United Kingdom - flag United Kingdom - Passport & Nationality - Citizen of the UK & Colonies Passport (CUKC)

A Citizen of the UK & Colonies was the old colonial status given to British Citizens during the period 1 Jan 1949 to 31 Dec 1982. Before 1949, British Citizens were called "British Subjects", and in the modern day (after 1982) referred to as "British Citizens".

If a person held the status of "Citizen of the UK & Colonies", one needs to determine what happened to this person's status:

  • on the day that the former British territory from which this status was derived became Independent; OR
  • on 1 Jan 1983.

The qualifying territories appear below.

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 the CUKC appears below.

The UK Colonies during this period were:

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 had different arrangements). 

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.


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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