United Kingdom - flag United Kingdom - Passport & Nationality - British Overseas Citizen (BOC) - General Provisions

As a general rule, the British Overseas Citizen (BOC) status is granted where an applicant is born in a British territory and was not granted citizenship of that territory on Independence. This is generally because of the Independence Day arrangements and how nationality was granted with regards to where the applicant's parents were born.

Click here for the list of solution available on the British Overseas (BOC) status. 

British Overseas Citizenship is residual status derived from a connection with a former British Territory. Those eligible can apply for British Passports describing themselves as such Citizens, may gain advantages in applying for visas for other countries and are entitled to the protection of the British Government in times of need overseas.

It is possible, in some circumstances, to UPGRADE a BOC to full British Citizenship. This is possible even if another nationality is held. To find out if you can upgrade your BOC status, simply complete our online search. 

The United Kingdom is the only country in the European Union which draws a distinction between full Citizenship and that derived from it’s former overseas territories and there is a degree of pressure to make the UK treat all it’s citizens equally. At the current time being a British Overseas Citizen does not allow one to reside in the UK and the holders are therefore subject to normal Immigration Control in the same way as any other Commonwealth Citizen.

The UK does not object to dual nationality so it is quite possible for a person to be a British Overseas Citizen and also a citizen of another country, provided that that the other country concerned does not object. British Overseas Citizens have a significant advantage over other Commonwealth Citizens in that once granted a residential status in the UK (Indefinite Leave to Remain) they cannot lose the same. Other citizens lose their UK Residential Status if they remain away from the UK for more than two years.

British Overseas Citizenship cannot be passed by descent to children, however the UK does not pass retrospective Nationality legislation and so once you have the British Overseas Citizenship, you will not lose the same in the future unless formal steps are taken to renounce it.

At the time of writing it is not possible to predict exactly what the future advantages of being a British Overseas Citizen will be. World events may take a hand in the future. For Example, at the beginning of year 2002 the Zimbabwe Government announced that those persons holding a second nationality in addition to Zimbabwe Citizenship would be deprived of their Zimbabwean Nationality unless they renounced the second citizenship. A person living in Zimbabwe, having been deprived of his/her Zimbabwe Citizenship will then have to apply to the authorities of that country to continue their residence there and if they are unable to comply with the same, will be subject to deportation. There will be an obligation to the UK to accept such people here, if they hold British Overseas Passports and so it could also be said that holding British Overseas Citizenship will also create a degree of security for persons living in countries particularly in Africa, where it is felt that there may be future pressure for non-citizens to leave or instability.

Additionally, British Overseas Citizens who can show that they have no other Nationality and have not lost, any other Nationality (deliberate or otherwise after July 2002), are now allowed to convert to full British Citizenship.

More recently, the Home Office has announced that all persons wishing to apply for Naturalisation as a British Citizen will have to remain in the UK for 8 years rather than 5 and will be subject to tough new regulations before becoming British. Those who have established claims to British Overseas Citizenship will not be subject to the new rules.

Lastly, since the Penang High Court Judgement (Lee Thean Hock, Judicial review number 25-64-2004) on 21/2/05, it is held that acquisition of a British Overseas Citizens passport will not justify deprivation of Malaysian Citizen in the same way that acquisition of British Citizenship. It therefore follows that it may be possible for Malaysian Citizens to acquire British Overseas Citizenship without affecting their national status in the Home Country. Equally, any Malaysian Citizen(or any other National) with a claim for the British Overseas Citizenship will find that such a claim stems directly, by operation of the law. Therefore qualifying persons will have the British Overseas Citizenship regardless of whether they have a passport describing them as such a British Overseas Citizen or not. It may therefore be possible that the advantages of holding the British Overseas Citizenship can still be established for those with a claim, without the subject ever actually needing to apply for the passport itself, in circumstances where the applicant is concerned of losing the nationality of the home country by the action of applying for the British Overseas Passport. We feel that this provision will particularly benefit those from Malaysia and Singapore.

To sum up, the main advantages of holding a British Overseas Passport over another Commonwealth Passport are as follows;

a) A visa to the UK for visits (and other categories) is not required.
b) Those who have (or have had) indefinite leave for the UK in the past cannot lose the status by staying away from the UK for more than 2 years.
c) In the event that the Country of Origin becomes unstable and the holder is not permitted to remain there any longer, the UK will have to accept that person for settlement.
d) Visa’s for other European Countries are not usually required unless a stay of more than three months is required.
e) Those BOC’s who have not held any other Nationality since 4/7/2002 are able to apply for full British Citizenship without meeting any further criteria.
f) BOC’s are exempt from the new requirements for Naturalisation and will only have to spend five years in the UK rather than the new period of 8 years.
g) BOC’s are permitted to seek Consular Protection from the British Government in times of need.
h) Stateless children of British Overseas Citizens are permitted to register British following three years residence in the UK(if born overseas) or become British Nationals straightaway if born in the UK.

The provisions for British Overseas Citizens are changing all the time and every time there is a beneficial change to holders of British Overseas Citizenship, these benefits usually only apply to those who have the status at the time of the change. If you are able to acquire British Overseas Citizenship, it is therefore recommended that you do so at the earliest point.


Ask Philip Gamble whether you (or your children) have a claim to British nationality.

Learn more about these routes to British Nationality:

WhatPassport.com is a specialist UK Nationality and British Citizenship site offering an online search and assessment. Claims to hold a British Passport can be complex and the site offers a quick, simple search to give you the answers. While many people qualify for the UK Ancestry Visa based on holding a Commonwealth passport with a UK born grandmother or grandfather, we have found that if you have a grandparent born in the UK, or if your mother is British or your father is British, then there are several scenarios where you can claim British Nationality and the right to hold a British Passport. This stems from Britain’s collection of British Colonies, British Protectorates and British Protected States in the middle of last century and the Nationality rules concerning what are now the countries of the Commonwealth.

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