The UK has announced that it will create a new bespoke immigration route for British Nationals (Overseas) (BN(O) citizens) from Hong Kong reflecting the unique and unprecedented circumstances in Hong Kong and the UK’s historic and moral commitment to BN(O) citizens.
What is the new Hong Kong BN(O) visa?
The new Hong Kong BN(O) visa will allow BN(O) citizens to reside and work or study in the UK, with a pathway to settlement (also known as permanent residence or indefinite leave to remain) and then British citizenship.
The UK’s Government’s decision to introduce the new Hong Kong BN(O) visa follows the imposition by the Chinese Government of a national security law on Hong Kong that restricts the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong and constitutes a clear and serious breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration.
Who is eligible for the Hong Kong BN(O) visa?
BN(O) citizens with their immediate family dependants, comprising spouse or partner and children aged under 18, will be eligible to apply for the Hong Kong BN(O) visa. Dependants need not have BN(O) status themselves to be eligible. Dependent grandparents or other relatives will not be eligible if they are not BN(O) citizens in their own right.
In compelling and compassionate circumstances, the Home Office will also use discretion to grant a visa to dependent children of a BN(O) citizen aged over 18 who are not BN(O) citizens if they were born after 1 July 1997 and apply together as a family unit.
In exceptional circumstances of high dependency, other adult dependants of a BN(O) citizen applying for the visa may also be eligible at the UK Government’s discretion, considered on a case by case basis.
For people in Hong Kong aged between 18-30 who are not eligible, the existing youth mobility scheme is open with 1000 places currently available each year.
What are the eligibility requirements for the Hong Kong BN(O) visa?
In addition to holding BN(O) status, applicants and their dependants must also:
- Be ordinarily resident in Hong Kong, which includes those currently in the UK but who are ordinarily resident in Hong Kong;
- Be able to demonstrate their ability to accommodate and support themselves in the UK for at least six months;
- Demonstrate a commitment to learn English in the UK where appropriate – on entry, there will be no English language requirement but applicants will require a good knowledge of the English language if they choose later to make an application for settled status (indefinite leave to remain) after five years;
- Hold a current tuberculosis test certificate from a clinic approved by the Home Office;
- Pay a fee for the visa and the Immigration Health Surcharge both payable in full at the point of the visa application; and
- Have no serious criminal convictions, have not otherwise engaged in behaviour which the UK Government deems not conducive to the public good, and not be subject to other general grounds for refusal set out in the Immigration Rules.
How long will the Hong Kong BN(O) visa be valid for?
The visa will be valid for 5 years, during which time the holder is subject to UK immigration control. After 5 years in the UK and provided the visa holder has stayed free of criminality, has supported themselves financially and otherwise complied with the terms of the visa, they will be able to apply for settlement (indefinite leave to remain) in the UK. After a further year they may apply to naturalise as a British citizen.
If after five years the visa holder does not apply for settled status or is refused, they will be expected to leave the UK and may be removed.
Will there be any restrictions imposed during the 5 year visa grant?
The new Hong Kong BN(O) visa will allow BN(O) citizens to reside and work or study in the UK. The right to work in the UK will be in almost any capacity as an employed or self-employed person. Access to education will include schooling for under 18 child dependants, education and training for young people aged 16-19 and the ability to apply for higher education courses.
During the 5 years of temporary residence as a visa holder, BN(O) citizens will have access to the National Health Service having paid the Immigration Health Surcharge as a condition of obtaining the visa. School aged children of BN(O) visa holders will have access to public education. Visa holders will not otherwise have access to public funds such as unemployment or housing benefit and will be responsible for their own accommodation and maintenance.
What is the application process for the Hong Kong BN(O) visa?
Applications will be via a digital online application. In practice this will mean that the majority of applications can be completed online without the need to send in physical documents by post or be interviewed.
Applications for Hong Kong BN(O) visa status can be made from Hong Kong, from within the UK or elsewhere globally. BN(O) citizens already in the UK on another form of leave will be able to apply and switch to the Hong Kong BN(O) visa from within the UK.
There is no need to apply for or renew a BN(O) passport specifically for the purpose of applying for the new BN(O) visa.
How can Setfords help?
We can provide guidance on the application process and eligibility requirements for the new Hong Kong BN(O) visa for BN(O) citizens and their dependants applying from Hong Kong, from within the UK or elsewhere globally.