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A dependent territory, dependent area, or dependency (sometimes referred as an external territory) is a territory that does not possess full political independence or sovereignty as a sovereign state, yet remains politically outside the controlling state's integral area.
A dependent territory is commonly distinguished from a country subdivision by being considered not to be a constituent part of a sovereign state. An administrative subdivision, instead, is understood to be a division of a state proper. A dependent territory, conversely, often maintains a great degree of autonomy from its controlling state. Historically, most colonies were considered to be dependent territories. The dependent territories that currently remain in the world today generally maintain a very high degree of political autonomy. Not all autonomous entities, though, are considered to be dependent territories.[failed verification] Most inhabited dependent territories have their own ISO 3166 country codes.
Some political entities inhabit a special position guaranteed by an international treaty or another agreement, thereby creating a certain level of autonomy (e.g. a difference in immigration rules). Those entities are sometimes considered to be, or are at least grouped with, dependent territories, but are officially considered by their governing states to be an integral part of those states. Examples are Åland (an autonomous region of Finland) and Northern Ireland (a constituent country of the United Kingdom).