The United Kingdom Government has announced that it will be opening a new bespoke Visa route for British Nationals (Overseas), which will be available from 31 January 2021. This new option for Hong Kong nationals been announced in light of the recent National Security law which China has now imposed on the people of Hong Kong and in recognition of the long-standing ties the UK has with Hong Kong and its residents.
This new Visa will allow individuals to enter or to remain in the UK for an initial period of 30 months, which can then be extended by an extra 30 months, or for a single period of 5 years.
Those wanting to apply for the Visa will be able to do so from both inside and outside the UK. By permitting BN(O) citizens to reside within the UK for 5 years, under the new Visa route, this will allow them to apply for ‘indefinite leave to remain’, with the additional option of applying for British Citizenship once they have retained this status for 12 months.
This new Visa route will provide more allowances as to what you are able to do as a BN(O) citizen. Currently, as a BN(O) citizen, you are able to stay in the UK as a visitor for up to 6 months without a Visa. However, you are subject to immigration control and, as a visitor, you do not have the right to live, work, or take up long-term studies in the UK.
Under the guise of the BN(O) Visa, citizens will now be able to; work, study (including applying for higher education courses), and use the National Health Service (NHS). Children of those who apply for citizenship will be able to attend school if they are under 18 and attend education and training if they are aged 16-19. You will, however, still not be able to claim any public funds such as social welfare benefits.
To be eligible to apply for this Visa route you will need to show or provide various pieces of information;
- BN(O) status – You don’t need valid a BN(O) passport to show this and you won’t need to request a new passport if it’s expired or has been lost.
- Current residency – You must be able to show that you currently reside in either Hong Kong or the United Kingdom.
- Financial Stability – You must be able to show that you can accommodate and support yourself financially in the UK for at least 6 months.
- A commitment to becoming a British Citizen – Once you have lived in the UK for 5 years you will be able to settle in the UK (also called ‘indefinite leave to remain’) To accomplish this you will need to meet several requirements.
- Tuberculosis checks – You must be able to show a (TB) test certificate from a clinic approved by the home office.
You will also need to show evidence of these requirements for any non-BN(O) dependants that are linked to you when traveling to the UK together.
Entering the UK before the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa is available
If you’re not eligible to enter the UK under an existing immigration route, Border Force officers may be able to consider granting ‘Leave Outside the Rules’ at the UK border for a period of up to 6 months to you and your accompanying dependants. You can then apply for the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa from within the UK when it is available.
To be considered, you will need to show:
- your identity
- your BN(O) citizen status
- that you normally live in Hong Kong or the UK
- that you can accommodate and support yourself financially in the UK
You’ll also need to show evidence of any non-BN(O) dependants’ family links to you and you should travel together to the UK as a family unit. A dependant is considered as any of the following:
- spouse or civil partner
- unmarried partner
- child (under the age of 18 when they first applied)
- an adult child born on or after 1 July 1997 (and their partner or child under the age of 18) who normally lives with you
- other family members in exceptional circumstances where there is a high level of dependency who normally live with you
BN(O) citizens who are already in the UK
If you are already residing within the UK, you will be able to apply for the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa when it opens for applications from January 2021. You will also be eligible to apply from within the UK if you were granted ‘Leave Outside the Rules’ at the time of your arrival.
If your existing immigration leave expires before January 2021 and you want to continue to stay in the UK before applying for the Hong Kong BN(O) Visa, there are several options open to you, you could;
- extend your existing immigration leave
- switch into another immigration route – you can submit an application form from within the UK where you would usually need to apply for a visa from your home country
- leave and then re-enter the UK – at the border you may be eligible to be granted ‘Leave Outside the Rules’
- apply for ‘Leave Outside the Rules’ from within the UK for up to 6 months
When the BN(O) Visa becomes available on the 31st January 2021, applicants will be required to pay a fee and the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) – once paid, the IHS, will allow you to use the National Health Service (NHS) whilst residing in the UK.
This information has been provided based on the most recent update from the UK Government initially published in July 2020, and then further updated in October 2020. As such, the rules and guidelines detailed above are subject to further change.
If you have any questions regarding the Hong Kong BN(O) visa route or would like specific, bespoke advice on any UK immigration matters, please contact Ian Cook, of Animo Legal, by emailing him at email@example.com, or by filling out our contact form below.