British subject, who is a British subject?

Until 1949, nearly everyone with a close connection to the United Kingdom was called a ‘British subject’.

All citizens of Commonwealth countries were British subjects until January 1983.

Since 1983, very few people have qualified as British subjects.

Who is a British subject
You became a British subject on 1 January 1983 if, until then, you were either:

a British subject without citizenship, which means you were a British subject on 31 December 1948 who didn’t become a citizen of the UK and Colonies, a Commonwealth country, Pakistan or the Republic of Ireland
a person who had been a citizen of the Republic of Ireland on 31 December 1948 and had made a claim to remain a British subject
You also became a British subject on 1 January 1983 if you were a woman who registered as a British subject on the basis of your marriage to a man in one of these categories.

Republic of Ireland citizens

You’re a British subject if you were a citizen of the Republic of Ireland on 31 December 1948 and made a claim to remain a British subject.

If you didn’t make a claim to remain a British subject you can apply to the Home Secretary to become a British subject if either:

you’ve been in Crown service for the UK government
you’re associated with the UK or a British overseas territory by descent, residence or another way
You can do this by applying for a British subject passport.

Children of British subjects

British subjects can’t normally pass on that status to their children if the children were born after 1 January 1983.

However, a child may be a British subject if they were born on or after 1 January 1983 in the UK or a British overseas territory and all the following apply when they are born:

one of their parents is a British subject
neither parent is a British citizen, British overseas territories citizen or British overseas citizen
they would be stateless without British subject status
Rights as a British subject
You can:

hold a British passport
get consular assistance and protection from UK diplomatic posts
However, you:

are usually subject to immigration controls and don’t have the automatic right to live or work in the UK (there are only rare exceptions to this)
aren’t considered a UK national by the European Union (EU)
Becoming a British subject
Stateless people

You may sometimes be able to register as a British subject if:

you’re stateless (not recognised by any country as having a nationality)
you were born outside the UK or British overseas territories on or after 1 January 1983
You must meet certain conditions. Read the guidance notes before you apply using Form S2.

Children

A child under 18 can be registered as a British subject in special circumstances.

Read the guidance notes before you apply using Form MN4.

Becoming a citizen of another country
Since 1 January 1983 anyone gaining citizenship of any other country can’t be a British subject, unless they’re also a citizen of the Republic of Ireland.

British citizenship
You may be able to register as a British citizen in very limited circumstances if you meet certain conditions.