China has 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) status holders, 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) status holders 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 route recognises our historic and moral commitment to BN(O) status holders in Hong Kong, giving them the option to live in the UK if they decide that is an appropriate choice for them.
- The UK Government will deliver on its commitment to open a new visa for Hong Kong BN(O) status holders. The Hong Kong British National (Overseas) (BN(O)) visa will open from 31 January.
- From 23 February, many applicants will be able to apply for the new BN(O) route via a fully digital process which will allow for an easier and more convenient application. Through this digital process BN(O) status holders and their eligible family members who hold a biometric BN(O), Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKAR) or European Economic Area (EEA) passport can scan their passport on the app and complete their application from home.
- The new visa delivers on the UK Government’s historic and moral commitment to the people of Hong Kong.
- 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) status holders eligible to move to the UK, with a further estimated 2.3 million eligible dependants. This can be found in our impact assessment.
- As set out in our impact assessment, our central range analysis estimates between 123,000 and 153,700 BN(O) status holders 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.
- From 15 July to 13 January 2021, approximately 7,000 BN(O) status holders and their dependants have been granted Leave Outside the Rules at the border.
- BN(O) status holders will not need to apply for the new route straight away.
- We have also made the decision to extend the Leave Outside the Rules at the border provisions until after the route becomes fully digital.
- More information on the BN(O) Visa route 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) status holders. We do not wish to split family units and therefore the children of a BN(O) status holders who fall into this category who form part of the same household will be able to apply for this Visa route with their BN(O) parent.
- The five-year residency for settlement starts when the BN(O) status holder 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:
- From 31 January, those eligible can apply online and will need to book an appointment to attend a visa application centre (VAC) overseas or UK Visa & Citizenship Application service (UKVCAS) in the UK to provide their fingerprints.
- From 23 February, those eligible can apply online and use the “UK Immigration: ID Check” smartphone app for iPhone or Android to scan their biometric passport instead of attending a visa application centre.
- 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 hold a valid tuberculosis test certificate from a clinic approved by the Home Office.
- Guidance for applicants: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/hong-kong-british-national-overseas-visa-applications
- The Hong Kong BN(O) Visa route will give BN(O) status holders 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) status holders will be able attend school if they are under 18.
- This is a generous offer we are making to BN(O) status holders and their dependants, who in turn will be expected to be self-sufficient and contribute to UK society. Work is taking place across Government alongside civil society groups and others to support the effective integration of BN(O) status holders arriving in the UK. We look forward to welcoming applications from those individuals who wish to make the UK their home.
- 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
- Applicants on this Visa route are expected to be self-sufficient and will need to show that they can accommodate and sustain both themselves and their dependants, for at least six months upon arrival to the UK, and must have no serious criminal convictions. More information on eligibility: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/british-nationals-overseas-in-hong-kong
- 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 were 469,416 holders of BN(O) passports.
Non-BN(O) Hong Kong citizens:
- Those not eligible for the BN(O) 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.