In July 1997, the Union Jack was lowered over Hong Kong and the sun set on the colony after 150 years of British rule. At the same time, a new class of British nationality was created relating to the handover of sovereignty: British Nationals (Overseas) – BN(O) for short
Back in June, the UK government announced plans to provide a “path to citizenship” for BN(O) citizens and their families who live in Hong Kong. Around 3 million people are thought to be eligible to apply for BN(O) status, with Home Office estimates suggesting some 500,000 could arrive in the first year – a “high” estimate that soars to more than 1 million over five years.
Let’s get to the bottom of some common questions about the new Hong Kong BN(O) visa:
Am I eligible?
- The main applicant must hold BN(O) status – you don’t need a valid BN(O) passport because the Home Office will confirm this status.
- Ordinarily resident in Hong Kong for entry clearance (or the UK for Further Leave to Remain). Examples of documents that can be used to prove this include: Hong-Kong identity card; letter from an employer or educational institution; Hong-Kong medical card; voter’s card; visa, residence permit or other immigration document; educational record; tax records; or record of rent of mortgage payments.
- Demonstrate the ability to accommodate and support yourself in the UK for 6 months (no minimum salary or income requirement is stipulated).
- Demonstrate ability to learn English in the UK, where appropriate.
- Hold a current TB test certificate from a Home Office approved clinic.
- No serious criminal convictions.
When can I apply?
From 31 January 2021.
How long is the visa valid for?
- BN(O)s can apply for a 30-month or five-year visa to live, work and study in the UK.
- The visa will be valid for up to 5 years – applicants can apply to enter or remain in the UK for an initial period of 30 months, extendable by a further 30 months, or a single period of five years.
- After five years in the UK, applicants will be eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) i.e. permanent residence or settled status – provided specific requirements are satisfied, such as free of criminality, financial independence and compliance with the terms of the visa.
- Upon holding ILR for a further year, you may apply to naturalise as a British citizen.
How do I apply?
- Applications will be made via a digital online application, eliminating the need to send in physical documents by post or be interviewed. Successful applicants will be issued with a digital visa.
- Applications can be made from Hong Kong, within the UK or elsewhere.
- There will be no requirement for applicants to hold or apply for a valid BN(O) passport. However, valid or expired BN(O) passports should be kept and submitted with an application as evidence of BN(O) status. Where a BN(O) passport has been lost, eligibility checks can be made using historical records held by Her Majesty’s Passport Office.
How much does an application cost?
- The fee for the initial visa and any renewal will be announced in due course.
- The Immigration Health Surcharge must be paid: from 1 October 2020, this amounts to £624 per year for adults and £470 per year for children under 18. Therefore, if applying for the five-year visa, a single applicant can expect to pay £3,120 and a family of four (two adults, two children under 18) £10,940.
- Visa fees are cheap compared to other UK visa routes: £180 per applicant to stay for 30 months or £250 per applicant to stay for five years
Get help from the experts
With so much to organise on top of your right to live and work in Hong Kong, get a helping hand from a relocation specialist. Simply London’s comprehensive service covers everything on your checklist and more – including the all-important school search and home search once your visa has been granted.
Note – This article does not constitute legal or immigration advice and you should always consult a qualified professional before undertaking any applications. The information in this article is based solely on our understanding as at the date of the article. Government legislation can change at any time.