This year, China passed the National Security Law in Hong Kong which restricts the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong. In response, the UK Government is introducing a new immigration route for British National (Overseas) citizens, providing the opportunity for them and their family members to live, work and study in the UK.
Before the handover of the UK’s responsibilities for Hong Kong, we created the British National (Overseas) (BN(O)) nationality status which allowed people in Hong Kong the opportunity to register for BN(O) status as a way of retaining their ties with the UK. The Chinese Government, through its actions, has changed the circumstances that BN(O) citizens find themselves in, and it is right that we should change the entitlements which are attached to BN(O) status.
The bespoke new Hong Kong BN(O) Visa recognises our historic and moral commitment to BN(O) citizens in Hong Kong, giving them the option to live in the UK if they decide that is an appropriate choice for them.
- The Home Office is putting in place a simple, streamlined application process. There will be no quota on numbers.
- We estimate there are 2.9 million BN(O) citizens eligible to move to the UK, with a further estimated 2.3 million eligible dependants. This can be found in our impact assessment.
- There is a high degree of uncertainty on how many people will apply for this visa. It may be impacted by a number of keys factors such as the changing situation in Hong Kong and the effects of Covid-19 on people’s behaviour in taking up this offer.
- As set out in our impact assessment, our central range analysis estimates between 123,000 and 153,700 BN(O)s and their dependants coming in the first year and between 258,000 and 322,400 over five years.
- Assuming our central scenario is correct, we think the net benefit for the UK will be between £2.4 and £2.9 billion over 5 years.
- Since July 2020, BN(O) citizens and their dependants have been eligible to be granted six months’ Leave Outside the Rules at the UK border.
- From 15 July to 14 October 2020, a total of 2,116 BN(O) citizens and their dependants have been granted Leave Outside the Rules at the border.
- More information on the BN(O) Visa can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/british-nationals-overseas-in-hong-kong
- We recognise that the children of BN(O) parents born on or after 1 July 1997 may not have had the opportunity to be registered an BN(O) citizens. We do not wish to split family units and therefore the children of a BN(O) citizen who fall into this category who form part of the same household will be able to apply for this Visa with their BN(O) parent.
- The five-year residency for settlement starts when the BN(O) citizen or dependent enters the UK on the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa route.
- If they have leave on another route to settlement in the UK this can be counted towards settlement under the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa route.
- Time spent in the UK on visa routes without a route to settlement, such as student visa, Youth Mobility Scheme or visitor visa, does not count towards the five-years to settlement.
Applying for the visa:
- Individuals can apply for the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa from 31st January 2021.
- BN(O) citizens and their dependants will be able to apply online from outside or inside the UK, but should apply for the BN(O) visa in advance of travelling.
- Applicants will be required to prove BN(O) status. Where a BN(O) passport has been lost or expired, eligibility checks can be made using historical records held by Her Majesty’s Passport Office.
- Applicants will need to provide a Tuberculosis test certificate.
- Guidance for applicants: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/hong-kong-british-national-overseas-visa-applications
- The Hong Kong BN(O) Visa will give BN(O) citizens the choice to apply for up to five years’ leave to remain with the right to work or study. After these five years, they have the choice to apply for settlement (also known as indefinite leave to remain) and after a further 12 months, they will be able to apply for citizenship.
- Following the payment of the Immigration Health Surcharge, successful applicants will have access to NHS services.
- Children of eligibly BN(O) citizens will be able attend school if they are under 18.
- A five-year visa will cost £250 per person. Applicants will also be able to apply for a 30-month visa which will cost £180 per person. To see visa costs, visit: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/hong-kong-british-national-overseas-visa-applications#money-youll-need
- BN(O) citizens applying for the visa will need to demonstrate they can support themselves independently while living in the UK.
- It is only right that those who benefit from our immigration system contribute to its cost. The Home Office sets visa, immigration and citizenship fees at a level which helps provide resources necessary to operate the Border, Immigration and Citizenship System (BICS) and reduce reliance on taxpayer funding.
- Individuals do not need a renewed BN(O) passport to apply for the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa route.
- As of 2 October 2020, there are 469,416 holders of BN(O) passports.
Non-BN(O) Hong Kong citizens:
- Those not eligible for the BNO visa can still apply under existing immigration routes to live, work or study in the UK. In addition, Hong Kong nationals aged between 18 and 30 are eligible to apply to the existing Youth Mobility Scheme, with 1000 places currently available each year.