Belonger status

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Belonger status is a legal classification normally associated with British Overseas Territories. It refers to people who have close ties to a specific territory, normally by birth or ancestry. The requirements for belonger status, and the rights that it confers, vary from territory to territory.

Rights[edit]

The rights associated with belonger status normally include the right to vote, to hold elected office, to own real property without the necessity for a licence, to reside in that territory without immigration restrictions, and to freely accept employment without the requirement of a work permit. In general, to be born with belonger status a person must be born in a territory to a parent who holds belonger status. Belonger status can sometimes be passed to a child born outside the territory, but this is purposely limited, to minimize the number of belongers who will not live in the territory. In most independent countries, these rights would be associated with citizenship or nationality. However, as the British Overseas Territories are not independent countries, they cannot confer citizenship. Instead, people with close ties to Britain's Overseas Territories all hold the same nationality: British Overseas Territories Citizen (BOTC). The status of BOTC is defined by the British Nationality Act 1981 and subsequent amendments.

BOTC, however, does not confer any right to live in any British Overseas Territory, including the territory from which it is derived. It is the possession of belonger status that provides the right. Acquisition of belonger status in a British Overseas Territory does not automatically confer BOTC, but most people holding such status are eligible for registration or naturalisation as a BOTC upon meeting the requirements of the 1981 Act. Similarly, it is possible to lose belonger status in a territory while retaining BOTC or British citizenship.

The British Overseas Territories Act 2002 also conferred British Citizenship upon BOTCs (other than those solely connected with the Sovereign Base Areas of Cyprus), which provides for a right of abode in the United Kingdom. The conferral is in addition to their BOTC and was not reciprocal in nature, and British citizens did not receive any rights to reside in the Overseas Territories without permission. The act also changed the reference of British Dependent Territories to British Overseas Territories. It was enacted 5 years after the United Kingdom relinquished sovereignty over its most populous dependent territory, Hong Kong, to the People's Republic of China.

Hong Kong[edit]

In Hong Kong, the belonger status was renamed to permanent resident status in 1987. Only permanent residents and residents who have been resident in Hong Kong for seven years, regardless of citizenship or nationality, have the right to vote, to contest in elections, to hold public offices, to freely accept employment without work permit requirement, to reside without immigration restrictions, and to the right of abode within the territory.

Since 1997, the right to hold principal offices has been restricted to those who are concurrently permanent residents and nationals of the Special Administrative Region, who have no right of abode in other countries. Also, the number of members of the territory's Legislative Council who have foreign right of abode has been capped at 20%.

Belonger status in the BOTs[edit]

Belonger status in Anguilla[edit]

Anguilla Constitution - Section 80. Belonger status

  • (1) There shall be an Anguilla Belonger Commission (hereinafter referred to as “the Commission”), the composition and functions of which shall, subject to the provisions of this section, be prescribed by law.
  • (2) For the purposes of this Constitution a person shall be regarded as belonging to Anguilla if that person —
    • (a) is a British Dependent Territories citizen—
      • (i) who was born in Anguilla, whether before or after the commencement of the British Nationality Act 1981; or if not so born
      • (ii) who was adopted in Anguilla; or
      • (iii) whose father or mother was born in Anguilla; or
      • (iv) whose father or mother became a British Dependent Territories citizen by virtue of having been adopted in Anguilla; or
      • (v) who is domiciled in Anguilla and whose father or mother by virtue of registration or naturalisation while resident in Anguilla became a British Dependent Territories citizen at the commencement of the British Nationality Act 1981 (or would have done so but for his or her death) or so became such a citizen after such commencement of the said Act; or
      • (vi) who by virtue of registration or naturalisation while resident in Anguilla became such a citizen at or after the commencement of the British Nationality Act 1981; or
    • (b) is domiciled in Anguilla, has been ordinarily resident in Anguilla for not less than fifteen years, and has been granted belonger status by the Commission; or
    • (c) was born in Anguilla of a father or mother who was born in Anguilla and who is regarded (or, if deceased, would if alive be regarded) as belonging to Anguilla by virtue of this subsection; or
    • (d) was born outside Anguilla and has satisfied the Commission that his father or mother was born in Anguilla and is regarded (or, if deceased, would if alive be regarded) as belonging to Anguilla by virtue of this subsection; or
    • (e) is the spouse of such a person as is referred to in any of the preceding paragraphs of this subsection and has been married to that person for not less than five years; or
    • (f) is the spouse of such a person as is referred to in paragraph (a), (b), (c) or (d) of this subsection, has been married to such a person for not less than three years, and has been granted belonger status by the Commission.[1]

Belonger status in Bermuda[edit]

The term "belonger" appears only in the Bermuda Constitution Order of 1968, "A person shall be deemed to belong to Bermuda...".

Belongers include those possessing Bermudian status; naturalised British Overseas Territories citizens; the wives of Bermudians or naturalised British Overseas Territories citizens; and the children under the age of eighteen of Bermudians, naturalised British Overseas Territories citizens, and their wives. Other laws typically only use the term Bermudian status, neglecting to deal with other Belongers. A couple of recent court decisions in 2016 - 2017 have held that references to Bermudians should also be read as including other Belongers in the context of immigration law, company ownership and land ownership [2] [3].

Only Bermudian status-holders may vote in island elections. With limited exceptions, only Belongers and the spouses of Bermudians may own land, live or work on the island without a permit.

Also with limited exceptions, Belongers must hold at least 60% of the shares and be at least 60% of the directors of companies doing business in Bermuda. This requirement does not apply to international business companies (known locally as "exempted companies"), which may have an office in Bermuda but may only trade outside Bermuda.

Under the current law, those born in Bermuda to at least one Bermudian parent, and those who live on the island while a spouse of a Bermudian for 10 years, are eligible for Bermudian status. Potentially extending Bermudian status to others is perennially one of the most politically-contentious issues on the island.

Belonger status in the British Virgin Islands[edit]

In the British Virgin Islands there are two forms of status: Belongership and BVIslander status.[4] The two forms of status overlap to some degree, although it is possible be a Belonger without being a BVIslander. BVIslander status is the 'senior' form of status and that is only conferred on those who have at least one grandparent born in the territory. Belonger status can be acquired in several ways, but generally it is granted as an honour (very rare), by naturalisation or it can be acquired after a qualifying period (three years at the present time) after marriage to a BVIslander. All BVIslanders and Belongers can vote, but only BVIslanders can hold a British Virgin Islands passport. It is possible to have BOTC status and be a Belonger but not a BVIslander if the person with BOTC status comes from another British Overseas Territory and has married a BVIslander.

The definition of qualifications for Belonger status in the British Virgin Islands is contained in section 2(2) of the Constitution:

A person belongs to the Virgin Islands if that person

(a) is born in the Virgin Islands and at the time of the birth his or her father or mother is or was

  • (i) a British overseas territories citizen (or a British Dependent Territories citizen) by virtue of birth, registration or naturalisation in the Virgin Islands or by virtue of descent from a father or mother who was born in the Virgin Islands; or
  • (ii) settled in the Virgin Islands; and for this purpose “settled” means ordinarily resident in the Virgin Islands without being subject under the law in force in the Virgin Islands to any restriction on the period for which he or she may remain, but does not include persons on contract with the Government of the Virgin Islands or any statutory body or Crown corporation;

(b) is born in the Virgin Islands of a father or mother who belongs to the Virgin Islands by birth or descent or who, if deceased, would, if alive, so belong to the Virgin Islands;

(c) is a child adopted in the Virgin Islands by a person who belongs to the Virgin Islands by birth or descent;

(d) is born outside the Virgin Islands of a father or mother who is a British overseas territories citizen by virtue of birth in the Virgin Islands or descent from a father or mother who was born in the Virgin Islands or who belongs to the Virgin Islands by virtue of birth in the Virgin Islands or descent from a father or mother who was born in the Virgin Islands;

(e) is a British overseas territories citizen by virtue of registration in the Virgin Islands;

(f) is a person to whom a certificate has been granted under section 16 of the Immigration and Passport Act 1977 of the Virgin Islands (in this subsection referred to as “the Act”, and references to the Act or to any section thereof include references to any enactment amending, replacing or re-enacting the same) and has not been revoked under section 17 of the Act; and (without prejudice to the right of any person to apply for the grant of such a certificate under the Act) a British overseas territories citizen by virtue of naturalisation in the Virgin Islands has a right by virtue of this Constitution to apply for the grant of such a certificate;

(g) is the spouse of a person who belongs to the Virgin Islands and has been granted a certificate under section 16 of the Act; or

(h) was immediately before the commencement of this Constitution deemed to belong to the Virgin Islands by virtue of the Virgin Islands (Constitution) Order 1976(3).[5]

The British Virgin Islands is extremely restrictive about conferring Belongership status on immigrants to the Territory. Under the leadership of Orlando Smith the Government formally committed itself to naturalising no more than 25 persons a year. This was maintained when Dr. Smith's NDP party was no longer in office.

Belonger status in Cayman islands[edit]

The Caymanian Status and Permanent Residency Board may, upon application, grant the right to be Caymanian to persons in the categories below.

  • A child or grandchild of a Caymanian born in the Cayman Islands;
  • A person who is a British Overseas Territories Citizen by reason of a certificate of naturalization or registration issued under the British Nationality Act 1981 by virtue of his connection with the Islands. Possession of a British Overseas Territory Citizen/Cayman Islands (BOTC/CI) Passport is not conclusive proof that the holder is Caymanian;
  • A person who is married to a Caymanian;
  • A person who is the surviving spouse of a Caymanian;
  • A person who
    • has attained the age of seventeen;
    • has Caymanian Status which
      • will expire when they reach the age of eighteen; or
      • has expired as they have reached the age of eighteen; and
    • who has been legally and ordinarily resident in the Cayman Islands for at least five out of the seven years immediately preceding the date of their application for the continuation of the right to be Caymanian.

Persons who may apply to the Chief Immigration Officer for the right to be Caymanian

A person who

  • was born in the Cayman Islands between 27 March 1977 and 1 January 1983;
  • is a British Overseas Territories Citizen by virtue of being born in the Cayman Islands; and
  • has resided in the Islands since birth save for absences abroad for purposes of education or medical treatment.

may apply no later than 21 December 2007 to the Chief Immigration Officer for the right to be Caymanian. The Chief Immigration Officer is required by law, save in exceptional circumstances, to grant such an application.[6]

Belonger status in the Falkland Islands[edit]

Belonger status in the Falkland Islands is officially referred to as "Falkland Islands status".

Belonger status in Gibraltar[edit]

As with Bermuda, the term itself has been supplanted by "Gibraltarian status".

A person is eligible to be registered as a Gibraltarian if they are a British national and:

  • (a) they were born in Gibraltar on or before the 30th day of June 1925; or
  • (b) they are the child of a person born in Gibraltar on or before the 30th day of June 1925; or
  • (c) they are the descendant of a person entitled to be registered by virtue of (a) or (b) and their parent or grandparent was born in Gibraltar; or
  • (d) they were born in Gibraltar and are the child of a person who is registered in the register; or
  • (e) they are married to a person entitled to be register by virtue of (a, b, c or d) or are the widow or widower of such a person.

Additionally, a person may be registered as a Gibraltarian at the discretion of the Government of Gibraltar minister with responsibility for personal status if they satisfy the minister that:

  • (a) they are a British Overseas Territories citizen by virtue of their connection with Gibraltar, or Gibraltar or Great Britain is their country of origin;
  • (b) they are a British national;
  • (c) they are of good character;
  • (d) they have sufficient knowledge of the English language;
  • (e) they have their permanent home in Gibraltar;
  • (f) they have been resident in Gibraltar for periods amounting to not less than twenty-five years in the aggregate including the whole of the period of ten years immediately preceding the date of application; and
  • (g) they intend to make their permanent home in Gibraltar.

Belonger status in Montserrat[edit]

A person shall be regarded as a Montserratian if that person —

(a) is a British overseas territories citizen who was born in Montserrat; or

(b) is a British overseas territories citizen who was born outside Montserrat and

  • (i) who was lawfully adopted by a person who is regarded (or, if deceased, would if alive be regarded) as a Montserratian by virtue of this subsection; or
  • (ii) whose father or mother or any grandparent was born in Montserrat; or
  • (iii) whose father or mother or any grandparent became a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies, a British Dependent Territories citizen or a British overseas territories citizen by virtue of having been lawfully adopted by a person who is regarded (or, if deceased, would if alive be regarded) as a Montserratian by virtue of this subsection; or
  • (iv) who is ordinarily resident in Montserrat and whose father or mother or any grandparent by virtue of registration or naturalisation while resident in Montserrat became a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies, a British Dependent Territories citizen or a British overseas territories citizen; or
  • (v) who by virtue of registration or naturalisation while resident in Montserrat became a citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies, a British Dependent Territories citizen or a British overseas territories citizen; or

(c) was born in or outside Montserrat of a father or mother who was born in Montserrat and is regarded (or, if deceased, would if alive be regarded) as a Montserratian by virtue of this subsection; or

(d) has been granted Montserratian status in accordance with any law; or

(e) was immediately before the commencement of this Constitution deemed to belong to Montserrat by virtue of any law.[7]

Belonger status in the Turks and Caicos Islands[edit]

There are two main ways through which a person acquires Turks and Caicos Islander Status.

As of Right (through birth or descent)

There are three ways through which a person acquires TCI Status as of right.

  • By virtue of being BORN INSIDE THE ISLANDS, at the time of birth the person’s mother or father has Turks and Caicos Islander status.
  • By virtue of being BORN OUTSIDE THE ISLANDS, at the time of birth the person’s mother or father has Turks and Caicos Islander status and—
    • (a) at least one of the person’s parent or grandparent was born in the Islands, or
    • (b) at least one of the person’s parent was settled in the Islands.
  • By virtue of being ADOPTED IN THE ISLANDS, at the time of the person’s adoption the adopted mother or father has Turks and Caicos Islander status and the person was less than eighteen years old at the time of adoption (if adopted after 2015).[8]

By Grant

In order to obtain Turks and Caicos Islander status by grant, it is necessary to complete the prescribed application form and submit it to the appropriate authority.

There are several routes through which a person may apply for Turks and Caicos Islander status.

  • If a person is a British overseas tmitories citizen by virtue of a connection with the Islands or a British Citizen who either
    • (a) has held a permanent residence certificate for a period of at least five years; or
    • (b) has been legally resident in the Islands for a period of at least ten years; and
    • (c) is neither serving a sentence imposed by a court for an offence against the law in force in any country, nor has been adjudged or otherwise declared bankrupt under any law in force in any country and has not been discharged.
  • This subsection applies to a person if —
    • (a) the person's spouse has Islander status otherwise than by virtue of marriage and
    • (b) the Governor is satisfied that the person —
      • (i) has lived together with the spouse for a period of ten years ending with the date of the application and
      • (ii) has been resident in the Islands for a period of two years ending with that date.
  • This subsection applies to a person if he is a dependant child of a person who is accorded Islander status by virtue of the last subsection;
  • This subsection applies to a person who —
    • (a) is born in the Islands to parents who at the time of his birth were legally resident in the Islands,
    • (b) has acquired British Overseas Territories Citizenship by virtue of section 15 (4) of the British Nationality Act 1981;
    • (c) has been legally resident in the Islands for a period of at least ten years;and
    • (d) has attained the age of eighteen years.
  • This subsection applies if —
    • (a) the person is married to a person who has been granted Islander status by virtue of residency, and that person was endorsed on the Residence Permit as the spouse;
    • (b) the person is under the age of eighteen years, and,was endorsed on a Permanent Residence Certificate; or
    • (c) the person is the child of a person who is the spouse of an Islander, who has nat been adopted by the spouse who is an Islander or who is not the biological child of the Islander, who was endorsed in that person's Residence Permit.[9]

Equivalent status[edit]

Belonger status of the former British colony of Hong Kong was changed to 'Hong Kong permanent resident status' on 1 January 1987. The name remains unchanged after the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong in 1997.

External links[edit]

Footnotes[edit]