Girish Mahajan (Editor)

British Overseas Territories Act 2002

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Citation  2002 c.8
Royal assent  26 February 2002
British Overseas Territories Act 2002
Long title  An Act to make provision about the name “British overseas territories” and British citizenship so far as relating to the British overseas territories.

The British Overseas Territories Act 2002 (c.8) is an Act of Parliament in the UK, which superseded parts of the British Nationality Act 1981. It makes provision for the renaming of the British Dependent Territories as British Overseas Territories, and the renaming of associated citizenship.

As a result of the act, all who were British Overseas Territories citizens (apart from those solely connected with the Cyprus Sovereign Base Areas) immediately prior to 21 May 2002 automatically became full British Citizens on that date (previously full British citizenship was available only to people from Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands).

The law was enacted five years after the end of British sovereignty over Hong Kong, whose population had been vastly greater than all other British Dependent Territories put together.

The qualifying territories for the purposes of the 2002 Act include the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) and the British Antarctic Territory. At the time, there was discussion as to whether either of these territories should be treated as qualifying territories for the purposes of the Act, when neither have a permanent population and in the case of the British Antarctic Territory there are competing territorial claims that are held in abeyance.

Although it is not normally possible under either territory's immigration laws to acquire British Overseas Territories citizenship (BOTC) by naturalisation in that territory, the former inhabitants of the BIOT still hold BOTC by virtue of their birth, or a parent's birth, in that territory. It also appears that at least one person (Emilio Palma) holds British nationality by virtue of birth in the British Antarctic Territory prior to 1983.

Although it was not usual for citizens to acquire British citizenship under the previous British Nationality Act 1981, if their connection was solely to the British colony or territory, this has now been made automatic. The only exception to this is for those connected solely with the sovereign military bases in Cyprus.

This has allowed residents of British Overseas Territories to apply for a passport describing them as a citizen, to join the British armed and police forces, and to exercise rights under the Human Rights Act.

South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands was included in the scope of the Act mainly due to its former association with the Falkland Islands. The 2002 Act is similar in scope to the British Nationality (Falkland Islands) Act 1983 and repealed some of that Act (without affecting the validity of any acquisition of British citizenship under that legislation).

Those acquiring British overseas territories citizenship after 21 May 2002 may usually be registered as British citizens under section 4A of the 1981 Act.

While citizens of all the Overseas Territories (except the Sovereign Base Areas) can now apply for full British citizenship (and therefore gain right of abode in the UK by virtue of being a British citizen), British citizens visiting Overseas Territories are subject to local immigration controls.


British Overseas Territories Act 2002 Wikipedia