A dependency is commonly distinguished from country subdivisions by not being considered to be integral territory of the governing state. Administrative subdivisions instead are understood as typically representing a division of the state proper. A dependent territory conversely often maintains a great degree of autonomy from the controlling central state. Historically, most colonies were considered dependencies. Those dependent territories currently remaining generally maintain a very high degree of political autonomy. Not all autonomous entities, though, are considered to be dependencies, and not all dependencies are autonomous. Most inhabited dependent territories have their own ISO 3166 country codes.
Some political entities inhabit a special position guaranteed by international treaty or other agreement: creating a certain level of autonomy (e.g., differences in immigration rules). These are sometimes considered or at least grouped with dependencies, but are officially considered by their controlling states to be integral parts of the state. Examples are Åland (Finland) and Hong Kong (China).