Further details released on
Hong Kong BNO Visa
23 July 2020
On 22 July, the UK government announced further details on the new Hong Kong British National (Overseas) Visa, which will provide a bespoke immigration route for BNO citizens and their dependents to move to the UK to live, work or study.
The government previously expressed its commitment to providing BNO citizens with a ‘pathway to citizenship’ in the UK, following the introduction of China’s controversial new security law in Hong Kong. Prime Minister Boris Johnson labelled the new route one of the ‘biggest changes’ to the UK immigration system.
Announcing details on the new visa yesterday, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “The UK has a strong historic relationship with the people of Hong Kong and we are keeping our promise to them to uphold their freedoms. BNO citizens will now have a choice to come and live, work and study in the UK, building a new life for them and their family.”
The new BNO visa route
The BNO visa route will be open to applications from January 2021, and will grant successful applicants leave to remain in the UK for five years. BNO citizens will be able to apply for either two periods of 30 months’ leave, or pay a higher fee to apply for 5 years’ leave from the outset.
The visa will allow successful applicants the right to work and study in the UK, including access to schooling for child dependents. BNO visa holders will have no recourse to public funds and must pay the Immigration Health Surcharge to access free healthcare in the UK.
After five years, visa holders will be able to apply for settlement in the UK, providing they have met the rules for continuous residence. Following a period of 12 months’ settlement, BNOs will then be able to make an application for British citizenship.
Those who do not apply for or are refused settled status after five years will be expected to leave the UK.
Who is eligible for a BNO visa?
British National (Overseas) status is a class of British nationality created for Hong Kong residents when the region was returned to Chinese control in 1997. Residents who successfully applied for the status in the ten year period leading up to the handover were issued with a British passport displaying their BNO status. It is estimated that around 2.9 million people hold this status.
These citizens holding BNO status and their immediate family dependents, comprising spouse or partner and children under the age of 18, will be eligible to apply for the Hong Kong BNO Visa.
Dependents do not need to have BNO status themselves to be eligible. Dependent grandparents or other relatives will not be eligible if they are not BNO citizens in their own right.
As well as holding BNO status, applicants and their dependents must also:
- Be 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 learning English in the UK where appropriate
- Hold a current tuberculosis test certificate from a Home Office approved clinic
- Have no serious criminal convictions or subject to other general grounds for refusal set out in the UK immigration rules
- Pay both the visa application fee and the Immigration Health Surcharge at the point of application
The application process
Applications to the Hong Kong BNO Visa will be via a digital online application process, meaning applications can be made from Hong Kong, the UK or elsewhere. In the majority of cases, applicants will not need to send in physical documents by post or attend an interview.
Biometric data is required for all applications. BNO citizens will be required to provide facial biometrics as part of the application process, but will not need to submit fingerprint biometrics. However, dependents of BNO citizens who do not hold BNO status themselves will need to provide fingerprints as part of their application.
Applicants will not need to apply for or hold a valid BNO passport, however valid or expired BNO passports should be kept and submitted with the visa application to evidence BNO status. Successful applicants will be able to travel on a valid Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Passport, and will be issued with a digital visa.
Speak to an immigration consultant
If you need advice or assistance with applying for a BNO visa, Smith Stone Walters is here to help. Our team of immigration experts are based in global offices, including Hong Kong and London, and will be happy to guide you through the entire process.
Contact us today to find out how we can help.