1950 and 31 December 1982, a person adopted in the UK by a citizen of the UK & Colonies (CUKC) acquired CUKC automatically if the adopter, or in the case of a joint adoption, the male adopter, was a CUKC.
  • children adopted in the Channel Islands and Isle of Man on or after 1 April 1959 acquired CUKC on the same basis as UK adoptees on 16 July 1964, or the date of the adoption order, if later.

In general, a person acquiring CUKC by virtue of adoption in the UK, Channel Islands or Isle of Man, became a British citizen on 1 January 1983.